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Nature rejects Krebs's paper, 1937

By Brendan Borrell Nature rejects Krebs’s paper, 1937 Photo: © SPL / Photo Researchers, Inc. What would be the perfect revenge for a scientist whose paper is turned away from Nature? A Nobel Prize, of course. Such was the case for Hans Krebs, the biochemist who nabbed the award in 1953 for discovering the citric acid cycle, or “Krebs cycle”—the cellular pathway that converts carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy.

By Brendan Borrell | March 1, 2010

Nature rejects Krebs’s paper, 1937

Photo: © SPL / Photo Researchers, Inc.

What would be the perfect revenge for a scientist whose paper is turned away from Nature? A Nobel Prize, of course. Such was the case for Hans Krebs, the biochemist who nabbed the award in 1953 for discovering the citric acid cycle, or “Krebs cycle”—the cellular pathway that converts carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy.

Krebs, a German-born Jew trained in medicine and chemistry, was forced out of his position at the University of Freiburg as the Nazis rose to power in the early 1930s. Fleeing the country for England, he joined the faculty of the University of Sheffield in 1935, where he achieved his groundbreaking discoveries.

In March 1937, Krebs and a colleague minced the breast of a freshly killed pigeon in their lab, suspended it in solution, and observed its metabolic rate decline over the next half hour. By adding a salt of citric acid, however, they were able to keep the tissue “alive” for three times as long. Additional experiments revealed the cyclical nature of the pathway, which regenerates citric acid with each cycle and releases ATP—the cell’s primary energy currency.

“It is undesirable to accept further letters at the present time.”

Krebs submitted his findings to Nature, only to receive a note that the journal had a backlog of “letters” and could not publish it without a significant delay. “This was the first time in my career, after having published more than fifty papers, that I experienced a rejection or semi-rejection,” Krebs wrote in his memoir. He resubmitted his findings to the journal Enzymologia in Holland, where they were published within 2 months.

In 1988, 7 years after Krebs’s death, an anonymous editor published a letter in Nature calling the rejection the journal’s most “egregious error.”

Letter from Nature declining to publish Krebs’s paper.

Comments

Avatar of: Sharad Kumar

Sharad Kumar

Posts: 1

March 3, 2010

I would love to get a 'rejection' letter from Nature that says that they would publish my paper with a delay of a few weeks. I hope the Nature editors are reading this, I am prepared to wait a few months if necessary.
Avatar of: Rivkah Rubinstein

Rivkah Rubinstein

Posts: 11

March 3, 2010

If Herr Professor Doktor Krebs had been a known Creationist or even posed a doubt about life being able to appear spontaneously and continue to "evolve" into ever complex forms, then he would see rejection rivaling religious fervor. Or, if he was a known man-made global warming denier, he should not bother to submit anything. Luckily, back then, even as a German Jew, he was not openly discouraged and had other avenues of expression. Such is our progress today in limiting our thinking.
Avatar of: James Sacco

James Sacco

Posts: 10

March 3, 2010

I feel compelled to comment on Mr.Rubinstein's post, although it did not have anything to do with the article on the late Dr.Krebs research.\n\nCreationism is not science; I wholeheartedly agree that so-called scientists mixing up science with religious philosophy have no place in taking up space in outstanding journals as well as research funding. For grant money and 'peer-reviwed' journals they can go and check their nearest religious fundamental group....
Avatar of: Rivkah Rubinstein

Rivkah Rubinstein

Posts: 11

March 3, 2010

Dear Ms. Sacco,\n\nAs long as survival of the fittest does not include gender-identification based on first-names, then your family tree might be safe. I was refering to scientists who may have identified themselves on the side of issues that are not politically correct, and not on the subject matter of any particular submission. Those scientists will be discriminated against by a fervent religious caste that self-identifies with, in your case, an obvious pseudo-science. The point is that Krebs was able to find a welcoming research environment, and did not face such fervent prejudice that exists today; doled out by colleagues such as you who are so blinded by their beliefs.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

March 5, 2010

...or if you must, then troll them back. \n\nDid you know Ms Rubinstein, that Hitler was a creationist? I also feel compelled to point out that James is a male name so to refer to him as Ms is somewhat unfortunate.
Avatar of: Rivkah Rubinstein

