In memoriam: Biochemist Helmut Beinert

Emeritus Professor, Helmut Beinert, known as the “father of iron-sulfur proteins”, passed away on December 21 at the age of 94 after a short illness.

Dr. Beinert was born in Germany, where he received his formal education in chemistry. In 1950, he joined the Institute for Enzyme Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, first as a postdoctoral fellow with David E. Green and then as Assistant Professor. Moving up the faculty ranks, he was Professor of Biochemistry until 1984. In 1985, he moved to the Biochemistry Department and the National Biomedical ESR Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. In 1994, he returned to Madison as Emeritus Professor, where he was actively involved in research and scholarly activities until his death.

Dr. Beinert leaves a legacy of pioneering and fundamental accomplishments in the field of biochemistry. In particular, he introduced the use of electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy to bear on the composition of enzymes within the mitochondrial pathways of fatty acid oxidation and respiration. From this groundbreaking work, Dr. Beinert discovered and identified the iron-sulfur proteins of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. He continued to make fundamental discoveries, defining the field of iron-sulfur proteins throughout his career.

Dr. Beinert was internationally recognized and respected. He was awarded the Keilin Medal of the British Biochemical Society, the Sir H. Krebs Medal of the European Biochemical Societies, the Fritz Lipmann Award from the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Otto Warburg Medal from the German Society for Biochemistry, as well as D.Sci.Hon. degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Konstanz. Dr. Beinert was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1980. He was admired and sought after as a collaborator. As one colleague said “Helmut was one of a kind, a giant in our field, whom we shall never forget.”