Commemorating the 1913 Michaelis-Menten paper Die Kinetik der Invertinwirkung: Three perspectives

Ute Deichmann, Stefan Schuster, Jean Pierre Mazat, Athel Cornish-Bowden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Methods and equations for analysing the kinetics of enzyme-catalysed reactions were developed at the beginning of the 20th century in two centres in particular; in Paris, by Victor Henri, and, in Berlin, by Leonor Michaelis and Maud Menten. Henri made a detailed analysis of the work in this area that had preceded him, and arrived at a correct equation for the initial rate of reaction. However, his approach was open to the important objection that he took no account of the hydrogen-ion concentration (a subject largely undeveloped in his time). In addition, although he wrote down an expression for the initial rate of reaction and described the hyperbolic form of its dependence on the substrate concentration, he did not appreciate the great advantages that would come from analysis in terms of initial rates rather than time courses. Michaelis and Menten not only placed Henri's analysis on a firm experimental foundation, but also defined the experimental protocol that remains standard today. Here, we review this development, and discuss other scientific contributions of these individuals. The three parts have different authors, as indicated, and do not necessarily agree on all details, in particular about the relative importance of the contributions of Michaelis and Menten on the one hand and of Henri on the other. Rather than force the review into an unrealistic consensus, we consider it appropriate to leave the disagreements visible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-463
Number of pages29
JournalFEBS Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Henri
  • Menten
  • Michaelis
  • enzyme kinetics
  • history and philosophy
  • initial rate
  • steady state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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