November 2011

Goodbye, Beaumont House

However, after Lee and members of the committee viewed the Hawley estate in Bethesda, a 38-acre property with a fieldstone mansion and outbuildings, the possibilities were clearly evident to most. Ultimately, it was bought outright by the APS at a price of $225,000, with most of the money coming from the APS publication reserves.

A part of the land was then sold to the state (for widening Rockville Pike) and to a developer, who used the land to build residential housing. The APS Board of Publication Trustees then sold the remaining 12 acres and buildings to the federation and loaned it money to close the deal. It cost the federation, then composed of only six societies, $100,000, which was raised from its reserve fund and a mortgage from the Riggs Rational Bank of Washington. K.K. Chen, then president of the federation, also raised more than $24,000 from industry and a few private donors who assisted in the purchase and in the required renovations that followed. The APS and federation took occupancy in August 1954. The first federation board meeting was held there in January the next year.


Professor R.H. Chittenden, the first president of the ASBMB, at the Beaumont Memorial at Lebanon, Conn. (Coleman’s Photo Service, New Haven.) p. 83, History of the American Physiological Society: The Third Quarter Century 1937-1962, by Wallace O. Fen. 1963.Photo courtesy of the American Physiological Society.

The eponymous William Beaumont 

The name of the building was changed soon after to Beaumont House for physician and pioneering physiologist and biochemist William Beaumont (3). Beaumont was born in Connecticut in 1785 and received medical training as an apprentice in Vermont. It was while serving in the army at Fort Mackinac that he was serendipitously called on to treat a trapper, Alexis St. Martin, who had suffered a shotgun wound in the stomach.

To the surprise of Beaumont, St. Martin survived his injuries but with a fistula in his stomach that never completely healed. Beaumont seized on this opportunity to conduct a series of experiments over several years on digestion and the nature of gastric juices, which established that this process was basically chemical, not mechanical. Beaumont died in 1853 and is buried in St. Louis; St. Martin lived until 1880.

Hanging in the conference room of Beaumont House in what was once the living room is an oil sketch by Dean Cornwell of Beaumont treating St. Martin. The original, larger painting is on permanent display at a museum devoted to Beaumont on Mackinac Island. Cornwell’s rendition has looked down on many a meeting as the plans and aspirations of the society were discussed and re-discussed in this room for 50-odd years (Figs 2 and 3).


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  • The NSF, along with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy's Office of Science, are supposed to be on a track to doblue their respective budgets over the next several years. This is based on the COMPETES legislation passed in 2007 as part of President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative.The challenge in making sure this happens has been pretty much in the appropriations committees, where other priorities, and the general inability to get budgets passed on time, has seen Congress hit the budget targets late. While this doesn't derail the doubling process, it makes it harder for the agencies and their grantees to effectively plan for and disburse funding.Don't take this to mean I think Lively is wrong, it just seems like he's missing some context.

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