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Albert Jan Kluyver


Albert Jan Kluyver was born on 3 June 1888 in Breda. He studied chemical engineering. Kluyver was a microbiologist, biochemist and botanist. He is considered as the father of comparative microbiology.
Kluyver was an assistant on the Laboratory for microscopic anatomy form 1911 till 1916. In 1914 he graduated with his thesis “Biochemical Sugar Determination”, Van Iterson was his promoter. From 1916 till 1919 he stayed in the Dutch East Indies, where he was industry consultant on Java. Thereafter, he conducted a study to the coconut fiber preparation in Malaya and Ceylon, and he headed the laboratory of the SA Oil Industry Insulinde in Bandoeng.

From 1920 till his death in 1956 he was professor of microbiology at the Delft University of Technology. He succeeded M.W. Beijerinck and was the second professor of microbiology in Delft.


His interested in biochemistry was to expand the activities of the Delft research group to areas of metabolic pathways and bioenergetics. In 1926, he published an article together with Hendrick Donker about “Die Einheit in der Biochemie”. In this article, Kluyver showed his vision on “Unity of Diversity” of biochemistry. He showed that his hypothesis was correct: “From the cockroach to the elephant, it is all the same”. This means that at biochemical level all organisms are unified: each mechanism, however large or small, is the same. This was the theoretical basis for studying chemical processes in bacteria and extrapolating those processes to higher organisms.

Kluyver and his researchers developed a way to modify fungi for antibiotic production, which is a method that is still be used in industry today. Besides, Kluyver was one of the people behind the idea that taxonomy at the level of microbes should be based on both morphology and physiology, rather than just on morphological features.