Seeking: photographic evidence
of scientific artifact

Published May 01 2017

Hammond No. 12 Typewriter

Readers, we have a minor mystery on our hands. Well, it’s not exactly a mystery, but the situation piqued my interest and might pique yours as well.

Twenty-four hours before going to press for this issue, I received an email from a couple in Oklahoma. They were hoping the society could help them find a photograph of a scientist with a typewriter – but not just any scientist and not just any typewriter.

The scientist is William C. Rose, one of the early presidents of the American Society for Biological Chemists, which eventually became the ASBMB. Rose, after whom one of our society awards is named, discovered, among other things, threonine, the last of the 20 amino acids universally present in proteins to be identified.

Born in South Carolina in 1887, Rose was the son of a Presbyterian minister and home-schooled before attending Davidson College in North Carolina. He earned his Ph.D. at Yale University, had a short stint around 1911 as an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania before heading to work in Germany, then ran a department at the University of Texas’s medical branch in Galveston and finally ended up in 1922 at the University of Illinois, where he worked until retirement in 1955. He died in 1985.

The typewriter is a Hammond No. 12, manufactured in 1911 or 1912. In its day, the machine was pretty nifty, as it was designed to allow users to change out its shuttle to create special characters, including those necessary in scientific papers.

William C. Rose William C. Rose

The Oklahoma couple, Mark and Christina Albrecht, tell me they have the largest antique typewriter collection in their region. They acquired the Hammond No. 12 from an antiques store in Dallas. In light of certain artifacts that came with the machine, including a few articles about Rose, the Albrechts are pretty certain the machine belonged to the scientific pioneer.

“It was probably purchased by him right after he left Yale. Maybe even a graduation gift, but almost certainly something purchased for use at his first job,” Mark Albrecht said. “I am highly confident that he used this in Europe — maybe even purchased it there. And, also, he would have for sure used it in Galveston and very likely Illinois.”

In other words, if there ever was a photo of Rose and his Hammond, it could have been taken in one of at least four U.S. states or in or around Germany sometime after 1911. That narrows it down! (I jest, obviously.)

But, seriously, I figure that, as unlikely as it is that we’ll find such a photo for the Albrechts’ collection, recruiting our readers would give us the best shot.

So, if you are harboring this sought-after piece of history and are willing to get in touch with the Albrechts, email us. We’d be glad to publish the photo!

Angela Hopp Angela Hopp is executive editor of ASBMB Today and communications director for the ASBMB.