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TitleNicolau van Uden, a life with yeasts (1921–1991)
Author(s)Peinado, José M.
Leão, Cecília
Issue dateJun-2012
JournalIUBMB Life
Abstract(s)Nicolau van Uden was born in Venlo (The Netherlands) in 1921 and he studied in Vienna University where he got his degree in medicine (Fig. 1). A few years later, he married Marie Adelaide de Bragança, a member of the Portuguese royal family. This was determinant for his establishment in Portugal, where he lived for more than 40 years. During his first years in Portugal, van Uden worked as an invited researcher in a small laboratory in the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon. When he was already a recognized yeast specialist, he was invited to participate in the design of a Centre of Biology, integrated in the Gulbenkian Institute of Science that the Gulbenkian Foundation was building in Oeiras, in the gardens of the Marquis of Pombal palace. When the Centre was finished, van Uden was appointed as director of the Laboratory of Microbiology, which he had designed in every detail, and he worked there for the rest of his life. In 1969, he became the first director of the Teaching Department of the Gulbenkian Institute of Science and created and launched the ‘‘Estudos Avancados de Oeiras’’ (Advanced Studies of Oeiras). This programme of international monographic courses had a multidisciplinary approach and brought to Portugal during the summer months hundreds of students from the whole world, attracted by the quality of the speakers and the excellence of the practical laboratory work. In the early seventies, he was invited to pursue an academic career and he did it completing all the traditional Portuguese academic requirements. He got a doctorate in Biology in the University of Coimbra, the oldest of Portugal, in 1974. Then he got the highest academic title of ‘‘agregado’’ in Microbiology in the New University of Lisbon and finally he was appointed as the first Full Professor of Microbiology in the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of this University. As an output-oriented legacy of his research, a yeast culture collection, of over 2000 strains, representing around 450 species, was established, this constitutes the current ‘‘Portuguese Yeast Culture Collection–PYCC’’ integrated in a European network of microbial databases and culture collections. Along his life he edited one book, wrote 21 reviews and book chapters, and published 121 research articles. He belonged to the editorial board of several journals, including ‘‘Yeast,’’ and his work was also recognized with a doctorate ‘‘honoris causa’’ in the Orange Free State University (South Africa) and with honorary membership of several learned societies. He represented Portugal in councils and panels of NATO, EU, European Federation of Biotechnology, International Union of Microbiological Societies and the Academies of Sciences of the USA. He died in 1991, and the following lines are an attempt to summarize his main achievements and to evaluate their relevance in the framework of the biology of his time and in that of modern biology.
DescriptionThe authors would like to express their gratitude to all their colleagues who worked with Nicolau van Uden and also to his many friends around the world. A special acknowledgement is due to Carlos Gancedo (Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas Alberto Sols, CSIC-UAM. Madrid)
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