THE DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY
THE University of Michigan was one of the first American universities to recognize the importance of physiological chemistry, chemistry as applied to the living organism in health and disease, as a separate branch of chemistry. In 1883 Victor Clarence Vaughan (Mount Pleasant College [Mo.] '72, Ph.D. Michigan '76, '78m, LL.D. ibid. '00), at that time Assistant Professor of Physiological Chemistry, was appointed Professor of Physiological and Pathological Chemistry and Associate Professor of Therapeutics and Materia Medica (R.P., 1881-86, p. 360). Vaughan, later Dean of the Department of Medicine and Surgery, was the first man to hold a professorship in physiological chemistry in a medical faculty in this country. Under the able leadership of Vaughan and of his pupil, Frederick George Novy ('86, Sc.D. '90, '91m, LL.D. Cincinnati '20), the subject was developed at the University as a part of the offerings of the combined Department of Bacteriology, Physiological Chemistry, and Hygiene. (For a discussion of the developments prior to 1922, see Part V: Administration and Curriculums and Department of Bacteriology.)
After the retirement of Dr. Vaughan in 1921, the feeling that the work in physiological chemistry, in view of its rising importance, could hardly be kept in the position of an adjunct to other subjects (P.R., 1921-22, p. 88) led to the establishment of a separate Department of Physiological Chemistry by the Regents at their meeting of May 26, 1922. Howard Bishop Lewis (Yale '08, Ph.D. ibid. '13), of the University of Illinois, was appointed Professor of Physiological Chemistry to take charge of the new department. He had received his graduate training in physiological chemistry under Professors R. H. Chittenden and L. B. Mendel in the Sheffield Laboratory of Physiological Chemistry of Yale University and had taught in the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1935, with the approval of the executive committee of the Medical School, the name Department of Physiological Chemistry was changed to Department of Biological Chemistry. It was felt that the broader term "biological" was more in keeping with the recent developments in this branch of chemistry.
The chief responsibility of the department, aside from research, has been the conduct of the courses in biological Page 828chemistry for students of medicine. With the reorganization of the preclinical work of the School of Nursing, the department was requested to co-operate in the development of a survey course in chemistry for nurses, to include the fundamentals of inorganic, organic, and biological chemistry as a foundation for the clinical courses in medicine, therapeutics, and dietetics. Such a course, which included laboratory exercises, lectures, and recitations, was begun in the fall of 1925.
In 1928 the faculty of the School of Dentistry requested that arrangements be made to offer lecture instruction to students in dentistry, and with the institution of the four-year curriculum in dentistry, laboratory instruction was, in 1935, also made available to the students of this group. At the request of the School of Education, a course similar to that required of students in the School of Nursing, but slightly more inclusive, was offered in 1936 to professional students in the curriculum of physical education for women. The Department of Biological Chemistry, in addition to the instruction in the required courses in the Medical School, has thus co-operated with other professional groups — in nursing, dentistry, and education. In addition, many students in the College of Pharmacy, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and the Graduate School elect courses and receive their instruction in sections with students of medicine. Biological chemistry is also included in the list of courses recommended for students qualifying for positions as hospital technicians and in related work.
Advanced students have been admitted to the department as candidates for the higher degrees of master of science and doctor of philosophy in the Graduate School. Many students in this group have served, at some period in their graduate work, as assistants in the required laboratory courses for medical students. In the first fifteen years of its existence as a separate department, thirty-nine students received the degree of master of science, and thirty-two the degree of doctor of philosophy, in biological or physiological chemistry. These graduates are occupying important positions in university education or research in hospitals or research institutes, in government laboratories, and in commercial work.
In research, Associate Professor Adam Arthur Christman (Grinnell '17, Ph.D. Illinois '22) has studied various phases of purine metabolism and has published a new and simple method for the quantitative determination of carbon monoxide in blood — a method which has been employed extensively, particularly in medicolegal work. Associate Professor Henry Charles Eckstein (Illinois '15, Ph.D. Yale '23) has been an investigator in the field of lipids, and in 1925 he published the results of an exhaustive study of the composition of human fat. Along other lines, he has contributed to the knowledge of the sterols in epidermal structures, lipid metabolism in xanthoma, and the relation between the lipids of the diet and those of the tissues. Assistant Professor Herbert O. Calvery (B.S. Greenville '19, A.B. Illinois '21, Ph.D. ibid. '24), who studied in the Prague laboratories of Professor E. Waldschmidt-Leitz under the tenure of a Guggenheim fellowship, interested himself in the chemistry and enzymatic degradation of protein. His study of egg albumin was one of the first studies of the enzymatic hydrolysis of a native protein in which the newer methods of enzyme investigation were used. Miss Lila Miller (Wisconsin '26, Ph.D. Michigan '36), who worked in the Carlsberg laboratories under the direction of Professor S. P. L. Sørensen, continued these investigations. Page 829It is to be regretted that Professor Calvery resigned in 1935 to accept an important position in the laboratories of the federal government. He became chief of the Laboratory of Pharmacology of the Food and Drug Administration of the Department of Agriculture. Professor Lewis has been interested in protein metabolism, particularly in the two sulfur-containing amino acids of the protein molecule, and has published some thirty papers on sulfur metabolism. Important among these are his contributions to our knowledge of the "inborn error" of metabolism, cystinuria.
Members of the staff have served as officers of the professional societies of biological chemistry and on the editorial boards of various important journals concerned with biological chemistry and related fields. Lewis has been a member of the National Board of Medical Examiners, serving also as a member of its examination committee. It is worthy of note that Dean Vaughan, whose work was so important to the development of instruction and research in physiological chemistry at the University of Michigan, was one of the original members of the National Board at the time of its foundation in 1915. Lewis has also been a member of the Council on Foods of the American Medical Association.
A detailed and illustrated account of the organization and of the instructional and research work of the department was published by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1930.
Announcement, Department of Medicine and Surgery [Medical School, 1915 — ] (title varies), Univ. Mich., 1883-1940.
Calendar, Univ. Mich., 1883-1914.
Catalogue …, Univ. Mich., 1914-23.
Lewis, Howard B."Department of Physiological Chemistry, University of Michigan Medical School."Methods and Problems of Medical Education, ser. 18 (1930): 55-58.
Memorial Meeting for Victor Clarence Vaughan … (Univ. Mich. Offic. Publ., Vol. 31, No. 35 ).
President's Report, Univ. Mich., 1883-1909, 1920-40 (P.R.).
Proceedings of the Board of Regents …, 1881-1940 (R.P.).
Vaughan, Victor C.A Doctor's Memories. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1926. P. 103.