Edward Adelbert Doisy was born in Hume, Illinois. He received a B.A. (1914) and M.S. (1916) in chemistry from the University of Illinois. He continued his graduate studies at Harvard Medical School with Otto Folin. Together they developed several analytical techniques to measure substances in urine and blood, including creatine, creatinine, and uric acid. Doisy was drafted into the army in 1917 for service during World War I, and from 1917 to 1919 he worked first with Donald D. Van Slyke at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and subsequently at the Walter Reed Research Institute in Washington, D.C. After completing his army service, Doisy received his Ph.D. in 1920 for his work done with Folin. Doisy then became instructor and later associate professor of biochemistry at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He moved across town to St. Louis University Medical School in 1923 to become professor and chairman of a new biochemistry department, a position he held until his retirement in 1965.
Doisy's work at St. Louis University began with the study of the estrous cycle in mice. From 1922 to 1934 he worked with Edgar Allen studying the ovarian systems of rats and mice. During this time he isolated the female steroidal hormones estrone, estriol, and estradiol-17. This work opened fertility research to biochemical analysis and had lasting consequences for the development of reproductive biology and birth control. In 1936, Doisy turned his focus to the isolation of an antihemorrhagic factor called vitamin K. He and his coworkers spent 3 years researching this new vitamin. They discovered that the vitamin had two distinct forms, K1 and K2, and successfully isolated each form. Doisy then determined the structures of the two compounds and was able to synthesize vitamin K1. For his work on vitamin K, Doisy, along with Hendrik Dam, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1943. Doisy's research was the subject of a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1).
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Doisy received many honors and awards for his pioneering work. He was a member of the League of Nations Committee on the Standardization of Sex Hormones from 1932 to 1935, and in 1938 was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In 1941 he was honored with the Willard Gibbs Medal of the American Chemical Society. From 1943 to 1944, he served as both vice president and then president of the American Society of Biological Chemists, and was the 29th president of the Endocrine Society in 1949.
1. Simoni, R. D., Hill, R. L., and Vaughan, M. (2002) Follicular ovarian hormone, theelol, and vitamin K1: The work of Edward A. Doisy. J. Biol. Chem. 277 (28)