IS a long way from milking cows on a. Kansas farm to the scientific determination
of why milk is man's most important food. Yet this distance is covered by the
life and scientific achievements of Dr. E. V. McCollum, who is now only 51 years
Verner McCollum was born on March 3, 1879, on a faun near Fort Scott, Kansas.
The house was a. small stone structure built, by his father and later replaced
by a wooden building. In this humble environment were spent the boyhood days
of a. man whose scientific achievements and the practical application of them
have had a greater influence than those of any other one man on the use of the
foods essential for growth and body maintenance. During Dr. McCoIlum's boyhood
he had the same duties to perform as have most farm boys. He states that: "From
my earliest, recollections I always had work to do. The first obligation that
I remember was bringing the cows and horses from the pasture. I was assigned
the duty of keeping watch of the turkey hens to see where they laid their eggs.
I learned to count by throwing three ears of corn to each pig in the pen, which
necessitated first counting the pigs and then the corn. At the age of 71 began
to learn to milk cows. First with a tin cup going around after the cows had
been milked to collect, "strippings" and in general from that time
on until the age of 17 I milked five or six cows morning and evening.
was no end of jobs that I had to do. At the age of 11, I began working in the
field and from that, time on I did practically a man's work. When I was 12 my
father's health failed and my brother and I took entire charge of the farm operations."
Crop failures were frequent in the section of the country where Dr. McCollum spent, his boyhood days. In speaking of this he says: "The things which remain most vividly in my memory about our general life upon the farm relate to frequent crop failures. For several years I saw the corn dry up under hot winds which baked the soil and caused the. leaves to curl so that our hope of financial returns for the year was completely blasted. I have reflected many times upon the fortitude of the people in our neighborhood under such repeated disappointments. While disappointment was evident on such occasion and both men and women talked about the hardships of the farmer's life, there was always evidence of hope for the future and each year we started a. new crop full of optimism. We were the only farmers within a radius of six or eight miles who kept as many as 25 dairy cows. I can well remember their appearance. Probably half of them were unprofitable.
the regular income from butter was our salvation financially so that we never
all sounds quite prosaic and yet one who has spent, his boyhood on a. farm knows
it is far more than that. It is basic in this environment nature becomes a,
part of life; habits of industry are formed: independence and character join
hands. The brown and scarlet splendor of autumnal death impels contemplation
and the joyous birth of spring inspires hope. One cannot listen long to Dr.
McCoIlum's account, of his life as a boy and his methods of work as a scientist
without realizing that his youthful environment and experiences exerted a pro-
found influence in molding his character and coloring his outlook on life as
well as developing habits of industry, patience, andclose observation so necessary
to successful research.
McCollum was fortunate, as so many others have been, in having a mother with
a fixed determination that her children should receive every educational advantage
possible to give them. The illness of her husband threw all this responsibility
upon her. When her son reached the age of 17 she concluded it was time for him
to leave the farm and get an education. Up to this time, his. opportunities
for this had been limited to the country district, school. In the autumn of
1896, young McCollum went to Lawrence, Kansas, where he had fully expected to
enter the University of Kansas. He was dismayed to find that four years of high
school work were a. necessary pre-requisite to entering the university.
speaking of this period of his, life Dr. McCollum says: "I was not even
qualified at this time to pass the technical examination necessary for entering
high school. I was six feet, tall, weighed 122 pounds, and was exceedingly timid
and self-conscious, and could not have brought, myself under any circumstances
to enter a grade school in order to prepare for high school. When I went to
the high school in Lawrence to talk about registration, Professor Frank H. Oiney
looked me over and inquired about my academic record. I gave him most of the
essential facts, and told him of some of the good books I had read, which included
Martin's physiology, Whittier's "Snow-bound," and several other worthwhile
books. Professor Oiney apparently sensed the condition I would be in if I failed
to pass the examination and said lie would admit me without further question
and ask for a report on my work at. the end of the first month. If this was
satisfactory, nothing further would be said about my fitness. If it was not
satisfactory, I would have to go back to the eighth grade.
in high school, I had no further difficulty and went thru the four-year course
with a good record. I have frequently thought of how critical a time in my life
was this conference with Professor Oiney. Had he adhered strictly to the rules,
I am quite confident that I should have abandoned all effort at get- ting a
McCollum was. obliged to earn enough during his high school and college days
to pay his living expenses. His work varied from lighting and extinguishing
gas lamps on the streets of Lawrence and selling newspapers to regular employment
on the Lawrence Journal-World. This continued until his senior year at the university
when an assistantship in the chemical laboratory relieved him from the necessity
of outside work.
he entered the university, Dr. McCollum expected to study medicine and did two
years of pre-medical work as a part of his regular course. He then became so
enthusiastic about organic chemistry that he decided to follow that. After completing
his university course at Lawrence, he remained for one year of graduate work
and during that, year assisted in several courses of chemical work, and left
the university with a credit of 16 courses in chemistry, which was all the university
then decided to go to Yale University for further graduate work in chemistry.
