Giants in History: Hsien Wu

The biochemist who uncovered protein unfolding 

Hsien Wu (24 November 1893 - 8 August 1959)


Hsien Wu (24 November 1893 – 8 August 1959) is widely regarded as the founder of biochemistry and nutrition science in China. He was the first to propose that protein denaturation was caused by the unfolding of the protein, instead of chemical alteration. He also developed the first assay to measure blood-glucose, known as the Folin-Wu method. Wu noticed that many Chinese were malnourished and suspected that it was due to their unbalanced vegetarian diet. By studying the relationship between food and human health, Wu found that protein combinations were critical for a balanced diet and set up nutritional guidelines for a complete diet. The findings, together with an analysis of the food composition in China and a nutrition survey, were the first systematic study of nutrition in China. Wu was a prolific researcher who published 163 papers in areas such as protein denaturation, nutrition and immunochemistry.