Kendall, Edward Calvin

views updated Jun 27 2018


(b. South Norwalk, Connecticut, 8 March 1886; d. Princeton, New Jersey, 4 May 1972)

endocrinology, biochemistry.

The son of George Stanley Kendall and Eva Frances Abbott, Kendall obtained the B.S.(1908) and M.S.(1908)from Columbia University, where he received the 1910 with a dissertation on the kinetics of pancreatic amylase. In 1910 he began work on thyroid extracts at Parke, Davis, and Company, as the sole Ph.D.chemist in the control laboratory, which was then little more than a little more than a testing department. From 1911 to 1913 he worked in the new chemical pathology laboratory at St.Luke’ Hospital in New York City. Although encouraged in his attempts to isolate the active principle in thyroid extracts, Kendall came to feel increasingly marginal in the context of clinical medicine; and in 1914 he went to work in the biochemical section of the newly established research laboratories of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where he remained until his retirement in 1951. From 1921 to 1951 he was also professor of physiological chemistry at the Mayo Foundation and the University of Minnesota.

In the early twentieth century public concern with “the menace of the feebleminded” was focusing attention on disorders of the endocrine system. In 1914 the Mayos’ faith in Kendall’s work on the thyroid was rewarded with the first isolation of crystalline thyroxine. Kendall subsequently set out to elucidate its chemical structure, but his work ended in bitter disappointment in 1926, when C.R.Harington in England worked out the correct structure. Kendall’s investigations of adrenal extracts were stimulated by Albert Szent-Gyögyi, who came to the Mayo Clinic in 1929 to use Kendall’s extensive equipment and rich source of adrenal glands (from Midwestern meat-packing companies) to extract vitamin C.In 1930 Kendall committed himself to the search for the hormones of the adrenal cortex, extracts of which alleviated Addison’ disease.

As a growing number of diseases of growth and mental development had been traced to endocrinal disorders, the elucidation of the steroid structure and the identification of the sex hormones as steroids attracted leading organic chemists to the field in the early 1930’s Research on “cortin,” the presumed adrenal “life maintenance hormone” in adrenal extracts, was pursued by many competing groups of endocrinologists and chemists, notably Tadeus Reichstein in Switzerland, as well as by drug manufacturers. In 1936 Kendall reported the identification of “a substance” with the physiological properties of adrenal extract. This substance, however, proved to be a mixture of different steroid hormones. In studying the complex chemistry of the corticosteroids, the organic chemists had the advantage; and in 1937 and 1943 Reichstein synthesized key members of this group. In his work on the physiological effects of the adrenal steroids, however, Kendall’s ; clinical facilities gave him the edge: he could turn to experts in physiological and pathological research in well-equipped laboratories, and the interdisciplinary structure of the research institute was better adapted to physiological and clinical work than were chemical departments. In the long run the advantage was crucial. Initial results, however, were disappointing; by 1940 it had become clear that no single steroid hormone could duplicate all the physiological effects of crude adrenal extract in treating Addison’s disease, and the promise of “cortin” faded.

In 1948 a search was begun for other clinical applications of corticosteroids. In 1949 Kendall and Philip S.Hench discovered that “compound E,” later renamed “cortisone,” alleviated the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. For this Kendall and Hench, with Tadeus Reichstein, were awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1950.

Upon retirement in 1951 Kendall became research professor at Princeton University. There and in the laboratories of Merck and Company in Rahway, New Jersey, he continued work until his death on the nonsteroid components of adrenal extracts of possible therapeutic value.


