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A French chemist, Anselme Payen (1795-1871), managed a factory engaged in the refining of sugar from sugar beets. This turned his attention to plant chemistry.

In 1833 he reported the separation of a substance from malt extract that had the property of hastening the conversion of starch to glucose. Payen called the substance diastase, from a Greek word for "separate," for in a sense, it separated the building blocks of starch and produced the individual glucose units.

This was an example of an organic catalyst. Yeast is an organic catalyst that was known even to prehistoric humanity, but yeast is a living organism.

Diastase was the first organic catalyst to be isolated from living material that would display catalytic activity without being a living organism itself.

Diastase is an example of what later came to be called an enzyme, and it was the first enzyme to be prepared in concentrated form. Because of it, the suffix-ase eventually came to be used in the names of enzymes generally.

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Author:Asimov, Isaac
Publication:Asimov's Chronology of Science & Discovery, Updated ed.
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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