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Andrew A. Benson

by Susan J. Ainsworth
April 20, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 16

Andrew A. Benson, 97, a Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Biology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and a world-renowned plant scientist, died on Jan. 16 in San Diego.

Born in Modesto, Calif., Benson received a B.S. in chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1939 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from California Institute of Technology in 1942.

As a member of Melvin E. Calvin’s group at UC Berkeley, Benson helped work out the complete pathway of carbon fixation in photosynthesis, which became known as the Calvin-Benson cycle.

Benson joined Scripps in 1962 as a professor of biology. He served as chair of the Marine Biology Research Division from 1965 until 1969. From 1966 to 1970, he also served as associate director of Scripps with responsibilities for coordinating biological research and teaching. From 1970 to 1976, he was director of Scripps’s Physiological Research Laboratory.

Authoring more than 100 publications, Benson had broad research interests that included the chemistry of photosynthesis, the stimulation of plant growth by alcohols, and the chemical composition of plant cell membranes.

Most recently, Benson and his Scripps colleague Arthur Nonomura had been studying major biochemical pathways with implications for agriculture, mariculture, and forestry.

Benson received many awards, including the from the American Oil Chemists’ Society in 1987 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rebeiz Foundation for Basic Research in 2008.

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts & Letters.

Benson was a member of numerous professional organizations and was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1939.

He is survived his wife of 45 years, Dee.​



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