David Keilin

David Keilin FRS[1] (21 March 1887 – 27 February 1963) was a Jewish scientist focusing mainly on entomology.[3]

David Keilin
David Keilin 1931.jpg
David Keilin in 1931
Born21 March 1887 (1887-03-21)
Died27 February 1963 (1963-02-28) (aged 75)
Alma materUniversity of Liège
Magdalene College, Cambridge
Known forCytochrome
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society[1]
Royal Medal (1939)
Copley Medal (1951)
Scientific career
FieldsEntomology and parasitology
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge
Doctoral advisorGeorge Nuttall[citation needed]
Author abbrev. (botany)

Background and educationEdit

He was born in Moscow in 1887 and his family returned to Warsaw early in his youth.[4] He did not attend school until age ten due to ill health and asthma. Only seven years later, in 1904, he enrolled in the University of Liège. He later studied at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and became a British citizen.


Keilin became research assistant to George Nuttall, first Quick Professor of Biology at the University of Cambridge, in 1915, and spent the rest of his career there, succeeding Nuttall as Quick Professor and director of the Molteno Institute in 1931. He retired in 1952.

He made extensive contributions to entomology and parasitology during his career. He published thirty-nine papers between 1914 and 1923 on the reproduction of lice, the life-cycle of the horse bot-fly, the respiratory adaptations in fly larvae, and other subjects.

He is most known for his research and rediscovery of cytochrome[5] in the 1920s (he invented the name). It had been discovered by C. A. MacMunn in 1884, but that discovery had been forgotten or misunderstood.[6]

Awards and honoursEdit

Keilin was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1926.[1] He won its Royal Medal in 1939 and its Copley Medal in 1951.


The Keilin Memorial Lecture[7] of the Biochemical Society began in 1964 in his memory, and recipients and the subject of their talk is selected by a committee reflecting Keilin's interests in bioenergetics, electron transfer and mitochondrial biology. A medal with his profile, a financial award and an opportunity for research publication is also awarded. In 2020, the recipient was the University of Cambridge's Prof Judy Hirst.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Mann, T. (1964). "David Keilin. 1887-1963". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 10: 183–205. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1964.0011.
  2. ^ International Plant Names Index.  Keilin.
  3. ^ Hartree, E. F. (1963). "Obituary Notice: David Keilin (1887-1963)". The Biochemical Journal. 89 (1): 1–5. doi:10.1042/bj0890001. PMC 1202263. PMID 14097361.
  4. ^ Erling Norrby (6 September 2016). Nobel Prizes and Notable Discoveries. World Scientific. pp. 244–. ISBN 978-981-314-466-8.
  5. ^ Ferguson, S. J. (2001). "Keilin's Cytochromes: How Bacteria Use Them, Vary Them and Make Them". Biochemical Society Transactions. 29 (6): 629–640. doi:10.1042/bst0290629.
  6. ^ Hartree, E. F. (1 October 1973). "The discovery of cytochrome". Biochemical Education. 1 (4): 69–71. doi:10.1016/0307-4412(73)90074-5.
  7. ^ "The Keilin Memorial Lecture".
  8. ^ "Professor Judy Hirst FRS receives Keilin Memorial Lecture Award". Corpus Christi College University of Cambridge. 1 April 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2020.