Paul D. Boyer

Photo by Brent Nicastro Photo by Brent Nicastro

On this date in 1918, Nobel Laureate Paul D. Boyer was born in Provo, Utah, the middle child in a family of six in a loving home. Although Paul became a "Deacon" in the Mormon church at age 12 and graduated from Brigham Young University, where he met his wife Lyda, his pursuit of science during graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison altered his perspective. He earned his doctorate in 1943. Moving to Stanford to do postdoctoral research in a war project, he and his wife ceased going to Mormon meetings. In 1955, he went to Sweden on a Guggenheim Fellowship. Dr. Boyer spent 17 years as a faculty member of the University of Minnesota, where, in 1956, he was appointed to the Hill Foundation Professorship. In 1963, he and his family, including two daughters, moved to Los Angeles, where Dr. Boyer continued research into biochemistry at UCLA. In 1965, he became director of the newly created Molecular Biology Institute.

Boyer has pointed out that, as might be expected, "belief in God and in a Hereafter dropped considerably as the level of scientific achievement increased." A recent survey shows that only ten percent of members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, representing "a pinnacle of achievement for American scientists," believe in a god. Dr. Boyer shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1997 with John E. Waller and Jens C. Skow "for their elucidation of the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)." In his Nobel autobiography, Dr. Boyer referred to himself as a "devout atheist," and added: "I wonder if in the United States we will ever reach the day when the man-made concept of a God will not appear on our money, and for political survival must be invoked by those who seek to represent us in our democracy." He and his wife, Lyda, continue to travel widely in retirement. Paul D. Boyer is a Life Member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“My views have changed from a belief that my prayers were heard to clear atheism . . . Over and over, expanding scientific knowledge has shown religious claims to be false.

None of the beliefs in gods has any merit.”

—-Paul D. Boyer, "A Path to Atheism," Freethought Today, March 2004

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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