Diabetes mellitus is a disease characterized by the body’s inability to regulate glucose levels. Glucose (a component of table sugar) is needed to provide biochemical energy for all the cells of the body. When this process is disrupted, the body begins to break down fat and protein to provide the needed energy, which can eventually lead to death. Diabetes is mediated by a protein called insulin. A key piece of our understanding of diabetes came when Frederick Sanger, a British biochemist, carried out experiments to determine the structure of the insulin molecule. Sanger (shown in the opening image) used basic chemistry techniques and reactions and took twelve years to complete his research. Today, automated instruments based on his approach can perform the same analysis in a matter of days. Sanger was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1958 for his insulin research. The chemical processes that won Sanger the Nobel Prize is pictured on the right in the opening image. In this chapter, we will look at the history of chemistry, see the many areas of our lives that are touched by chemistry, and develop a basic understanding of what is involved in the process of scientific discovery.
Sanger image courtesy of the National Institutes of Health. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frederick_Sanger2.jpg. Molecule by User:Sponk/Wikimedia Commons. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sanger_peptide_end-group_analysis.svg. Both images are in the public domain.