Issue Date: January 24, 2011
Britton Chance, 97, an emeritus professor of biophysics, physical chemistry, and radiologic physics at the University of Pennsylvania, died on Nov. 16, 2010.
Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Chance earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1935 and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1940 from Penn. As a graduate student, he developed a microflow version of a stopped-flow apparatus to study the kinetics of enzyme-mediated reactions. In 1942, he received a second doctorate—in biology and physiology—from the University of Cambridge, in England.
Then, in the midst of World War II, Chance was recruited by Massachusetts Institute of Technology to work in its Radiation Laboratory as part of a team focused on developing and enhancing radar. In 1949, he joined Penn as a professor of biophysics and physical biochemistry. He was named its Eldridge Reeves Johnson Professor in 1964. In the 1990s, he was director of the university’s Institute for Biophysical & Biomedical Research and became president of the Medical Diagnostic Research Foundation in 1998.
Chance made major contributions to the determination of bioenergetic activities in cells. In the 1980s, he did pioneering work in magnetic resonance imaging in humans. Later, he did groundbreaking research in the field of biomedical optics, applying near-infrared light to the clinical diagnosis of breast cancer and to the study of muscle dynamics and cognition.
He received many awards, including the National Medal of Science in 1974 and the Christopher Columbus Discovery Award in Biomedical Research from the National Institutes of Health. A lifelong yachtsman, he won an Olympic gold medal in sailing in 1952. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1937.
Chance is survived by his wife, Shoko Nioka, whom he married in February 2010; two former wives; 16 children and stepchildren; 27 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
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