Donald Van Slyke
Donald Van Slyke, during his time at Brookhaven National Laboratory
Donald Dexter Van Slyke

(1883-03-29)March 29, 1883
DiedMay 4, 1971(1971-05-04) (aged 88)
EducationUniversity of Michigan (BA 1905, PhD 1907)
Known forKinetics of urease
AwardsMany, including National Medal of Science
Scientific career
InstitutionsRockefeller Institute, Brookhaven National Laboratory
Doctoral advisorMoses Gomberg

Donald Dexter Van Slyke (March 29, 1883 – May 4, 1971), nicknamed Van, was a Dutch American biochemist. His achievements included the publication of 317 journal articles and 5 books,[1] as well as numerous awards, among them the National Medal of Science and the first AMA Scientific Achievement Award.[1] The Van Slyke determination, a test of amino acids, is named after him.[2]

Early days and education

Van Slyke was born in Pike, New York on March 29, 1883. He completed his BA in 1905 and PhD in 1907 both at the University of Michigan, his father's alma mater.[1] His PhD studies were performed under Moses Gomberg.[1]

Post-doctoral study

Van Slyke took up a post-doctoral position at the Rockefeller Institute in 1907, under Phoebus Levene. Levene also arranged for him to spend one year in Berlin under Hermann Emil Fischer in 1911.[1] His early work focused on determining the amino acid composition of proteins. A major achievement during this time was the discovery of the amino acid hydroxylysine.[3]


Work with G. E. Cullen on urease[4] led to a mechanism that yields a kinetic equation observationally indistinguishable from the Henri–Michaelis–Menten equation, but based on different assumptions. Whereas Henri,[5] and later Michaelis and Menten,[6] treated the binding of substrate to free enzyme to produce an enzyme–substrate complex as an equilibrium, Van Slyke and Cullen treated it as an irreversible reaction:

Enzyme + substrate → enzyme–substrate complex → enzyme + product

Effectively, therefore, they assumed a steady-state process.[7] Their equation for the rate at substrate concentration ,

resembles the Henri–Michaelis–Menten equation but the constant in the denominator is interpreted differently.

Clinical chemistry

In 1914, Van Slyke was appointed chief chemist of the newly founded Rockefeller Institute Hospital, where he played a key part in developing the field of clinical chemistry.[8] His work focused especially on the measurement of gas and electrolyte levels in tissues,[1] for which he is considered to be one of the founders of modern quantitative blood chemistry.[8] He is also considered by many to have first popularised the term "clinical chemistry" in his two-volume work Quantitative Clinical Chemistry, co-published with John P. Peters. The two-volume work was widely accepted in the medical world as the "Bible" of quantitative clinical chemistry.[1] During this period, he also served as managing editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry from 1914 to 1925.


In 1948, approaching retirement age, Van Slyke took up a position as deputy director of biology and medicine of the newly-formed Brookhaven National Laboratory. He held this position briefly before moving back into research at Brookhaven, which he continued until his death in 1971.[1]

Awards and honors

Honorary doctor of science degrees

Honorary doctor of medicine degrees

Ernst Crone & Donald Van Slyke (Amsterdam, 1962)

Medals and awards

Academic Society Memberships


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Hastings, AB.; Van Slyke, DD. (1976). "Donald Dexter van Slyke". Biogr Mem Natl Acad Sci. 48: 309–60. PMID 11615659.
  2. ^ Donald D. van Slyke (1910) "Eine Methode zur quantitativen Bestimmung der aliphatischen Aminogruppen; einige Anwenungen derselben in der Chemi der Proteine, des Harns und der Enzyme" (A method for the quantitative determination of aliphatic amino groups: some applications of it in the chemistry of proteins, urine, and enzymes), Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 43 : 3170-3181.
  3. ^ Van Slyke, DD.; Hiller, A. (Jul 1921). "An Unidentified Base among the Hydrolytic Products of Gelatin". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 7 (7): 185–6. Bibcode:1921PNAS....7..185S. doi:10.1073/pnas.7.7.185. PMC 1084845. PMID 16586836.
  4. ^ Van Slyke, DD; Cullen, GE (1914). "The mode of action of urease and of enzyme in general". Journal of Biological Chemistry. 19 (2): 141–180. doi:10.1016/S0021-9258(18)88300-4.
  5. ^ Henri, Victor (1903). Lois Générales de l'Action des Diastases. Paris: Hermann.
  6. ^ Michaelis, L.; Menten, M.L. (1913). "Die Kinetik der Invertinwirkung". Biochem Z. 49: 333–369.
  7. ^ Cornish-Bowden A (2012). Fundamentals of Enzyme Kinetics (4th edn.). Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 30–31. ISBN 978-3-527-33074-4.
  8. ^ a b Bruns, David E. (1998). "The Clinical Chemist". Clinical Chemistry. 44 (8): 1791–1794. doi:10.1093/clinchem/44.8.1791.
  9. ^ "American Medical Association Award Recipients". American Medical Association. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
  10. ^ "The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details Donald D. Van Slyke". U.S. National Science Foundation. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  11. ^ "Franklin Laureate Database - Elliott Cresson Medal Laureates". Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  12. ^ "The Academy Medal for Distinguished Contributions in Biomedical Science". New York Academy of Medicine. Archived from the original on February 19, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  13. ^ "Donald D. Van Slyke". Retrieved 2023-05-16.
  14. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 2023-05-16.
  15. ^ "Donald Dexter Van Slyke". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. 2023-02-09. Retrieved 2023-05-16.