Origins Of Chemical Biology | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 6 | p. 6 | Letters
Issue Date: February 11, 2008

Origins Of Chemical Biology

Department: Letters

Regarding the article and letters on the origins of the term "chemical biology," a literature search reveals origins much older than previously speculated (C&EN, Oct. 1, 2007, page 31; C&EN, Dec. 3, 2007, page 4). The earliest occurrence in the WorldCat database comes from 1930, in "The Birth of Chemical Biology, the Harveian Oration before the Royal College of Physicians," delivered by the physiologist John Beresford Leathes (1864-1956) on Oct. 18, 1930 (Br. Med. J. 2, 1930, 672). This lecture, according to Leathes's biography in "Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society," "may be read with profit by all those who want to know about the early work of [Robert] Boyle and [John] Mayow."

Searching the phrase chemical biology in SciFinder Scholar turns up the Leathes lecture, but nothing prior to that except a 1907 paper, "On Fermentation," by Alonzo E. Taylor (University of California Publications in Pathology), which the abstract describes as "a series of lectures upon the phenomena of enzyme activity from the double point of view of general chemistry and chemical biology."

It's clear that the concepts of chemical biology go way back, but the term itself has a lengthy history as well.

David Flaxbart
Austin, Texas

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