Harland G. Wood

Born: September 2, 1907 | Delavan, MN, US
Died: September 12, 1991 | Cleveland, OH, US

Harland G. Wood's oral history begins with a brief discussion of his role in the restructuring of Western Reserve University's medical curriculum. He then reflects on his childhood and education, and first interest in chemistry. He chronicles his career in chemistry and molecular biology from his college years through his extensive laboratory research at Iowa State College, where he first developed his concept of the fixation of carbon dioxide by bacteria. Throughout the interview, in addition to discussing research and the influence of various colleagues and associates, he often focuses on the numerous advancements that have occurred during his lifetime and their impacts (both positive and negative) on the way laboratory research is conducted. He concludes with his thoughts on the future of science, stressing the importance of continued enthusiasm and motivation in scientists of all ages.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0082
No. of pages: 52
Minutes: 208

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
19 January 1990
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio

Abstract of Interview

Harland G. Wood begins the interview with a brief discussion of his role in the restructuring of Western Reserve University's medical curriculum. He then reflects on his childhood and education, recalling that his former Latin teacher (then, his high school principal) first sparked his interest in chemistry. He chronicles his career in chemistry and molecular biology from his college years at Macalester through his extensive laboratory research at Iowa State College, where he first developed his concept of the fixation of carbon dioxide by bacteria; the University of Minnesota, where he continued this research; various other temporary positions; and finally, his current work at Case Western Reserve University. Throughout the interview, in addition to discussing research and the influence of various colleagues and associates, he often focuses on the numerous advancements that have occurred during his lifetime and their impact (both positive and negative) on the way laboratory research is conducted. He concludes with his thoughts on the future of science, stressing the importance of continued enthusiasm and motivation in scientists of all ages.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1931 Macalester College BA Chemistry
1935 Iowa State College PhD Bacterial Physiology

Professional Experience

University of Wisconsin, Madison

1935 to 1936
Fellow

Iowa State College

1936 to 1943
Instructor and Assistant Professor

University of Minnesota

1943 to 1946
Associate Professor of Physiological Chemistry

Case Western Reserve University

1946 to 1965
Professor/Directory, Biochemistry Department
1965 to 1991
Professor of Biochemistry
1967 to 1969
Dean of Sciences
1970 to 1978
University Professor
1978 to 1991
Emeritus University Professor in Biochemistry

Honors

Year(s) Award
1942

Eli Lilly Award in Bacteriology

1952

ScD, Macalester College

1952

Carl Neuberg Award

1954

Glycerine Award

1955

Senior Fulbright Research Scholarship, University Duneden (New Zealand)

1962

Commonowealth Fellowship to Max Planck Institute für Zellchemie (Germany)

1968

Modern Medicine Award for Distinguished Achievement

1969

National Institutes of Health Senior Research Fellowship, University of Georgia

1972

Lynen Lecturer and Medal

1972

ScD, Northwestern University

1976

Senior Scholar, Fulbright Hays Program (Australia)

1979

Senior US Scientist, Humboldt Award

1981

Alumni Citation of Distinguished Citizen, Macalester College

1982

ScD, University of Cincinnati

1985

Lynen Memorial Lecture, 13th International Congress of Biochemistry

1986

Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology, National Academy of Sciences

1987

Rosenstiel Medical Research Award

1988

Michelson-Morley Achievement Award

1989

Wellcome Visiting Professor in the Basic Medical Sciences Award, St. Louis University

1989

The Distinguished Achievement Citation, Iowa State University

1989

President's National Medal of Science

1990

William C. Rose Award in Biochemistry and Nutrition

Table of Contents

Case Western University Medical School
1

Reorganization of curriculum on an organ system basis. Fights to get changes through.

Early Education
3

Growing up in rural Minnesota. Athletics stressed by family. Grade school and high school. Hopes to go to medical school. Family background.

Macalester College
5

Effects of the Great Depression. Rooming with brother. Marries wife, Millie. Strong influence of biologyprofessor O. T. Walters. Decides to pursue Ph.D. in chemistry because he cannot afford medical school.

Iowa State College at Ames (now Iowa State University)
7

Begins work on bacteria metabolism with Chester H. Werkman. Shows C. B. van Niel to be wrong. Virtually runs laboratory on his own. First discovers fixation of carbon dioxide. Begins to work with Alfred O. Nier. Negative influence of Werkman.

Case Western University
19

Initial dissatisfaction with administration. Chairman of Biochemistry Department. Enjoys continuing laboratory work.

University of Wisconsin
21

Spends one year postdoc working with Edward L. Tatum and William H. Peterson on vitamins and metabolism. Returns to work at Iowa State because jobs difficult to find.

Iowa State College at Ames
22

Construction of mass spectrometer and thermal diffusion column. Works with Lester Krampitz and Mert Utter. Mistake prevents being first to show carbon dioxide use by animals. Nier continues to assist greatly.

University of Minnesota
30

Measures glycolysis in rats' brains. Becomes acquainted with prominent biochemists.

Case Western University
32

Reorganization of Biochemistry Department. New curriculum and administrative procedures. Discussion of current demographics.

Additional Activities
37

Journal of Biological Chemistry (generates controversy while on editorial board). General Secretary, then President of International Union of Biochemistry. President's Scientific Advisory Committee. Sabbatical in New Zealand.

The Future of Molecular Biology
41

Impact of high technology. Hope for a chemical explanation of depression. Genetic engineering. Necessity of motivation.

Notes
45
Index
46

About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

James J. Bohning was professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he had been a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was CHF’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.  Bohning passed away in September 2011.