German-born US biochemist who was awarded a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1922 for his work in determining the relationship between oxygen consumption and the metabolism of lactic acid in muscle.
Meyerhof was born in Hannover and studied at a number of German universities. From 1912 he worked at the University of Kiel, becoming professor in 1918. He headed a department specially created for him at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biology in Berlin in the period 1924–29, when he moved to Heidelberg. As a result of Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s, Meyerhof left Germany in 1938 and went to Paris, where he became director of research at the Institut de Biologie Physiochimique. In 1940, when France fell to Germany in the early part of World War II, he fled to the USA, and was given a professorship at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1920 Meyerhof showed that, in anaerobic conditions, the amounts of glycogen metabolized and lactic acid produced in a contracting muscle are proportional to the tension in the muscle. He also demonstrated that 20–25% of the lactic acid is oxidized during the muscle's recovery period and that energy produced by this oxidation is used to convert the remainder of the lactic acid back to glycogen. Meyerhof introduced the term glycolysis to describe the anaerobic degradation of glycogen to lactic acid, and showed the cyclic nature of energy transformations in living cells. The complete metabolic pathway of glycolysis is known as the Embden–Meyerhof pathway after Meyerhof and Gustav George Embden (1874–1933).