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Donald D. Van Slyke

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For classic studies of the chemistry of blood and of amino acid metabolism, and for the quantitative biochemical methodology underlying much of clinical medicine.

In high school, Donald D. Van Slyke never took a chemistry course.

In fact, it’s his English teacher, Florence Parker, that he credits with his scientific research, expressed with lucidity in 317 journal publications and 5 books over the course of his lifetime.

In 1914, the New York native was appointed chief chemist of the Rockefeller Institute Hospital, where he helped develop the field of clinical chemistry – the testing of compounds in bodily fluids.

His achievements include a reaction to measure amino acids and the “Van Slyke apparatus,” used to detect concentrations of respiratory gases in the blood.

In his spare time, Van Slyke liked to play tennis, a hobby once compared to his persistence in the laboratory during his 80th birthday party:

“Most exasperating of all, he uses no fancy strokes — but just keeps putting it back until he wins the point. He wins lots of sets, and he solves lots of problems.”