Rivkah Rubinstein

Posts: 11

March 5, 2010

Dear anon, \n\nI cannot believe that I was the one who was originally accused of writing a post that had nothing to do with Krebs. You certainly take the cake in that regard, but I'm sure that your intolerant allies in the scientific community will only applaud you. To me, however, you serve to highlight the bigoted advocacy that science has evolved into since Krebs' time. You represent far more than some set of reactionary responses to an outside agenda, i.e. fascism, etc. You and your modern ilk are symptomatic of homegrown prejudice that substitutes fervor for brainpower. You reject data to cling to a model of existence that can never be proved and which can easily be shown to be inappropriate. \n\nYour arguments are far from weak, in that they are not arguments at all. Hitler was a vegetarian and loved dogs. On that basis, should we condemn all dog-lovers and vegetarians? Your list of ideological enemies is growing. What about black hair, Austrians? Ms. James was a play on sarcasm, since the enlightened Mr. Sacco misidentified Rivkah as male. But while we are at it, did you know that the New Testament James was really named Yaakov, but that English KJV translators substituted the name James to honor their benefactor? Do you still think that there is not any more that you could do to encourage tolerance for the benefit of science? By modern standards, I say that Krebs suffered no rejection!\n
Avatar of: Anthony Musci

Anthony Musci

Posts: 5

March 24, 2010

As a astrologic creationistic alchemist, I am personally offended that that the modern scientific publishing conglomerate does not take my ideas seriously.
Avatar of: naomi diaz

naomi diaz

Posts: 17

March 24, 2010

Hi Rivkah, \nI loved the way you expressed yourself in all comments, I wish I could talk like that. You were so eloquent that I couldn't understand the whole thing being discussed here. What does creationism had to do with Dr. Krebs and how could that affected his "rejection" that it really wasn't a real rejection. \nBTW, I am a scientist and I believe that creation and science fit very well together. \nThank you.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 107

March 25, 2010

My first-year biochemistry students will be surprised by your statement that the Krebs cycle releases ATP.
Avatar of: Boyd Campbell

Boyd Campbell

Posts: 1

March 25, 2010

I submitted a paper to Nature in 1965 (of much less import than that of Krebs) which was rejected. I then submitted it to Science, where it was accepted. I considered that to be revenge enough.
Avatar of: Zael Lutz

Zael Lutz

Posts: 1

March 30, 2010

"Even when the experts all agree, they may well be mistaken." \n-Bertrand Russell\n\nI suppose that even Nature is entitled to be mistaken, in that case.
Avatar of: Shi Liu

Shi Liu

Posts: 32

April 8, 2010

Speaking of rejections, I may be one of the few insightful scientists rejected the most by the top journals just because my discoveries were far ahead of their time. Please see a list of rejections that I have received from some top journals at http://im1.biz/TopRejection.htm ////\n\nWere these rejections justified? Well, most if not all of the rejected discoveries that I made in the earlier years have been re-discovered and some of then were even published as the so-called first findings in the top journals which rejected my earlier submissions. Interestingly, none of these later confirmatory observations cited my prior publications, even if some of the authors knew my discoveries. See examples at http://im1.biz/Named.htm ////\n\nMore amazingly, all of those top journals which have published some pseudo-first discoveries have declined to publish my criticisms on the scientific mistakes still existing in those later studies and the neglect of prior knowledge by those authors. Nature has even instituted a blockage on my expression by preventing me from making any comment on their publications. See examples at http://im1.biz/NatureHidden.htm \n\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 16

April 22, 2010

I emplore the naysayers to read the 'rejection' letter again. The editor quite clearly offered for the letter to be published, albeit at a later date. I would call that an acceptance, not a rejection. \n\nSure, it was a mistake. But had the editor the benefit of hindsight, as the naysayers here do, of course he would have rushed the Krebs letter through the publication process. But he didn't, so please, enough of the hype.\n\nAs one commenter eluded to, by today's standards that would be considered a great reply from a Nature editor...
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

June 16, 2010

As far as I know ATP is not directly released by the Krebs-Cycle but is definitely produced afterwards when NADH/H is entering the electron transport chain.

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