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Elmer McCollum

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Early Life and Education:
– McCollum’s ancestors immigrated from Scotland in 1763.
– Born in 1879 to Cornelius Armstrong McCollum and Martha Catherine Kidwell McCollum.
– Spent his first 17 years on a farm near Redfield, Kansas.
– Had one brother, Burton, and three sisters.
– Mother moved the family to Lawrence, Kansas in 1896.

Scientific Discoveries and Contributions:
– Discovered the first vitamins A, B, and D with Marguerite Davis.
– Studied the effect of trace elements in the diet.
– Advocated for the importance of milk consumption and leafy greens.
– Known as ‘Dr. Vitamin’ for his pioneering work in nutrition.
– Developed a biological method for food analysis.

Career and Professional Achievements:
– Appointed as chairman and professor at Johns Hopkins University.
– Elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1920.
– Led the National Dairy Products Corporation research laboratory.
– Published about 150 papers on various nutrition topics.
– Established the McCollum-Pratt Institute for trace inorganic elements study.

Personal Life and Health Challenges:
– Married Constance Carruth in 1907 and had five children.
– Suffered from health issues like diverticulitis and vision loss.
– Enjoyed good health during retirement years.
– Donated to student loan funds and scholarship programs.
– Lost all his teeth in 1926 due to health problems.

Recognition, Legacy, and Controversies:
– Elected a foreign member of the Royal Society in 1961.
– McCollum Hall at the University of Kansas named in his honor.
– Accused posthumously of scientific misconduct by Richard David Semba.
– Controversy arose over his contributions to the discovery of vitamin A.
– Legacy includes a McCollum lectureship and a National Historic Landmark house.

Elmer McCollum (Wikipedia)

Elmer Verner McCollum (March 3, 1879 – November 15, 1967) was an American biochemist known for his work on the influence of diet on health. McCollum is also remembered for starting the first rat colony in the United States to be used for nutrition research. His reputation has suffered from posthumous controversy. Time magazine called him Dr. Vitamin. His rule was, "Eat what you want after you have eaten what you should."

Elmer McCollum

McCollum at the University of Wisconsin (before 1917)
Elmer Verner McCollum

(1879-03-03)March 3, 1879
Redfield, Kansas, United States
DiedNovember 15, 1967(1967-11-15) (aged 88)
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Alma materUniversity of Kansas
Yale University Ph.D.
Known for
  • Discovering Vitamin A, Vitamin B and Vitamin D
  • Discovering the influence of diet on health
  • With Cornelia Kennedy, devising the vitamin naming system
  • Discovered the importance of trace metals in diet
AwardsHoward N. Potts Medal (1921)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Wisconsin–Madison Agricultural Experiment Station, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Doctoral advisorHenry Lord Wheeler, Treat B. Johnson
Doctoral studentsMarguerite Davis, Helen T. Parsons, Harry Steenbock

Living at a time when vitamins were unknown, he asked and tried to answer the questions, "How many dietary essentials are there, and what are they?" He and Marguerite Davis discovered the first vitamin, named A, in 1913. McCollum also helped to discover vitamin B and vitamin D and worked out the effect of trace elements in the diet.

As a worker in Wisconsin and later at Johns Hopkins, McCollum acted partly at the request of the dairy industry. When he said that milk was "the greatest of all protective foods", milk consumption in the United States doubled between 1918 and 1928. McCollum also promoted leafy greens, which had no industry advocates.

McCollum wrote in his 1918 medical textbook (which initially had the title of The Newer Knowledge of Nutrition) that lacto vegetarianism is, "when the diet is properly planned, the most highly satisfactory plan which can be adopted in the nutrition of man".

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