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Evolution of the Z-scheme of photosynthesis : a perspective

  • Govindjee
  • Dmitriy Shevela
  • Lars Olof Björn
Publishing year: 2017-09
Language: English
Pages: 5-15
Publication/Series: Photosynthesis Research
Volume: 133
Issue: 1-3
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

The concept of the Z-scheme of oxygenic photosynthesis is in all the textbooks. However, its evolution is not. We focus here mainly on some of the history of its biophysical aspects. We have arbitrarily divided here the 1941–2016 period into three sub-periods: (a) Origin of the concept of two light reactions: first hinted at, in 1941, by James Franck and Karl Herzfeld; described and explained, in 1945, by Eugene Rabinowitch; and a clear hypothesis, given in 1956 by Rabinowitch, of the then available cytochrome experiments: one light oxidizing it and another reducing it; (b) Experimental discovery of the two light reactions and two pigment systems and the Z-scheme of photosynthesis: Robert Emerson’s discovery, in 1957, of enhancement in photosynthesis when two light beams (one in the far-red region, and the other of shorter wavelengths) are given together than when given separately; and the 1960 scheme of Robin Hill & Fay Bendall; and (c) Evolution of the many versions of the Z-Scheme: Louis Duysens and Jan Amesz’s 1961 experiments on oxidation and reduction of cytochrome f by two different wavelengths of light, followed by the work of many others for more than 50 years.


  • Botany
  • Bessel Kok
  • Eugene Rabinowitch
  • Horst T. Witt
  • James Franck
  • Louis N. M. Duysens
  • Robert Emerson
  • Robin Hill
  • The Z-scheme of photosynthesis


  • ISSN: 0166-8595
Lars Olof Björn
E-mail: lars_olof [dot] bjorn [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor emeritus

Molecular Cell Biology

+46 46 222 72 53