Image of a cell

Earl Reece Stadtman

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For seminal contributions to understanding of the energy metabolism of anaerobic bacteria and for elucidation of major mechanisms whereby the rates of metabolic processes are finely matched to the requirements of the living cell.

Earl Reece Stadtman just wanted to learn enough science to set up a soil-testing business. What he got instead was a career that included pioneering research in enzymes and anaerobic bacteria.

In the 1930s, Stadtman took science classes at a community college to pave the way for a career in soil testing. But wanting to learn more, he enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned a doctorate in biochemistry in 1949.

From those humble beginnings began a career in which Stadtman’s work expanded the knowledge of enzymes and helped explain the role of free radicals in diseases and aging. Stadtman spent nearly six decades as a scientist at the National Institutes of Health where, The Washington Post noted at the time of his death in 2008, he had the reputation as “one of the great biochemists of the 20th century.’’

Stadtman and his wife, Thressa Campbell Stadtman, who also researched at the NIH, were the first husband and wife scientists at the agency. At NIH, Stadtman’s methods of researching, teaching and mentoring were so revered that they became known as “The Stadtman Way.’’

By Robert Warren