William C. Rose

National Medal of Science

Biological Sciences

For the discovery of the essential amino acid threonine and for the subsequent brilliant studies elucidating the qualitative and quantitative amino acid requirements of man and of animals.

For the discovery of the essential amino acid threonine and for the subsequent brilliant studies elucidating the qualitative and quantitative amino acid requirements of man and of animals.

VIEW STATISTICS +

Birth
April 4, 1887
Age Awarded
79
Country of Birth
USA
Key Contributions
Discovery Of Amino Acids Essential For Growth
Discovery Of The Last Amino Acid - Threonine
Awarded by
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Education
Yale University
Davidson College
Areas of Impact
Health & Medicine
Affiliations
University of Illinois
B

By the 1930s, it was well known that rats fed a diet of corn – which contains a single protein called “zein” – would eventually die.

Interested in how mammals metabolize food, William C. Rose, a biochemist at the University of Illinois, fed the rodents various combinations of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins necessary for most bodily processes.

The rats still died – until the milk protein “casein” entered their diets. The substance, Rose figured, must contain an unknown amino acid essential for sustaining life. This notion led to Rose’s 1935 discovery of threonine, an amino acid that must be obtained from food.

Over the next two decades, Rose expanded his work to the human diet, modifying the eating habits of male graduate students as a means of identifying the eight essential amino acids required for survival.

The research helped inspire nutrition guidelines and amino acid requirements that are still referenced today.

...