Rose, William Cumming (1887-1985) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Rose, William Cumming (1887-1985)

Historical Note:

William Cumming Rose (1887-1985) was professor of physical chemistry (1922-36); professor of biochemistry (1936-53); research professor of biochemistry (1953-55); and professor emeritus (1955-85) at the University of Illinois (UI). He was a renowned biochemist and nutritionist noted for his pioneering work with amino acids and his discovery of threonine, the final common amino acid to be identified.

Rose was born April 4, 1887, in Greenville, South Carolina, and grew up in North Carolina. He earned a B.S. from Davidson College in 1907 at age nineteen. He earned a Ph.D. (1911) from Yale University and did post graduate research at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Rose held positions at the University of Pennsylvania (1911-13) and the University of Texas College of Medicine (1913-22) before joining the chemistry faculty at UI in 1922. His research at UI focused primarily on amino acid nutrition and metabolism, and he discovered the common amino acid threonine. Over the course of his career, Rose published over a hundred-and-twenty research papers, including "Amino Acid Requirements of Man" (1949). As a result of his achievements as chemist and educator, he was given honorary doctorates from Davidson College (1947), Yale University (1947), and University of Chicago (1956). He served as President of the American Society of Biological Chemists (1939-41) as well as on the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council. Rose also received numerous awards: the Scientific Award of the Grocery Manufacturers of America (1947), the Osborne-Mendel Award of the American Institute of Nutrition (1949), the Willard Gibbs Medal, Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society (1952), the 20th Anniversary of Scientific Awards of the Nutrition Foundation (1961), and the National Medal of Science (1966).

Rose married Zula Franklin Hedrick in 1913. He retired from UI in 1955, and he continued to work, publishing "Recollections of Personalities Involved in the Early History of American Biochemistry" (1977) as well as other works on the history of science. He died aged 98 on September 25, 1985, in Urbana, Illinois.


Daphne A. Roe, "William Cumming Rose: A Biographical Sketch," The Journal of Nutrition 111, no. 8 (August 1981): 1311â??1320, Accessed May 8, 2020,

Wikipedia, s.v. "William Cumming Rose," accessed May 8, 2020,

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