Graham Lusk, president of the American Society of Biological Chemists in 1914, was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He studied at the School of Mines at Columbia University in New York City and graduated with the degree of Ph.B. in 1887. He then went to Munich, Germany, where he studied with Carl von Voit, one of the foremost workers in the science of nutrition. Lusk's first scientific study was the investigation of diabetes, involving the metabolism of sugar in the body. This research paved the way for his future studies in animal and clinical calorimetry, which extended over a period of 44 years. Returning to the United States in 1891 with a Ph.D., Lusk became an instructor in physiology at the Yale School of Medicine, and advanced the following year to assistant professor and in 1895 to professor. In 1898, he became a professor of physiology at New York University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College, and in 1909 he accepted the appointment of professor of physiology in the newly established Medical College of Cornell University in New York City, where he spent the remainder of his life.
Lusk's major work was in animal calorimetry. From 1912 to 1930 he published a long series of articles in the Journal of Biological Chemistry on his work, mainly with dogs, showing the effect of various amino acids, carbohydrates, and fats on metabolism. In 1912, he became actively associated with Cornell's Russell Sage Institute of Pathology as its scientific director, thus acquiring the opportunity to study metabolism in disease. For this purpose a large calorimeter suitable for patients was constructed and installed in a metabolism ward in Bellevue Hospital. Lusk's work on the large calorimeter dealt with a great variety of topics, such as basal metabolism, specific dynamic action of various foodstuffs, typhoid fever, diabetes, acidosis, intermediary metabolism, hormones, the diabetic respiration quotient, and heat production.
In 1906, Lusk published The Elements of the Science of Nutrition, which had a marked influence on medical research in the United States and in promoting an appreciation of the value of laboratory methods in explaining the inner processes of disease. Lusk was the founder of the Harvey Society of New York and one of the founders of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. In recognition of his accomplishments Lusk was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and the University of Munich, Germany, as well as from Yale University. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, an honorary member of the Physiological Society of Great Britain, a foreign member of the Royal Society of London, an associate member of the Société de Biologie, Paris, and an honorary member of the Physiologische Gesellschaft of Berlin.