Stanley Rossiter Benedict

Born 1884
Died 1936

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American physiological chemist, Born March 17, 1884, Cincinnati, Ohio; died December 21, 1936.

Biography of Stanley Rossiter Benedict

Stanley Rossiter Benedict was the son of Professor Wayland Richardson Benedict (born 1848) and Anne Elizabeth Kendrick. His father was professor of philosophy and psychology at the University of Cincinnati. His mother was a teacher and writer. She contributed stories to The Outlook, Independent, Examiner, etc. His maternal grandfather, Asahel Clark Kendrick (1809-1895), was professor of Greek, Hebrew and Sanskrit at the University of Rochester, and a member of the committee for the revision of the King James Version of the Bible.

Benedict grew up in Cincinnati, next to the youngest of six children. A sister, Dr. Mary K. Benedict, was at one time president of Sweet Briar College, but gave up educational work for the practice of medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. The children grew up in an atmosphere of intellectual inquiry and discussion; the family gathered every evening for a short time to listen to reading aloud by the father.

A busy student
Benedict was educated in the public schools in Cincinnati and studied at the University there. As a boy he planned to practice medicine, and his undergraduate studies at the University included a good many of the medical subjects. However, he became interested in investigative work during his undergraduate years, and abandoned medicine for teaching and research.

It was in his second year he devised his solution. Together with J. F. Snell he published nine papers describing new analytical methods in inorganic chemistry – before his graduation in chemistry. This research experience as a college student provided the intellectual foundation for his career.

In 1906, Benedict received his B.A. degree at the University of Cincinnati and went to Yale, to the Department of Physiological Chemistry, for post-graduate studies with Russell Henry Chittenden (1856-1943) and Lafayette Benedict Mendel (1872-1935).

Working with Lafayette Benedict Mendel
The Yale laboratory had been made famous by Chittenden, the first well-trained physiological chemist in the United States. A few years before Benedict entered Yale, Chittenden had become Director of the Sheffield Scientific School. His distinguished pupil, Lafayette B. Mendel, had taken over the supervision of graduate students and much of the teaching, but Chittenden still continued to give each year a course in nutrition and one in toxicology. Thus all the graduate students came intimately into contact with both of these superior men.

Under Mendel's direction Benedict studied the paths of excretion of several inorganic elements during his post-graduate years but his originality was apparent even at this time. He independently described a new procedure for separation of barium, strontium and calcium, and a new method for distinguishing between glucose and lactose – before completing his work for his degree.

1906 was an important year in biochemistry. In the American Journal of Physiology Otto Knut Olof Folin (1867-1934) published three papers which immediately brought him to distinction. The first of these described a new system for the analysis of urine for urea, ammonia, creatine, creatinine, and uric acid. Methods hitherto available for quantitative estimation of these substances were either seriously unspecific, as in the case of urea, or required relatively large samples for analysis, as was the case for uric acid. Otto Folin's new procedures were regarded by biochemists and physiologists as so great a step in advance that Harvard University created a professorship in biochemistry for the humble chemist working in the laboratory of the McLean Hospital for Mental Diseases at Waverley, Massachusetts.

Benedict received his Ph.D. under Mendel in 1908.

Analysing, analysing . . .
His first appointment was at Syracuse University, where he remained but one year. In 1910 he then took charge of physiological chemistry at Cornell University College of Medicine, in New York City. Graham Lusk (1866-1932), the distinguished physiologist, was responsible for Benedict's appointment. Benedict now entered with enthusiasm upon his career as an improver of analytical methods. Benedict held his position at Cornell until his death in 1936 at the age of 52.

Benedict had a close professional relationship with Otto Folin. "They succeeded in devising and refining analytical procedures for determination of minute amounts of the principal non-protein constituents of blood and urine so that, for the first time, chemical analysis became a highly useful technic for the discovery of the chemical processes in the normal functioning of the body." In spite of seventeen years difference in their age (Folin was the older), of the rivalry and controversy sometimes evident in their papers, there early developed between them a warm friendship which reveals the fine character of both. They were kindred spirits" (McCollum).

Every method which Folin described during the following years was immediately submitted to a critical study and was modified and improved in some important detail by Benedict. Methods for uric acid, creatine and creatinine, total sulphur, sugar, etc., which were devised by Folin, and which at the time of their publication were the best ones known, were tested by Benedict and improved in various ways within a few months.

Benedict's services as editor
Notwithstanding the regular teaching of physiological chemistry to medical students, and his constant occupation with post-graduate students and assistants and associates in the planning and supervision of his many researches, Benedict gave a great amount of time to editorial work. Beginning in 1912, he supervised the Biological Chemistry Section of Chemical Abstracts throughout the remainder of his life. In 1925 he accepted the editorship of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, a labour to which he gave much time and effort, which ended only with his death.

Benedict's Solution , or one of the many variants that evolved over the years, was used as the reagent of choice for measuring sugar content for more than 50 years. It was the most common test for diabetes and was the standard procedure for virtually all clinical laboratories. Benedict demonstrated that urinary ammonia was almost totally formed in the kidney, and with Folin should be credited as a major contributor to the measurement of metabolites in the blood so important in modern medicine.

Apart from his development of analytical techniques he discovered new substances such as ergothioneine in the red cells. In 1920 he became editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and early on decided to dispense with the final «e» which terminated many biological compounds until he was asked by one of his colleagues whether he was going to abolish the final «e» on his favourite liqueur - Benedictine. This caused him to change his views!

  • P. A. Shaffer
    Obituary for Stanley Rossiter Benedict.
    The Journal of Biological Chemistry, Baltimore, 1937, 117: 428.

  • Elmer Verner McCollum (1869-1977):
    Stanley Rossiter Benedict, 1884-1936.
    Biographical Memoirs. National Academy of Sciences, 1952.

  • Elmer Verner McCollum:
    Memoir of Stanley Rossiter Benedict.
    National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D. C. 1974, 27:

  • Barry G. Firkin and Judith A. Whitworth:
    Dictionary of Medical Eponyms.
    The Parthenon Publishing Group. 1989. New edition in 2002.

  • Internet sourc: Wikipedia
We thank William Charles Caccamise Sr, MD, for information submitted.

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