Esmond Emerson Snell, president of the American Society of Biological Chemists in 1961, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. He received his bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Brigham Young University in 1935 and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1938. In early 1939, Snell went to the University of Texas, Austin, to work with R. J. Williams and remained there until 1945 when Snell returned to Madison as a faculty member. In 1951, however, he moved back to Austin after being offered a position as professor of Chemistry at the University of Texas. In 1956, he was invited to chair the Department of Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and served in that role for 6 years. He retired from Berkeley in 1976 and returned to Austin to become chair of the Department of Microbiology. In 1990, he retired as an active faculty member but remained professor emeritus until his death in 2003.
Snell was a pioneer in nutritional and biochemical research. His early work on the nutritional requirements of lactic acid bacteria resulted in the development of a microbiological assay that could be used to determine vitamins, antivitamins, and growth factors. He discovered two new forms of vitamin B6, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine, which led to an understanding of the chemical reactions of vitamin B6 and the catalytic mechanism of B6-dependent enzymes. His work on the vitamins was featured as a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1).
During his long and productive career, Snell received numerous awards, including the Mead Johnson Vitamin B Complex Award in 1946, the Osborne-Mendel Award from the American Institute of Nutrition in 1951, and the William C. Rose Award from the American Society of Biological Chemists in 1985. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1955 and was elected a fellow of the American Institute of Nutrition in 1982. He also served as the editor of the Annual Review of Biochemistry from 1968 to 1983 and was a member of the Journal of Biological Chemistry editorial board.
1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2005) Esmond E. Snell and the B vitamins. J. Biol. Chem. 280 (13)