Arnon, D. I. (Daniel Israel), 1910-1994

Alternative names
Birth 1910-11-14
Death 1994-12-20

Biographical notes:

Professor of plant physiology and biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley. Born Nov. 14, 1910 in Warsaw, Poland; died Dec. 20, 1994.

From the description of Daniel Israel Arnon papers, 1928-2001. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 51737219

Biographical Sketch

Daniel Israel Arnon was born in Warsaw, Poland, on November 14, 1910. He completed his B.S. degree in 1932, and his Ph.D. in plant physiology and biochemistry in 1936, both at the University of California, Berkeley. His doctoral dissertation examined the role of trace elements in nitrogen metabolism in plants. After military service in World War II, he set up and directed an experimental nutrient culture center on Ascension Island in the mid-Atlantic Ocean, for the United States Army Air Corps. Except for this military service and sabbatical leaves in England, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, and Pacific Grove, California, he spent his entire career at U.C. Berkeley.

Arnon's work as a plant biochemist can be divided into two major categories and time periods. From 1936 until 1950, he was primarily involved in plant nutrition studies. He and his collaborators discovered the importance of trace elements, particularly molybdenum and vanadium, in plants and algae. This work led in turn to important developments in the study of nitrogen metabolism.

From 1951 until the end of his life, Arnon concentrated on photosynthesis. He discovered and devised the term photophosphorylation (photosynthetic phosphorylation), and was the first to demonstrate complete photosynthesis outside the living cell (New York Times, December 30, 1954). As Arnon's long-time colleague, Professor Bob B. Buchanan, has noted, "This discovery opened the door to a new epoch in photosynthesis and made possible the elucidation of the systems that regulate the assimilation of carbon dioxide as well as the paths of biosynthesis of major cellular products." Aided by major grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the United States Navy Office of Naval Research and the Charles F. Kettering Foundation, Arnon's work led to breakthrough discoveries, including his electron flow theory, the mechanism of nitrogen fixation and hydrogen evolution, and proof that ferredoxin is a universal part of the photosynthetic apparatus.

Arnon received many awards for his pioneering work with photosynthesis. These included membership in the National Academy of Sciences [U.S.] and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1962); membership in various international learned societies; honorary doctoral degrees from the Université de Bordeaux (1975) and the Universidad de Sevilla (1992); the Berkeley Citation (1985), the highest honor bestowed by the U.C. Berkeley campus; and the National Medal of Science (1973), the nation's highest scientific award. He also received two Guggenheim Fellowships (Cambridge University, 1947-1948, and Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, 1962-1963), and a Fulbright Fellowship (Max-Planck Institut für Zellphysiologie, Berlin-Dahlem, 1955-1956).

Arnon married Lucile Jane Soulé on February 24, 1940. He became a naturalized United States citizen on March 31, 1941. The couple had five children: Anne Arnon Hodge, Ruth Soulé Arnon Hanham, Ph.D., Stephen S. Arnon, M.D., Nancy Arnon Agnew and Dennis Soulé Arnon, Ph.D., all of whom survive their parents. Lucile Arnon died in 1986, and Daniel Arnon died on December 20, 1994.

For a more complete biography, see "Daniel I. Arnon, 1910-1994, A Biographical Memoir by Bob B. Buchanan," published by the National Academy of Sciences as part of their Biographical Memoirs series (Volume 80, 2001): [;]. The Bancroft Library is indebted to Professor Buchanan and to Dr. Ruth Soulé Arnon Hanham for their generous assistance with this biographical sketch, and their expert help with the arrangement and description of the collection.

From the guide to the Daniel Israel Arnon papers, 1928-2001, (The Bancroft Library)


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Ark ID:


  • Plant physiology--Research
  • Photosynthesis--Research
  • Biochemistry--Research
  • Nitrogen--Fixation--Research


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  • California (as recorded)