Herbert E. Carter served as president of the American Society of Biological Chemists in 1956. He received his A.B. degree from DePauw University in 1930 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in organic chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1931 and 1934, respectively. His Ph.D. research was done with William C. Rose. Carter was appointed assistant professor of biochemistry in 1934 at the University of Illinois in Urbana, which marked the beginning of his long service to the university. He rose through the academic ranks to professor by 1945 and was head of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from 1954 to 1967. He also served as vice chancellor for academic affairs. In 1971, he moved to the University of Arizona as coordinator of interdisciplinary programs where he remained until his death in 2007.
Carter's first research project after his Ph.D. thesis work, and one of his most significant, was the proof of the structure of threonine as it occurs in proteins. This work was featured as a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1). He also made many other important contributions to science, particularly in antibiotic chemistry and the biochemistry of complex lipids. In the latter area, he determined the structure of sphingosine and cerebrosides and identified novel lipids in plants including phytosphingosine, phytoglycolipids, and galactosylglycerides.
Carter received many honors for his research, including election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1953. He was a member, and then chairman, of the National Science Board, and in recognition of his chairmanship, a mountain ridge in Antarctica, "Carter Ridge," was named after him. He served also as chairman of the President's Committee on the National Medal of Science and was a member of the Journal of Biological Chemistry's editorial board.
1. Simoni, R. D., Hill, R. L., and Vaughan, M. (2002) The Synthesis and Structure of Threonine: Herbert E. Carter. J. Biol. Chem. 277 (41).