He left, Lawrence, Kansas, in the fall of 904 traveling in second-class day
coaches to New Haven and arrived there with $82 in cash and no visible means
of securing other funds. He remained at. Yale for three years doing graduate
work. receiving his degree of doctor of philosophy in 1906. His first, two years'
work were under the direction of Dr. T. B. Johnson, professor of organic chemistry.
His third year was spent with Professor LaFayette Mendel and Professor Russell
H. Chittendon, who was then director of the Sheffield Scientific School. While
at Yale he earned enough by tutoring to pay all his expenses and leave New Haven
with $1,500. In 1907 Dr. McCollum went to the University of Wisconsin as an
instructor. Here he remained until 1917 when he was called to Johns Hopkins
University to take the professorship of biochemistry in the school of hygiene
and public health of that institution. Dr. McCollum began his real life work
at, Wisconsin with Professor E. B. Hart. At, that time Professor Hart had a
number of experiments under way in which he was feeding farm animals specified
diets for the purpose of determining what difference existed in the nutritive
values of certain farm crops.
was at this time that Dr. McCollum conceived the idea of using small animals
to solve the problems of nutrition. With the simplest kind of homemade equipment,
he finally succeeded in establishing a colony of what he calls "sanitary
rats.'' It was necessary to develop rats that were free from disease or any
conditions that would interfere with or impair the results sought by the use
of varied diets.
one of his early addresses Dr. McCollum stated: "The idea had long prevailed
that the essential constituents in an adequate diet were protein, fat, carbohydrates
such as starch and sugar, and certain inorganic salts. The attempts which had
been made to nourish animals on such food mixtures, so made up as to lie of
such a composition that they would pass the inspection of a chemist showed that,
although these diets complied with all the requirements of the dietitian, they
were not capable of maintaining life. . . . The early efforts which I made to
secure growth in young animals fed mixtures of purified foodstuffs of the above
character and in which everything in the diet, could be named, confirmed the
experience of the foreign investigators in this field. It became evident to
me at once that there was something necessary in the diet which had not been
hitherto appreciated; and I began a systematic study of the cause of the failure
of animals to thrive on these simple diets."
is unnecessary and impossible to attempt, here to detail the numerous experiments
and failures involved in Dr. McCollum's five years of experimental work between
1907 and 1912, during which time he made his first important discovery that
all fats used in the diet are not of equal value.
took nearly five years of experimental work on innumerable combinations of diets
before Dr. McCollum finally demonstrated that a diet, would produce growth in
young animals when butterfat was added to it, and that the same food mixture
would not induce growth when lard, vegetable oils, and certain other fats and
oils were used in place of butterfat. This was the first definite scientific
determination that butterfat contains some element or principle essential to
growth not found abundantly in any other food fat. He, therefore, concluded
that there is some substance in butterfat which is not found in fats generally
and which is absolutely necessary for the promotion of growth and the proper
maintenance of life in the young and adult. During this period it was also determined
that the fat in egg yolk and of the vital organs of animals produced similar
effect on growth.
discovery of the importance of this growth promoting principle of vitamin A
in butterfat opened up a vast field of research as to the importance generally
of milk in the diet of the human race. Leading nutrition scientists, following
this lead, have done and are still doing a large amount of investigational work
on the importance of milk and its products in the diet. As. a result it has
been found that milk not only furnishes the most, available and abundant supply
of vitamin A thru its butterfat content, but also contains in a lesser quantity
the other vitamins as well as a very high quality of protein and an abundance
of mineral matter, such as calcium and phosphorous, necessary for building bones
and sound teeth in the young and their maintenance in adult life.
importance of Dr. McCollum's research work and discoveries have been recognized
the world over. He is a member of many scientific societies and organizations
and has received several medal awards in addition to the degrees lie has received
from the Universities of Kansas, Yale, and Cincinnati. He has a world-wide reputation
as a dietary authority and is the author of several works prominent among which
is "The Newer Knowledge of Nutrition" published in 1918. This has
gone thru foul-editions, the fourth one being published in 1929. It, is one
of the most comprehensive and authoritative works on nutrition that has ever
been published. In 1919 he published "The American Home Diet" and
in 1925 "Food. Nutrition, and Health," which is being widely used.
