ASBMB Past Presidents

1959 – Harland G. Wood




Harland Goff Wood was born in Delavan, Minnesota, and attended Macalester College, where he majored in chemistry. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1935 from Iowa State College, working with Chester Werkman on fermentation by propionic acid bacteria. With Werkman, Wood discovered that the products of glycerol fermentation contained more carbon than was supplied by the fermented glycerol. He subsequently found that the extra carbon was derived from CO2 in the buffer. He proposed that CO2 and pyruvate combine to form oxaloacetate, which is then reduced to succinate. This became known as the Wood-Werkman reaction.

After earning his Ph.D., Wood went to the University of Wisconsin, where he worked as a postdoctoral fellow with W. H. Petersen studying the growth factor requirements for propionic acid bacteria. He returned to Iowa State in 1936 as an assistant research professor and continued to work on CO2 fixation, concluding that carbon dioxide is fixed by a union of three-carbon and one-carbon compounds.

Wood accepted an associate professorship in the Department of Physiological Chemistry at the University of Minnesota in 1943 and studied the conversion of [13C]NaHCO3 to glycogen in animals. In 1946, he accepted a position as chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at the School of Medicine at what was then Western Reserve University in Cleveland (now called Case Western Reserve University). He retired as chairman in 1965 so that he could have more time for research, and in the 19 years between his 70th birthday and his death in 1991 he published 96 papers. His work was featured as a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1). Wood was president of the American Society of Biological Chemists in 1959 and also president of the International Union of Biochemistry from 1982 to 1983. He was a member of the Journal of Biological Chemistry editorial board, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and served on the President's Science Advisory Committee under U.S. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon.

1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2005) The discovery of heterotrophic carbon dioxide fixation by Harland G. Wood. J. Biol. Chem. 280 (18)