Howard Bishop Lewis was born on a farm near Southington, Connecticut. He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1908 and then taught at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, and the Centenary Collegiate Institute in Hackettstown, New Jersey, for the next 2 years. Lewis entered the graduate school of Yale University in 1910, where he worked with Lafayette B. Mendel. Following the completion of his Ph.D. (1913), Lewis accepted an instructorship in physiological chemistry in the school of medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. He remained at Pennsylvania until 1915, when he accepted a position at the Urbana campus of the University of Illinois. In 1922 Lewis was called to head the Department of Physiological Chemistry at the University of Michigan. In 1947, the University conferred upon him the John Jacob Abel University Professorship in Biological Chemistry, and he was named director of the College of Pharmacy from 1933 to 1947.
With the collaboration of his students and colleagues, Lewis published an impressive list of scientific articles covering a broad range of topics. Early in his career he became interested in the in vivo formation of hippuric acid following the administration of benzoic acid. Lewis's interests then shifted to the metabolic behavior of the physiologically important sulfur compounds, particularly the amino acids cystine and methionine. His scientific curiosity was not limited to cystine and methionine (1), however, and his interests extended to the origin, functions, and metabolic properties of many other amino acids, including phenylalanine, histidine, and lysine. In addition to protein metabolism, Lewis studied carbohydrate and branched-chain aliphatic acid metabolism, described new examples of β-oxidation, and conducted a series of studies on the hydrolysis of esters of dicarboxylic acids by liver lipase.
Lewis was intimately involved with many organizations, including serving as secretary (1929–1933), vice president (1933–1935), president (1935–1936), and councilor (1937–1940 and 1941–1942) of the American Society of Biological Chemists. He also served as councilor (1941–1942), vice president (1942–1943), and president (1943–1944) of the American Institute of Nutrition. At various times in his career, Lewis was a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the Journal of Nutrition, Chemical Reviews, Physiological Reviews, and the Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. Lewis was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1949.
1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2008) Methionine catabolism and cystinuria: The work of Howard Bishop Lewis. J. Biol. Chem. 283 (5).