BY GOTTFRIED SCHATZ
WHEN HE ENTERED OUR Vienna laboratory on a hot summer day in 1961 I was struck by his youthful stride that belied his white hair, his foreign-looking bow tie, and a curious tension in his face. My friends told me later that I had just seen Efraim Racker, one of the foremost biochemists of our time, and that this was his first visit to Vienna since he had fled this city more than twenty-three years ago.
In 1961 Racker's work on biological ATP production had made him one of the stars of bioenergetics, the branch of biochemistry dealing with energy conversion by living cells. I had already made up my mind that I wanted to do my postdoctoral work with him and asked him the next day whether he would accept me. He drew me aside to quiz me about my work, but interrupted me after my first few sentences by asking, "How come you speak English so well?" Flattered, I explained in my German-accented English that I had spent my last year of high school as an exchange student in the United States. His immediate riposte, "How come you speak English so badly?" made us both laugh and started a lifelong bond between us that was severed only when he died thirty years later.
Racker was born on June 28, 1913, in the town of Neu-Sandez in Poland to Jewish parents who moved to Vienna