Literally, biochemistry is the study of the chemistry of "life," or, rather, of living organisms. As biochemists, we investigate through experimentation the processes that occur in living organisms. Ever since the first description of cells by the English scientist Robert Hooke in 1663, man has been interested in understanding how cells operate, both alone and in cooperation (as tissues). Desire to investigate objects invisible to the naked eye led to the necessity for scientists to become creative in their design of experiments. Over the years, such ingenuity resulted in the development of technologies that as a whole became the core of a scientific discipline that would soon become known as "biochemistry" by the turn of the nineteenth century.

With the advent of molecular biological technologies adding to the core classical approaches, modern-day biochemistry is comprised of essentially two general areas of experimentation: (1) purification and characterization of macro-scale cellular components via classical approaches, and (2) purification and characterization of micro-scale cellular components via molecular biological approaches. It is difficult to generalize the study of biochemistry into two separate groups of approaches, as researchers typically blend any number of techniques from both approaches into their experimental milieu, but as the aim of this section is to introduce the scientific discipline of biochemistry — its essence, its mode of thinking — it will be easier for the unfamiliar reader if we separate the classical from the modern molecular approaches, if only for the sake of clarity. In so doing, we will review significant aspects of the history of biochemistry, so that the reader may gain an insight into the thinking of the time and better understand how these techniques arose. The scientific range of biochemistry is both vast and complex. In writing this chapter we assume that the reader has studied the general subject in lecture. It is not our aim for this chapter to be all-encompassing, but, rather, for it to give a basic to intermediate understanding of the areas relevant to food biotechnology so that the reader may gain a solid foundation upon which to more fully explore and understand the ideas that will be presented in the succeeding chapters.

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