Britton Chance

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Britton Chance
Britton Chance (1965).jpg
Britton Chance (Ron Kroon, 1965)
Born (1913-07-24)July 24, 1913
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality United States
Fields Biophysics
Institutions University of Pennsylvania
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania (B.A) (1935)
University of Pennsylvania (M.A.) (1936)
University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D) (1940)
Cambridge University (Ph.D) (1942)
Known for Enzyme kinetics
Optical imaging
Olympic medal record
Men's sailing
Representing the  United States
Gold medal – first place Helsinki 1952 5.5 metre class
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 1962 Poole 5.5m

Britton Chance (July 24, 1913 – November 16, 2010) was the Eldridge Reeves Johnson University Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Biophysics, as well as Professor Emeritus of Physical Chemistry and Radiological Physics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

At the 1952 Summer Olympics, Chance won a gold medal in sailing.

Early life and education

Chance was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He received a B.A. (1935), M.A. (1936), and Ph.D. degree in Physical Chemistry (1940) at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a member of St. Anthony Hall.

Chance earned a second Ph.D. at Cambridge University in 1942 in Biology/Physiology.


During World War II, Chance worked for the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which was working on the development of radar. In 1952, he received his D.Sc. from Cambridge.

His research interests were diverse. He was promoted as the Professor of Biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and appointed the second director of the Johnson Foundation, a position he held until 1983. He was then appointed E. R. Johnson Professor of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry (later renamed as Biochemistry and Biophysics) in 1964 and University Professor in 1977.

In his early career, he was mainly working on enzyme structure and function. He had invented the now standard stopped flow device to measure the existence of the enzyme-substrate complex in enzyme reaction.[1] He was a pioneer in the numerical simulations of biochemical reactions and metabolic pathways.[2][3]

In later years, while retaining his interest in those fields, he also focused on metabolic control phenomena in living tissues as studied by noninvasive technique such as phosphorus NMR and optical spectroscopy and fluorometry, including the use of infrared light to characterize the properties of various tissues and breast tumors.[4]


He won a gold medal for the United States at the 1952 Summer Olympics in the 5½ Meter Class, alongside Edgar White and Sumner White.[5]

Awards and recognitions

Chance joined the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1952. He received the National Medal of Science in 1974.[6] He was also previously elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Medical Sciences, in 1968, as well as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (London) in 1981. He died in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia in November 2010.[7]


Academic awards

Awards named after Britton Chance

  • The International Society on Oxygen Transport to Tissue (ISOTT) established The Britton Chance Award in honor of Professor Chance's long-standing commitment, interest and contributions to the science and engineering aspects of oxygen transport to tissue and to the society. This award was first presented in 2004 during the annual conference of ISOTT in Bari, Italy.[8]
  • SPIE has established Britton Chance Biomedical Optics Award, honoring his significant contribution to biomedical optics. The award will be presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions to the field of biomedical optics through the development of innovative, high-impact biophotonic technologies. In particular, the award will acknowledge pioneering contributions to biophotonic methods and devices that have significant promise to accelerate or have already facilitated new discoveries in biology or medicine, and will target achievements that span disciplines and may include elements of basic research, technology development, and clinical translation.[9]


  1. Kresge N, Simoni RD, Hill RL. Britton Chance: Olympian and Developer of Stop-Flow Methods. J. Biol. Chem., Vol. 279, Issue 50, 10, December 10, 2004.
  2. Chance, B., Greenstein, D. S., Higgins, J. & Yang, C. C. The mechanism of catalase action. II. Electric analog computer studies. Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 37, 322–339 (1952).
  3. Chance, Britton and Garfinkel, David and Higgins, Joseph and Hess, Benno. Metabolic control mechanisms. V. A solution for the equations representing interaction between glycolysis and respiration in ascites tumor cells. J. biol. Chem. 235, 2726-2439 (1960)
  4. University of Pennsylvania Archival Collection
  5. US Sailing Medalists
  6. National Science Foundation - The President's National Medal of Science
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  8. ISOT Awards
  9. SPIE honors Britton Chance with new biomedical optics award

External links