Sir Walter Norman Haworth (born Chorley, Lancashire March 19, 1883 – March 19, 1950) was a British chemist who is best known for his groundbreaking work on ascorbic acid (vitamin C) whilst working at Birmingham University.
He decided to attend Manchester University in 1903 and study chemistry after working for some time in a linoleum factory run by his father. He made this decision in spite of the strong disapproval of his parents. After he finished his masters degree with William Henry Perkin, Jr., he subsequently studied at the University of Göttingen earning his PhD with Otto Wallach.
In 1912 Haworth became a lecturer at United College of St Andrews University in Scotland and became interested in carbohydrate chemistry, which was being investigated at St Andrews by Thomas Purdie (1843-1916) and James Irvine (1877-1952). Haworth began his work on simple sugars in 1915 and developed a new method for the preparation of the methyl ethers of sugars using methyl sulfate and alkali (now called Haworth methylation). He then began studies on the structural features of the disaccharides.
Haworth organized the laboratories at St Andrews University for the production of chemicals and drugs for the British government during World War I (1914-1918). He was appointed professor of organic chemistry at the University of Durham in 1920. Three years later, he became Mason Professor of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham.
In 1934, working with British chemist Sir Edmund Hirst, he was able to synthesize vitamin C.
The Haworth projection, a simple way for representing chemical structures in three dimensions, is named after him.
He was knighted in 1948. He died on March 19, 1950, his 67th birthday.
Haworth is commemorated at Birmingham University in the Haworth Building, which houses most of the Birmingham University School of Chemistry)
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