The proteins are key components of all living organisms, and their fundamental role in biology cannot be overestimated. These very large and extremely complex substances are major constituents of blood, muscle, skin, bone, nerve, and, in fact, of every tissue and organ of the body. All of the enzymes that catalyze biochemical reactions and many of the hormones that regulate them are proteins. If we are to understand, and eventually control, the events that occur in the body, we must first understand the composition, structure, and function of the individual proteins. One way is to study proteins isolated from natural sources. Another way is to make the proteins in the laboratory and to study the synthetic material.
Although the total chemical synthesis of a protein was out of the question a decade ago, it was not unreasonable to begin thinking of the day when a synthesis might be achieved and