Posts tagged: glucose

Processing of the Harold Amos Papers Underway

By , April 15, 2016

In 1952, Harold Amos was the first African American doctoral graduate of the Division of Medical Sciences at Harvard Medical School. He went on to become the first African American Department Chair at Harvard Medical School, serving as the Chair, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from 1968-1971 and again from 1975-1978. His research focused on nutrition and animal cells, including the use of bacterial RNA to program higher cell protein synthesis, enzyme inductions, insulin, serum, temperature effects, ribosomes, phosphoproteins, RNA metabolism, as well as glucose starvation and glycerol and hexose metabolism. The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to report that the Harold Amos papers, a product of his professional activities, research, and career as a Professor at Harvard Medical School, are currently being processed as part of the Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology, 1936-2000 project.

Harold Amos was born 7 September 1918 in Pennsauken, New Jersey, and completed his undergraduate studies at Springfield College, Springfield, Massachusetts, graduating summa cum laude in 1941 with a major in Biology and minor in Chemistry. Amos was a graduate assistant in the Biology Department, Springfield College, until he was drafted into the Quartermaster Corps of the United States Army (1942). He served during World War II as a warrant officer in a battalion that supplied gasoline to troops; he spent two years in England before serving in France and former Czechoslovakia until his discharge (1946). Amos enrolled in the Biological Sciences’ graduate program in the Division of Medical Sciences, Harvard Medical School, in 1946, and completed his Master’s degree in 1947. He became the first African American to earn a doctoral degree from the Division of Medical Sciences, Harvard Medical School, in 1952. Amos received a Fulbright fellowship and worked in the laboratory of Georges Cohen at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France, working with the threonine mutants of Escherichia coli (1951-1952). Amos then returned to Harvard Medical School in 1954 as an Instructor, Department of Bacteriology and Immunology. He advanced to the position of full Professor in 1969. He was the first African American to head a department at Harvard Medical School when he became the Chair, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, a role he held from 1968-1971 and again from 1975-1978. He also served as the Chair, Division of Medical Sciences, two times (1971-1975, 1978-1988). In 1975, he became the Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and held this role until he became a Professor Emeritus in 1988. After his retirement, he became an active member of the Minority Medical Faculty Development Program Advisory Committee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and continued to work in the laboratory of Jack Murphy at Boston University up until his death.

Much of Amos’s research focuses on animal cells, though his initial focus was on Escherichia coli and its phages, including the 1958 finding of 5-methylcytosine in Escherichia coli, which was only confirmed decades later. During his time at Harvard Medical School, Amos studied the use of bacterial RNA to program higher cell protein synthesis, enzyme inductions, insulin, serum, temperature effects, ribosomes, phosphoproteins, RNA metabolism, as well as glucose starvation and glycerol and hexose metabolism.

The papers, created throughout Amos’s professional, research, and publishing activities, include correspondence, research data and notes, teaching records, and materials relating to the Minority Medical Faculty Development Program. They are expected to be opened to research by the end of 2016.

The Maximizing Microbiology: Molecular Genetics, Cancer, and Virology, 1936-2000 project is funded by a Hidden Collections grant from the Harvard University Libraries. In addition to the Harold Amos papers, the project will also open the collections of other scientists and professors whose work relates to the origins of molecular genetics: the Francesc Duran i Reynals papers, 1913-1960, the Arthur B. Pardee papers, 1949-2001, the Luigi Gorini papers, 1922-1988, and the Myron Essex papers, 1949-1996. Already, the Bernard D. Davis papers, 1909-1995 (inclusive), 1939-1994 (bulk), have been opened as part of the project. For more information on the Maximizing Microbiology project, please contact Emily Novak Gustainis, Head, Collections Services or Elizabeth Coup, Processing Assistant.

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