ASBMB Past Presidents

1950 – Hubert B. Vickery




Hubert Bradford Vickery, president of the American Society of Biological Chemists in 1950, was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. He attended Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and graduated with honors in chemistry and chemical physics in 1915. After teaching high school physics and working as an analytical chemist with Imperial Oil Ltd. for several years, Vickery entered graduate school at Yale University in 1920. There, he worked with Thomas B. Osborne studying the hydrolysis of the wheat protein gliadin. He received his Ph.D. in 1922 and was invited to join the staff of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, Connecticut. He was appointed chief biochemist in 1928. Vickery remained at the station for the rest of his life, retiring in 1963 but continuing on as emeritus scientist.

Vickery's initial research involved exploring the constituents of alfalfa and identified adenine, choline, and betaine (1). Eventually, he became more interested in the determination of the basic amino acids of proteins. Vickery then turned his attention to the proteins of green leaves, including those of the tobacco plant, and developed methods to determine the organic acids of the tobacco leaf. Later, he studied tobacco leaf metabolism, which allowed him to gather evidence to support the view that the organic acids are the central metabolites for the systems involved in carbohydrate and protein chemistry and in photosynthesis and respiration. With his postdoctoral fellow, Harold E. Clark, Vickery isolated glutamine from the stalk tissue of plants grown in ammonium salts, work that led to a long series of investigations on glutamine.

In recognition of his contributions to plant biochemistry, Vickery was awarded the Stephen Hales Prize by the American Society of Plant Physiologists in 1933. He also received the Charles Reid Barnes Life Membership Award of the American Society of Plant Physiologists in 1956 and was named the Samuel W. Johnson Distinguished Scientist Emeritus by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven in 1969. He was elected to the editorial committee of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and later joined the Journal's editorial board. He was also an associate editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society and had a term on the editorial board of Plant Physiology. Vickery was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1943 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1948.

1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2007) The determination of the basic acids of proteins: The work of Hubert Vickery. J. Biol. Chem. 282 (48).