William John Young

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William John Young (January 26, 1878- May 14, 1942) was a biochemist who studied the fermentation of yeast and carbohydrate metabolism.[1] After attending Victoria University, Young began a long research collaboration with fellow chemist Arthur Harden, and together they are credited with discovering the compound Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). After a decade of work with Harden on fermentation and metabolism, Young moved to Australia, and there became the chair of biochemistry at the Institute of Tropical Medicine. Young's research has been built upon ever since, especially in areas of carbohydrate metabolism, NAD+, and how cells use energy.

Early life and work

Born in Manchester within the United Kingdom, William John Young was educated at Owens College, specializing in chemistry.[1] He then attended Victoria University, where he received a Masters of Science Degree.[1] Young's colleagues knew him for his enthusiasm and broad interests, which included English literature, drama, cabinet making, and golf.[1]

Research work with Arthur Harden

In 1901, Young obtained a position working as an assistant of fellow British chemist Arthur Harden of the Jenner Institute.[1] Young then worked with Harden for over a decade, mostly on yeast fermentation.[2] They studied yeast glycogen and where and under what conditions “yeast juice” would lose or redouble its fermentation ability.[2] While others often solely studied the effects of experiments, Arthur and Young studied every part, such as the amount of CO2 and the rate of reaction throughout the process.[2]

Together they discovered nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) in 1906.[3] In a significant breakthrough, Young and Harden were able to show that a “glucose phosphate ester accumulated during fermentation ‘in vitro’.”[4] Some attempted to argue the finding, but the work of Harden and Young was not able to be discredited.[4] [4] This heat-stable “co-factor” was found by adding boiled yeast extract to non-boiled extracts. This new chemical significantly amplified the alcoholic fermentation process, implying that something new was in the boiled mixture.[3] This discovery was called a “cozymase”[3] From 1906-1911, Young and Harden contributed six papers to the journal “The Proceedings of the Royal Society” about yeast fermentation and carbohydrate metabolism.[1][2] In 1907, Young isolated barium salt, and the two researchers further studied “co-fermentation,” and the interactions of the phosphate radical and a then yet unknown structure that moved the radical to a sugar molecule. [1]

Later life and career

The duo’s partnership ended in 1912 when Young moved to Australia to work in a Lectureship at the Institute of Tropical Medicine.[2] He also took the time to study changes in metabolism from living in the tropics. Young wrote most of his papers between 1915 and 1920 for the “Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology” and the “Medical Journal of Australia.[1] Upon its creation, Young took the newly created Chair of Biochemistry at the Institute.[2] Young spent much of his time teaching, and his subject matter varied widely: he also performed research for the Australian government into the preservation of bananas.[2] Young died within two years of his long time colleague Arthur Harden.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Obituary: William John Young Written for Biochemistry Journal, Accessed from United States National Library of Medicine & the National Institutes of Health. Published July 1943, Volume 37; Accessed April 9, 2020
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Arthur Harden Written by Ida Smedley-Maclean for the Biochemical Journal, Volume 35, Issues 10-11, Pages 1071-1081. Written November 1, 1941; Accessed April 13, 2020
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Modulating NAD+ metabolism, from bench to bedside Written by Elena Katsyuba and Johan Auwerx for The Embo Journal, Volume 36, Issue 18. Published September 15, 2017; Accessed April 13, 2020
  4. 4.0 4.1 THE BACKGROUND TO ARTHUR HARDEN'S DISCOVERY OF COZYMASE Written by Robert E. Koehler Jr. for Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Volume 48, Number 1. Published Spring 1974; Accessed April 22, 2020