- My reflections cover my scientific work over a sixty-year period. At the University of Michigan, I was initially interested in embryology. In medical school in the army, I became entranced with biochemistry and DeWitt Stetten, who introduced me to Carl Cori. Carl along with Gerty Cori and Earl Sutherland became my scientific mentors. After medical school and a nine-month medical internship, I re-entered the army and was assigned to Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, where I established the NAD requirement for brain pyruvate dehydrogenase to oxidize pyruvate and published my first Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) paper.
- The usual scientific paper follows a rather narrowly (but not ever rigidly) defined pattern. Both the author and the journal like to see a linear logical presentation of a “story.” Seldom does the paper give the reader the “backstory.” Where did the idea come from in the first place? How many false leads led down blind alleys? What happened by chance and what by logical planning? Was there an element of serendipity involved? Perhaps as we enter the paperless era and do not have to count words quite so religiously, it may be possible to encourage a more freewheeling scientific paper, but for now, we have to rely on the historians of science and/or those who “tell all” about their own research.
- In reflecting on the past 80 years, at least as they have affected me, it seems that fate (or nature or God, take your choice) has dealt me an unusually good hand. For example, my father and brother both had serious coronary heart attacks in their early 50s. While I was developing the same blocked arteries, methods were being devised to treat the condition with stents and statins. Much of my good fortune has been dumb luck like this, simply being in the right place at the right time. I know it is hyperbole, but growing up in the fields of biochemistry and biology has been a little like growing up as a musician in 18th century and early 19th century Vienna.
- In reflecting about incidents, accomplishments, and disappointments that occurred during my career, many of them seem almost apocryphal. I acquired an interest in lipids in my third year at Harvard Medical School when I was caring for a young woman with a severe heart problem at the then-Boston City Hospital. World War II was in full swing, and medical students were intimately involved in the care and treatment of patients. She had two young children and a devoted husband, who was truly grateful for any help I could provide.