William Cumming Rose, who served as president of the American Society of Biological Chemists from 1939 to 1940, was born in Greenville, South Carolina. At age 16, after being schooled at home, he entered Davidson College near Charlotte, North Carolina, where he majored in chemistry. He then attended Yale University and received his Ph.D. in 1911. After completing his doctoral studies, Rose became instructor of physiological chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. During a brief leave in Germany to work with Franz Knoop, Rose was offered the opportunity to organize a department of biochemistry at the University of Texas College of Medicine in Galveston.He became professor and head of the department but was persuaded in 1922 to move to the University of Illinois to head the Division of Physiological Chemistry, later Biochemistry, within the Chemistry Department. Rose spent the remaining 33 years of his scientific career at Illinois.
Rose's research centered on amino acid metabolism and nutrition. He is probably best known for discovering threonine, the last of the 20 amino acids universally present in proteins to be identified. This work was featured in a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1). Rose's studies also extended to the quantification of the dietary requirements for individual amino acids, including the minimum daily requirements for optimal growth.
As an authority on protein nutrition, Rose was appointed to many panels and boards, including the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council, and was instrumental in advising government agencies on dietary recommendations. He received many honors and awards, including the American Institute of Nutrition's Osborne-Mendel Award (1949), the American Chemical Society's Willard Gibbs Medal (1952) and Charles F. Spencer Award (1957), and the National Medal of Science (1967). On his 90th birthday, former students, colleagues, and friends honored Rose by establishing the William C. Rose Lectureship in Biochemistry and Nutrition to annually recognize a biochemist who exemplifies Rose's dedication to research, training, and teaching. The William C. Rose Award in Biochemistry, as it was later named, is administered by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
1. Simoni, R. D., Hill, R. L., and Vaughan, M. (2002) The discovery of the amino acid threonine: The work of William C. Rose. J. Biol. Chem. 277 (37)