George Joseph Popják FRS (1914 – 1998)
George Popják made important contributions to lipid and steroid biochemistry at NIMR between 1948-53. A native of Hungary, Popják studied medicine then in 1939 he came to the Postgraduate Medical School, London, where his interest in lipids began. Between 1941-7 he worked at St. Thomas’s Hospital Medical School and pioneered the early use of isotopes in biological research. Upon transfer to NIMR in 1948, he demonstrated that lipids including cholesterol are produced by the fetus rather than acquired from the mother. He embarked on a fruitful collaboration with chemist John Cornforth on defining the pathway of cholesterol biosynthesis. The collaboration lasted beyond Popják’s move to the Hammersmith Hospital in 1953
as head of the MRC Experimental Radiopathology Research Unit, and culminated in joint directorship of a new research laboratory at Shell, Sittingbourne. When Cornforth was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1975 some of Popják’s supporters felt that his biochemical contribution to the partnership was under-recognised. He died on 30 December 1998.