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Russell Henry Chittenden, Yale professor and the "father of American biochemistry," lived in this house from 1887 until 1943. It is one of several historic homes in the Hillhouse Avenue Historic District. The asymmetrical three-story house features gabled dormers and a square tower in one corner. Born in 1856, Chittenden earned his PhD from Yale in 1880 and was appointed Professor of Physiological Chemistry at Yale's Sheffield Scientific School in 1882, where he worked until 1922. He served as president of the American Physiological Society from 1896 to 1904. Chittenden made notable scientific advances in the fields of nutrition and toxicology, and his nutritional expertise was called upon during WWI. Among his students was Lafayette B. Mendel (PhD 1893), who followed in Chittenden's footsteps as a Professor of Physiological Chemistry at Yale.


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  • Russell Henry Chittenden, 1856-1943 (American Physiological Society)

A year after Chittenden's death, Hubert Bradford Vickery produced a "biographical memoir" of his life and achievements, drawing extensively on Chittenden's vast body of written work, including his autobiography Sixty Years of Service in Science (below, you'll find a link to more information on the Chittenden papers, housed at Yale). Vickery discusses Chittenden's ancestry, early life and education, career, scientific work, WWI contributions, and retirement.

Vickery summarizes Chittenden's scientific achievement, particularly in the fields of nutrition and toxicology, as follows:

Chittenden's more important scientific work falls into two main categories. During the early years of his teaching career, he became interested in the action of enzymes in the processes through which the food passes after ingestion. He began with studies of the diastatic action of the saliva and then continued with a long series of investigations, partly in collaboration with' Kiihne, of the .effects of the proteolytic enzymes. This finally led to the more general field of nutrition and included fundamental investigations that prepared the way for the outstanding work of his successor Mendel. Chittenden's own studies of the protein requirement 'of man led to a complete revolution in scientific thought on the subject and were regarded by him as his greatest achievement.

The second main category includes his investigations in the field of toxicology. These were initiated when he was called upon to assist his teacher Johnson in connection with the analytical work involved in a study of a case of arsenical poisoning. An improved analytical method was developed and later widely applied in obtaining evidence for the courts. In turn, other heavy metals were studied and then organic drugs; this led to the long-continued investigation of the effect of alcohol on the human body and ultimately to the work on sodium benzoate and other addenda to human food carried out while he was a member of the Referee Board of the Secretary of Agriculture.
(Vickery, 76)

During WWI, Chittenden was appointed one of eight delegates to the Inter-Allied Scientific Food Commission. Britain and France were experiencing a food shortage, and authorities sought help in setting rations and determining the minimum caloric needs of the "average man." Chittenden's suggestion to reduce daily caloric intake from 4000 to 3000 met with general resistance.

 

Hoffman, Joseph. "Russell Henry Chittenden." The Physiologist 30 (1987): 81-82. Reprinted for the American Physiological Society. http://www.the-aps.org/fm/presidents/Chittenden.html. 

"Russell Henry Chittenden (1856 – 1943)." Nutrition and Food History. Accessed May 22, 2017. http://nutritionhistory.org/russell-henry-chittenden-1856-1943/. 

"Russell Henry Chittenden House". Open Buildings. Accessed May 22, 2017. http://openbuildings.com/buildings/russell-henry-chittenden-house-profile-20542?_show_description=1.

Vickery, Hubert. "Biographical Memoir of Russell Henry Chittenden, 1856-1943." National Academy of Sciences. 1944. http://www.nasonline.org/publications/biographical-memoirs/memoir-pdfs/chittenden-russell-h-1.pdf.