Back in Stockholm 19541958

From now on Ulla concentrated on finishing her MD while I went back to the Chemistry Department to continue my graduate studies interwoven with some medical courses. My further work took two directions. First, Bertil Jacobson wanted to pursue his idea that DNA and hyaluronan surrounded themselves with large icelike hydration shells and to prove this by X-ray diffraction. He built X-ray cameras to record the amorphous diffractograms from water solutions of these polymers and I did the experiments and calculations. For this work I used BESK - the first electronic binary computer in Stockholm - to do one-dimensional Fourier analyses. I spent two years on these experiments but could never record any changes in the water structure, which of course was especially negative for Bertil Jacobson as this was the main theme of his research. His work from then on became directed essentially toward development of instruments and he later became professor of medical technology.

My second research line was a continuation of the light-scattering work I had started in Boston. Einar Hammarsten had realized the importance of light-scattering for studies of DNA and he helped me to get a grant for a light-scattering photometer. He also arranged a position for me as teaching assistant in medical physical chemistry, which helped our economical situation but also meant more teaching obligations to medical students. With the new light-scattering equipment, I made a more thorough study of the molecular properties of hyaluronans isolated from different tissues. At this time a new technique to isolate and fractionate polyanions had been published by John Scott in Manchester. He used detergents, especially cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), to precipitate the polymers. Differently charged polymers precipitated at different ionic strengths. The technique suited me well for the isolation of hyaluronan free of sulphated polysaccharides from the tissues. My new results fitted my previous description of hyaluronan as a random coil structure (Figure 2). I also found

When Does Torticollis Improve
Fig. 2. A slide frequently used 40 years ago to compare the size of a hyaluronan molecule with that of other macromolecules.

out that I could dissolve a cetylpyridinium-hyaluronate complex in methanol and for the first time study the polysaccharide in an organic solvent.

My doctoral thesis [3] was defended in public on October 12, 1957. At that time the defence was held in formal dress, i.e., I had to wear tails. The thesis was a summary of eight publications originating from Experimental Histology, Retina Foundation, and the Chemistry Department. My first examiner appointed by the faculty was Lars-Goran Allg^n, who previously had done work on dielectric properties of DNA, and as second examiner I had asked John Scott to come from Manchester. John Scott was wearing - on top of the tails -an English academic robe and felt very uncomfortable and his performance was therefore short. Otherwise everything went well except at the dinner in the evening. I had spent all my time in preparing my defence and completely disregarded the fact that at Swedish formal dissertation dinners there should also be well-prepared dinner speeches.

Having finished my thesis, it was high time to think of how I should earn a living in the future. An academic career in Sweden was highly uncertain especially since I did not belong to "an academic school.'' The most natural would be a clinical career and my first objective was to finish my MD, which I did in the spring of 1958. I had also applied to become a "docent" (assistant professor title) in medical physical chemistry and this was granted. At the end of May on a memorable day, when all the academic schools in Stockholm had a graduation ceremony in common in the Stockholm City Hall, I officially received my doctorate. At this occasion my father gave the official graduation lecture and was also "promotor," i.e., he awarded the doctorates to graduates from the Royal Institute of Technology.

In the meantime during my graduate work Ulla had started a career in ophthalmology. We had got our first child, Birgitta, in April 1957 and we expected our second child late in the fall of 1958. We had come to a turning point in life. What were we going to do next? Bandi had offered us to come back to the Retina Foundation and we decided to accept, well aware that, in reality, we might emigrate to the USA. I had no department in Sweden to return to. Einar Hammarsten had retired and his successor, Sune Bergstrom, came from Lund and filled all the positions in the Chemistry Department with his disciples. My temporary appointment ended in 1958. We decided to move in January 1959 when our second child was born. It was a boy, Claes.

Before we left I also finished some collaboration with Birger Blomback on the formation of fibrin from fibrinogen and with Hans Palmstierna and Tord Holme on the characterization of glycogen in Escherichia coli. Most importantly, I got my first graduate student. One of the medical students I had taught, Ingemar Bjork, asked if he could work with me. He followed me to Boston and then to Uppsala.

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