Kenneth Burton was an enthusiastic, lateral-thinking biochemist, with special skills in physical sciences, chemistry and mathematics who, although perhaps best known for his highly cited study of the conditions for the diphenylamine colour reaction for DNA, made outstanding contributions in several important fields. His calculations, which he refined over the years, of the thermodynamic parameters of many biological substances were of the greatest importance in the development of intermediary metabolism. Attracted to bacteriophage systems as a route to tackling the thorny problem of DNA replication, his early discovery that bacteriophage DNA replication precedes phage DNA synthesis set the stage for important developments in our understanding of viral systems and, ultimately, antiviral therapies. His pioneering studies of specific methods for the chemical degradation of DNA molecules were among the first steps towards the determination of nucleotide sequences in DNA at a time when direct chemical degradation seemed to be the only feasible approach.
- This publication is © 2011 The Royal Society