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Donald Dexter Van Slyke

Born  1883
Died  1971

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American biochemist, born March 29, 1883, Pike, New York; died May 4, 1971.

Biography of Donald Dexter Van Slyke

Donald Dexter Van Slyke was the son of Lucius Lincoln Van Slyke (1859-1931), an instructor in chemistry at the University of Michigan. He studied biochemistry at the University of Michigan, where he obtained a B.A. degree in 1905 and in 1907 received his PhD for work with the organic chemist Moses Gomberg (1866-1947).

He then won a competitive examination for a position in Washington in the Bureau of Chemistry. However, a letter from Simon Flexner made him change his mind and he became a research biochemist at the Rockefeller Institute. He worked there for seven years with Phoebus Aaron Theodor Levene (1869-1940) who, in 1911, arranged for him to study for a semester in Berlin with Emil Fischer (1852-1919), then the leading chemist in the scientific world and the 1902 winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

In 1914 Slyke was offered the post of chief chemist at the recently opened hospital of the Rockefeller Institute. It was here that he took up the study of kidney physiology and kidney diseases. Although a chemist, he soon found himself in charge of a ward of patients with Bright's disease. From 1949 to 1971 he was affiliated with the Brookhaven National Laboratory.

His work concerns the chemistry of proteins and protein derivatives, as well as their role in physiology and pathology; the effects of enzymes, blood chemistry and the metabolic conditions in diabetes and nephritis.

He introduced techniques for measuring amino acids and conversion of protein into urea in the liver, and made major advances in the understanding of acid base and electrolyte problems, including measurement of blood urea which pointed the way to fluid and electrolyte therapy. His techniques for measuring blood gases led to better understanding of respiratory physiology. Most of "his" biochemical methods were developed during the years from 1912 to about 1930. He was the president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 1923-1924.

Van Slyke authored 317 journal publications and 5 books. From 1914 to 1925 he was the managing editor of The Journal of Biological Chemistry.


  • D. Van Slyke and Moses Gomberg:
    The Action of Molecular Silver, of Silver Sulfate and Chloride, and of Sulfuric Acid upon Halogenated Derivates of Tripehnyl-Carbynol Chloride.
    Doctoral dissertation, 1907. Journal of the American Chemical Society.
  • D. D. Van Slyke:
    Die Analyse von Eiweisskörpern durch Bestimmung der chemisch charakteristischen Gruppen der verschiedenen Aminosäuren.
  • D. D. Van Slyke:
    Die gasometrische Bestimmung von primärem alipathischen Aminostickstoff.
    Handbuch der biologischen Arbeitsmethoden, part 1, T. 7. Berlin and Vienna, 1923.
  • D. D. Van Slyke:
    Bestimmung der Alkalireserve des Blutes.
    Handbuch der biologischen Arbeitsmethoden, part 4, T. 4; Berlin and Vienna, 1927.
  • Eggert Möller, J, F. McIntosh, D. D. Van Slyke:
    Studies of Urea Excretion. II: Relationship Between Urine Volume and the Rate of Urea Excretion by Normal Adults.
    The Journal of Clinical Investigation, New York, december 1928, 6 (3): 427-465.
  • Eggert Möller, J, F. McIntosh, D. D. Van Slyke:
    Studies of Urea Excretion. IV: Relationship Between Urine Volume and Rate of Urea Excretion by Patients with Bright's Disease.
    The Journal of Clinical Investigation, December 1928, 6 (3): 485-504.
  • D. D. Van Slyke:
    Bestimmung von Harnstoff durch gasometrische Messung des durch die Einwirkung von Urease gebildeten Kohlendioxydes.
    Handbuch der biologischen Arbeitsmethoden, part 4, T. 1; Berlin and Vienna, 1930.
  • D. D. Van Slyke:
    Gasometrische Mikro-Kjeldahl-Stickstoffbestimmung.
    Handbuch der biologischen Arbeitsmethoden, part 4, T. 13; Berlin and Vienna, 1930.
  • John Punnett Peters and D. D. Van Slyke,
    Quantitative Clinical Chemistry. Volume I, Interpretations.
    Baltimore : Williams & Wilkins, 1931. Revised 1946. Quantitative Clinical Chemistry. Volume II, Methods.
    Baltimore : Williams & Wilkins, 1933. Revised 1943.
  • Alf S. Alving, Donald D. Van Slyke:
    The significance of concentration and dilution tests in bright's disease.
    The Journal of Clinical Investigation, November 1934, 13 (6): 969-998.
  • D. Van Slyke:
    John Punnett Peter, 1887-1955. Transactions of the Association of American Physicians, Philadelphia, 1956, 69: 22-23.
  • A. B. Hastings:
    Donald Dexter Van Slyke.
    Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, 1976, 48: 309-360.
  • Louis Rosenfeld:
    Donald Dexter Van Slyke (1883–1971): An Oral Biography.
    Clinical Chemistry, 1999, 45: 703-713.

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