I. Original Works. Kendall’s papers include “The Isolation in Crystalline Form of the Compound Containing Iodin Which Occurs in the Thyroid: Its Chemical Nature and Physiological Activity,” in Transactions of the Assocition of American Physicians,30 (1914), 420-449; “The Identification of a Substance Which Possesses the Qualitative Action of Cortin,” in Journal of Biological Chemistry,116 (1936), 267-276. “The Effect of Hormone of the Adrenal Cortex (17-hydroxy-11-dehydrocosterone;Compound E) and of Pituitary Adreno-corticotropin Hormone on Rheumatoid Arthritis; Preliminary Report” in Proceedings of Staff Meetings of the Mayo Clinic, 24(1949),181-197,written with H.L.Mason and C.S.Myers; and “the Development of Cortisone as a Therapeutic Agent”, in Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine,1942-1962 (Amsterdam, 1964),270-288. Kendall’s autobiography, Cortisone(New york, 1971), is a useful source. The Firestone Library, Princeton University, has a collection of personal papers. Columbia University Labirary has a taped interview in its series Nobel Laureates on Scientific Research.

II. Secondary Literature. See Dwight Ingle, “Edward C.Kendall” in Biographical Memoires. National Academy of Sciences,47 (1975), 249-292, wich contains a complete bibliography; and Hugh Taylor, “Edward Calvin Kendall,1886-1972”, in Yearbook. Acmerican Philosophical Socitey(1972), 216-220.

Robert E. Kohler

Edward Calvin Kendall

views updated May 21 2018

Edward Calvin Kendall

Edward Calvin Kendall (1886-1972), American biochemist and Nobel Prize winner, isolated the hormone thyroxin and played a leading role in the isolation and synthesis of the hormone cortisone.

On March 8, 1886, E. C. Kendall was born in South Norwalk, Conn. He received a bachelor of science degree in 1908, a master of science degree in 1909, and a doctorate in chemistry in 1910 from Columbia University. The following year Kendall was a research chemist with Parke, Davis and Company in Detroit, and from 1911 to 1914 he worked at New York City's St. Luke's Hospital. During these years he was engaged in research on the thyroid gland. In 1914 he succeeded in isolating the thyroid hormone thyroxin. His discovery was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association for 1915. Also in that year, he married Rebecca Kennedy.

In 1914 Kendall had accepted a position as head of the section of biochemistry at the Mayo Clinic Graduate School in Rochester, Minn., and in 1921 he was named professor of physiological chemistry. At the Mayo Clinic he and his coworkers made important scientific contributions, including studies on oxidation in the animal organism, but Kendall's most significant achievement was the isolation and synthesis of cortisone, a hormone produced by the adrenal cortex.

The adrenal glands had been observed first in the 16th century, and by the 19th century it was suspected that the adrenals were related to certain diseases. In the 1930s several researchers began to study them in an effort to determine what the active substance of the glands was. This proved a very complex problem since the adrenal cortex alone produces a series of closely related hormones. Kendall's research team isolated several of these hormones, including one that was renamed cortisone in 1939.

Kendall's early reports on the isolation of cortisone and other hormones of the adrenal cortex appeared in the Proceedings of the Mayo Clinic (1934) and the Journal of Biological Chemistry (1936). He then guided work toward the synthesis of cortisone, which was accomplished between 1946 and 1948.

Kendall had a major role in the introduction of cortisone for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatic fever, although Dr. Philip S. Hench of the Mayo Clinic directed the early testing. In 1950 Kendall and Hench shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with Tadeus Reichstein for their work on cortisone. Kendall retired from the Mayo Clinic in April 1951 and became visiting professor in the department of biochemistry at Princeton University. He died on May 4, 1972, in Princeton.

Further Reading

A short sketch of Kendall is in Theodore L. Sourkes, Nobel Prize Winners in Medicine and Physiology (new and rev. ed. 1967). A slightly more detailed biography is in Nobel Foundation, Nobel Lectures in Physiology or Medicine, 1942-1962, vol. 3 (1964), which includes information on the events and discoveries leading to Kendall's work as well as a discussion of the work itself. □

Kendall, Edward Calvin

views updated Jun 11 2018

Kendall, Edward Calvin (1886–1972) US chemist. Kendall worked on the biological effects of the hormones of the adrenal glands, in particular cortisone, which he isolated. He shared the 1950 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

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