addition to opening this new field of research work, which has resulted in such
valuable contributions to nutritional science on the importance of milk in the
human diet. Dr. McCollum has been a. pioneer in helping to educate the public
on the importance of milk in relation to health. On the entrance of this country
into the World War, the Food Administration sent out appeals to the public to
conserve fats, especially buttercream, and milk, in the interest of winning
the war. 'Dr. McCollum saw the danger in this to the general health of the people
of this country and especially the welfare of the children. He appeared before
the Food Administration and presented information that he had obtained thru
his research work as well as information which had come to him from other sections
of the world, showing what, ailments followed the curtailment of the use of
butter and whole milk in the diet. This resulted in a modification by the Food
Administration of its position. Dr. McCollum then began delivering a series
of addresses throughout the country. In an address delivered in the city of
Chicago on April 13, 1918, before a large gathering of representatives of all
branches of the dairy industry, he stated: "It is because I have become
convinced that there are large groups of people in the United States today who
are making serious mistakes in the selection of food, and because of an unwise
tendency of the public to reduce its purchases of milk, that I have left my
laboratory to talk to the women who are interested in home economics and to
the women's clubs in the larger cities, urging them to do all in their power
to increase the consumption of milk. I have done this entirely on my own initiative,
and with-out consulting any of the dairy interests."
several months he voluntarily spent, his time in speaking before home economics
organizations, and various welfare groups, as well as, medical organizations,
pointing out the dangers of a decreased use of milk and its products in the
Ever since 1918 Dr. McCollum has been an ardent, advocate of the liberal use of milk and its products in the human diet. In the interest of health and especially in the interest, of proper growth and health to children. This work has been done by him solely because his research work, as well as the research work of other nutritional scientists in this same field, have convinced him that milk and its products are indispensable to a. properly balanced diet.
it has been definitely established that the proper amount of milk in the diet
will prevent certain human ailments by supplying essential food elements and
principles deficient in many other foods, Dr. McCollum in 191S, characterized
milk and its products as "protective foods." This term is now in general
use by most dietitians.
fact that Dr. McCollum, in his numerous scientific papers in health journals,
his published works, and numerous addresses before scientific, medical, dental,
educational, and welfare organizations and associations has been an earnest
advocate of the liberal use of milk in the diets of children as well as adults
has made him the generally recognized and leading authority in the public mind
on the reason why milk and its products are essential foods. Ever since he reached
his first conclusion on the growth promoting principle of butterfat he has been
conducting experimental work on the importance of the vitamins found in milk
and other foods, which has resulted in a large fund of nutritional information
on milk and its products, as well as many other foods.
has given unstintingly of his time in assisting those who are endeavoring to
educate the public on the importance of proper diet and especially of the products
of the dairy cow in relation to growth and health.
McCollum is a most genial and pleasant, man to meet. His vast volume of information
on nutrition, as well as many other scientific subjects, makes him most interesting
to listen to. He has acquired a fund of information on the present and past
which seems inexhaustible. He has a wonderful memory and once a fact is entered
in his mind it becomes a fixture. Notwithstanding his accomplishments in the
scientific world and his resulting contacts with leading scientists and educators,
he still possesses the simple and delightful traits of character and habits
of life of his youthful days. It is, indeed, a privilege and pleasure for one
to know and talk with him.
It seems quite remarkable that, while milk and its products have been extensively used as food thru all the known centuries of the past, beginning with the early tribes of people on the Aryan plains down thru the numerous races of many countries and throughout the rise and fall of several civilizations and it always has been common knowledge that, milk is the young infants only food and that if necessary human and animal life can be maintained over extensive periods of time on milk alone, it remained for a young man whose early life was spent on a. small farm m Kansas to make the first definite scientific determination of why milk is man's most essential food. While this contribution by Dr. McCollum was made to nutritional science it is and always will be the dairy industry's greatest asset. Notwithstanding the fact that many valuable contributions have been made by other leading dietary scientists regarding the importance of milk and its products in the diet, Dr. McCollum realized that these facts should be placed before the public in a way to be put into practice in daily life. He was a crusader and pioneer in launching a movement for better health that had and is continuing to have far-reaching results in the health and habits of the American people. His position as a. leading research scientist is unquestioned. He must also he accorded a place of high honor for his contribution to the betterment of American living.
M. D. Munn has long been a prominent figure in the dairy industry. As president mid a director of the American Jersey Cattle Club he was responsible to much of the progress of the breed. During the World War he, became, much interested in the work of Dr. McCollum and was charged by the industry with the responsibility of organizing the National Dairy Council to promote human health. For 11 years lie has guided the destiny of that organization and has seen it grow to the place where many consider it the most important health organization today. As the man who has done more than any other to carry Dr. McCollum's health story to the public it is fitting that he should be the author of tins story.