William Cumming Rose
BornApril 4, 1887 (1887-04-04)
DiedSeptember 25, 1985 (1985-09-26) (aged 98)
Alma materYale University
Known forEssential amino acids,
AwardsWillard Gibbs Award (1952)
National Medal of Science (1966)
Scientific career

William Cumming Rose (April 4, 1887 – September 25, 1985) was an American biochemist and nutritionist. He discovered the amino acid threonine, and his research determined the necessity for essential amino acids in diet and the minimum daily requirements of all amino acids for optimal growth.[1][2]

Early life

William Cumming Rose was born in Greenville, South Carolina.[3] He attended various local schools, but his father John M. Rose, who was a Presbyterian minister, began to homeschool William in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew when he was 14 years old. He also studied an introductory chemistry textbook by Ira Remsen. When he was 16, he studied at Davidson College in North Carolina for his bachelor's degree. He took up graduate education at Yale University studying food chemistry with Russell Chittenden and Lafayette Mendel. He was granted a PhD in 1911.[4]


Rose taught for a time at University of Pennsylvania with Alonzo E. Taylor. Taylor recommended him to University of Texas Galveston Medical School to organize a department of biochemistry. In 1922, he went to the University of Illinois as professor of physiological chemistry, a title which was changed to professor of biochemistry in 1936. From 1922 to 1955 he transformed his department into a center of excellence for the training of biochemists.[5]

At Illinois, Rose focused his research work on amino acid metabolism and nutrition. He found that the 19 amino acids then known were not sufficient for growth,[6] and this led to his discovery in 1935 of the last of the common amino acids, α-amino-β-hydroxy-n-butyric acid, later named threonine.[2] His studies also distinguished the amino acids that are absolutely essential from those that are necessary only for optimal growth. His studies further led him to the point where it was "practicable to evaluate proteins in terms of their ability to meet human needs." In June 1949 he published "Amino Acid Requirements of Man".[7]

Rose served as President of the American Society of Biological Chemists from 1939 to 1941. He was appointed to the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council, which advised government agencies on dietary recommendations.[1] Rose retired from the University of Illinois in 1955.

He recalled the role of Yale through the work of Samuel William Johnson, Chittenden, and Mendel in 1977 with the article "Recollections of personalities involved in the early history of American biochemistry".[8] Further, he recounted the biochemical advances he witnessed in "How did it happen".[9]

Awards and honors


  1. ^ a b Robert D. Simoni, Robert L. Hill and Martha Vaughan (September 13, 2002). "The Discovery of the Amino Acid Threonine: the Work of William C. Rose". Journal of Biological Chemistry. 277 (37): 56–58. doi:10.1016/S0021-9258(20)74369-3. PMID 12218068.
  2. ^ a b McCoy, R. H., Meyer, C. E., and Rose, W. C. (1935). "Feeding Experiments with Mixtures of Highly Purified Amino Acids. VIII. Isolation and Identification of a New Essential Amino Acid". Journal of Biological Chemistry. 112: 283–302. doi:10.1016/S0021-9258(18)74986-7.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Carter, Herbert E.; Coon, Minor J. (1995). "William Cumming Rose" (PDF). Biogr Mem Natl Acad Sci. 68: 253–71. PMID 11616352.
  4. ^ Thesis: Studies in intermediate metabolism; mucic acid and carbohydrate metabolism; the physiology of cratine and cratinine elimination, their relation to carbohydrate metabolism
  5. ^ The Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois. "William Cumming Rose (1887–1985) / Chemistry at Illinois". scs.uiuc.edu. Retrieved November 5, 2012.
  6. ^ William C. Rose. "Feeding experiments with mixtures of highly purified amino acids: I. The inadequacy of diets containing nineteen amino acids" (PDF). The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 94: 155–165.
  7. ^ Classic reprint: Nutrition Reviews 34(10):307–9
  8. ^ Journal of Chemical Education 46:759–63 and Nutrition Reviews 35(4):87–94
  9. ^ Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 325(1):229–36
  10. ^ Spencer award winners from Kansas City branch of American Chemical Society