Britton Chance

Text by Tim Hyland
Britton Chance

Photo credit: University Archives

For somebody born in landlocked Wilkes-Barre, Britton Chance turned out to be quite the sailor. He is also one of the most brilliant scientists Penn has ever had.

A 1935 Penn graduate, Chance went on to earn Ph.D.s from both his alma mater and Cambridge before taking his first faculty position here in 1941. He served as assistant professor of biophysics and physical biochemistry in the School of Medicine before leaving for Stockholm, on a Guggenheim Fellowship, for two years after the end of World War II. He returned to Penn in 1949 and has remained ever since. And what a remarkable career it's been: Chance has been awarded the Pennsylvania Award for Excellence, the National Medal of Science, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences, among other honors.

Then there was the sailing. A member of the 1952 U.S. sailing team at the Helsinki Olympics, he won a gold medal that year in his 31-foot sailboat, the Complex II. He is seen here in the Complex III, racing toward a win in the 1961 Russian regatta at Estonia.

For more on this and other notable moments in Penn history, go to the University Archives web site at

Originally published on .