Robert Huber

Huber, Robert (1937-) is a German biochemist. He won the 1988 Nobel Prize in chemistry for unraveling the full details of how a membrane-bound protein is built up, revealing the structure of the molecule, atom by atom.

The molecule plays a role in photosynthesis, the process by which green plants and certain bacteria use energy from light to make food. Huber shared the prize with two of his research colleagues, the German biochemist Hartmut Michel and the German biophysicist Johann Deisenhofer .

Huber was born on Feb. 20, 1937, in Munich, Germany. He received a diploma (roughly equivalent to a master's degree) in chemistry in 1960 and a doctorate in chemistry in 1963, both from what is now the Technical University of Munich. Huber married Christa Essig in 1960. They had four children.

In 1968, Huber became a lecturer at the Technical University of Munich. In 1971, he became director of the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, near Munich. He also continued his work with the university and became a full professor in 1976.

At the Max Planck Institute, Huber led a team of researchers studying macromolecules. They used the technique of X-ray crystallography, in which a beam of X rays is passed through a crystallized solid. The crystal's arrangement of atoms diffracts (spreads out) the rays into a distinct geometric pattern (each type of crystal produces a different pattern). The pattern is then analyzed to determine the structure of the substance.

In 1982, Michel asked Huber to help him on a project concerning photosynthesis. Michel had crystallized a protein complex from the outer membrane (skin) of a bacterium. Made up of a tangle of molecules of chlorophyll and four protein subunits, these proteins are important in photosynthesis. Huber assigned Deisenhofer to help in the X-ray crystallography of the crystals. In 1985, Huber's team revealed for the first time a complete three-dimensional analysis of a membrane protein and unraveled the details of how such a protein is built up.