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Automated Peptide Synthesizer

  • Made in New York
  • 22.75 in. H x 21.75 in. W x 15 in. D
    Glass, metal, plastic, rubber
  • On display in Making Modernity
  • Gift of Elizabeth Merrifield
  • 2008.043.002


In this synthesizer, designed and built by Dr. Bruce Merrifield, the peptide to be synthesized is placed in the reaction vessel with a resin. The rotary selectors then choose specific solvents and amino acids to be added into the reaction vessel by the pump, according to the program communicated by the programmer unit. The programmer is controlled by the tenor drum; the pins on the drum are set along the drum to create the desired program. The pins then control switches that communicate to the rotary selectors. Every 100 steps on the drum equates to the addition of one amino acid to the peptide chain. Dr. Merrifield was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1984 “for his development of methodology for chemical synthesis on a solid matrix.”

Peptide synthesis is the process of synthetically creating peptide chains in a laboratory. There are two main types of peptide synthesis, liquid phase and solid phase, although solid phase is the more accepted method.

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Arnold O. Beckman

CHF’s Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry was started with a generous grant from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in 1987.



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