Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Department of Biochemistry, 1893
During its first fifty years the Department of Biochemistry (which was called "medical chemistry" from 1893 to 1910 and "biological chemistry" from 1910 until 1937) sponsored a lecture and laboratory course for medical students but provided no graduate program and conducted very little research. However, the arrival of Dr. Gerhard Schmidt in 1940 marked a great change for the medical school and the New England Medical Center Hospital. Dr. Schmidt was the first distinguished biochemist to join Tufts' faculty, having been invited by Dr. Siegfried Thannhauser to establish a research laboratory for the Department of Medicine.
In 1949 Dr. Halvor N. Christensen became chairman of the renamed Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition and began a program of modernization. He helped oversee the move of the department to Harrison Avenue as well as the construction of a new teaching laboratory where students could perform chemical analyses of blood, urine, and gastric fluids. Moreover, he strengthened the course of study with the assistance of Drs. Schmidt and William Fishman and was successful in recruiting faculty members with research interests. He also initiated a graduate training program.
Dr. Alton Meisrer, who was appointed professor and chair of the department in 1955, recruited additional research-oriented faculty. He also ensured that laboratory space was renovated and equipped with modern instruments. During his tenure, the graduate program flourished due to NIH training grant support. Its enrollment grew from nine students in 1957 to twenty-two in 1965. These graduates went on to assume leadership positions in departments throughout the country.
In 1967 Dr. Morris Friedkin, who had been head of the pharmacology department since 1958, became chair of biochemistry. He subsequently recruited several faculty members into the department. The following year Dr. Friedkin moved to California and Dr. Schmidt was named acting chair.
In 1969 Dr. Henry Mautner was recruited to create a combined department of biochemistry and pharmacology. After Dr. Mautner stepped down in 1984, Dr. David Stollar, a distinguished biochemist with an international reputation, was named acting chair, and two searches were organized in order to recruit leaders of separate departments of pharmacology and biochemistry, in accordance with the recommendation of review committees. In 1986 Dr. Stollar was named chairman of biochemistry and Dr. Louis Shuster was appointed the acting chair of pharmacology. Dr. Stollar received his M.D. degree in 1959 from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. After postdoctoral education in Saskatoon, Canada and Brandeis University, he joined the Tufts faculty in 1964.
Drs. Shuster, North, Theoharides, and Thomson formed the nucleus of the pharmacology department. The remainder of the faculty of the former joint department remained involved with biochemistry. Under Dr. Stollar's leadership, biochemistry laboratories were renovated, new research equipment was purchased, additional faculty were recruited, and the graduate program was strengthened.
Source: COE, 128-29.