In memoriam, Mårten Wikström (1945-2024)

Professor Emeritus Mårten Wikström was a dear colleague and friend. He was highly civilized intellectual who was also a great musician.

Professor Mårten Wikström got his MD and PhD degree at the University of Helsinki in 1971. He was the docent from 1973 and professor of medical chemistry since 1983. In years 1971–72 he was postdoc in E. C. Slater’s laboratory in Amsterdam.

In 1961, Peter D Mitchell presented his chemiosmotic theory of energy storage. It was based on the proton gradient formed across the mitochondrial inner membrane. In 1977 Mårten Wikström was the first to show experimentally that the oxygen reducing agent cytochrome oxidase pumps protons through the membrane. The Michell–Wikström debate attracted great attention and was solved in 1985, when Wikström had shown the test conditions of the opponents to be incorrect. Mårten Wikström was an international authority in biophysics and bioenergetics and his work on cytochrome oxidases was ground-breaking. He was one of the most internationally recognized Finnish biomedical researchers. Mårten Wikström has served on the editorial boards of internationally high-level biochemistry publications (e.g. EMBO Journal, Biochemical Journal etc.). Wikström has received considerable domestic and international awards, e.g. FEBS Anniversary Prize 1977, Anders Jahren Young Scientist Award 1984 and A. I. Virtanen Award 1989. He was elected EMBO member 1985 and member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 1992.

Mårten Wikström worked at the Department of Medical Chemistry until 1998 and then started the unique Structural Biology and Biophysics research program at the Institute of Biotechnology. He was Academy Professor from 2001, and the Research Director from 2003 onward, and his contribution to the development of biophysics and structural biology in Finland is enormous. After his retirement, Mårten stayed active and made significant scientific contributions.

His close colleague, Nobelist Sr. John Walker wrote: “What terrible news this morning from Anne. I am so very glad that I came to Finland last summer. As you know, Marten was a great scientist. His battles with Peter Mitchell over cytochrome oxidase, which Marten won, are legendary”.

Mårten Wikström was a dear colleague and friend. He was highly civilized intellectual who was also a great musician.

Today we are much poorer with Mårten’s passing.