MaCallum, Archibald Byron

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MaCallum, Archibald Byron

(b. Belmont, Ontario, Canada, 1858; d. London, Ontario, 5 April 1934)

biochemistry, physiology.

Macallum was one of several children of Alexander and Annie (née McAlpine) McCallum. His father emigrated from Kilmartin, Argyllshire, Scotland, in the early nineteenth century, settling in south-western Ontario. The family was of Gaelic-speaking Presbyterian background, and many members achieved distinction in the professions in Canada and the United States.

Macallum graduated in 1880 from the University of Toronto, winning a silver medal in the natural sciences. For some time afterward he taught high school in Cornwall, Ontario, where he married Winifred Isobel Bruce. In 1883 he was appointed lecturer in biology at Toronto. He obtained his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1888 and his M.B. from Toronto in 1889. He received many other degrees and academic honors and was a member of numerous learned societies and professional groups, serving at various times as an officer in several of these. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Canadian Society in 1901 and fellow of the Royal Society in 1906.

From 1890 to 1916 Macallum was professor of physiology and later of biochemistry at Toronto. After a three-year period devoted to the founding of the National Research Council of Canada, he joined the faculty of McGill University as professor of biochemistry. Under the auspices of the Rockefeller Foundation he was visiting professor in 1921 at the Peking Union College. Upon his retirement in 1928 he returned to London, Ontario, continuing his research on a part-time basis at the Medical School of the University of Western Ontario, of which his son Archibald Bruce became dean (1928–1934).

Macallum is perhaps best known today for his theory that there is a significant relationship between the inorganic composition of vertebrate blood plasma and that of the ancient oceans. He argued that specific concentrations of inorganic ions encountered in modern vertebrate blood plasma constitute an heirloom from primeval sea life, preserved by the emergence of multicellular organisms having closed circulatory systems, and by the evolution of the kidney. In a 1918 paper he ascribed to the kidney the important function of regulating the inorganic composition of the body fluids. His most mature statement on the supposed paleochemistry of the body fluids appeared in 1926. Despite obvious difficulties of conclusive demonstration, this theory is still referred to in modern texts of general physiology.

Some of his other important scientific papers dealt with the microchemical determination and localization of the inorganic constituents of plant and animal tissues. More recent investigations have shown a number of errors in some of his conclusions due to the limitation of techniques available in his time.

Macallum may be considered one of the pioneers of medical and biological science in Canada, both for his own scientific researches and for his many efforts on behalf of higher education, especially the development of the study of the biosciences in the Canadian premedical curriculum.


I. Original Works. Macallum’s writings include “Contributions to the Morphology and Physiology of the Cell,” in Transact ions of the Royal Canadian Institute,1 (1891), 247–278; “On the Demonstration of the Presence of Iron in Chromatin by Micro-Chemical Methods,” in Proceedings of the Royal Society,50 (1892), 277–286; “On the Absorption of Iron in the Animal Body,” in Journal of Physiology,16 (1894), 268 297; “On the Detection and Localisation of Phosphorus in Animal and Vegetable Tissues,” in Proceedings of the Royal Society,63 (1898), 467–479; “On the Cytology of Non-nueleated Organisms,” in Transactions of the Royal Canadian Institute,6 (1899), 439–506; “On the Inorganic Composition of the Medusae, Aurelia flavidula and Cyanca arctica“in Journal of Physiology,29 (1903), 213–241; “The Palaeochemistry of the Ocean in Relation to Animal and Vegetable Protoplasm,” in Transactions of the Royal Canadian Institute7 (1904), 535–562; “On the Distribution of Potassium in Animal and Vegetable Cells,” in Journal of Physiology,32 (1905), 95–128; “On the Mature of the Silver Reaction in Animal and Vegetable Tissues,” in Proceedings of the Royal Society,76B (1905), 217–229; and “On the Distribution of Chlorides in the Nerve Cells and Fibres,” ibid.,77B (1906), 165–193, written with M. L. Menten.

Later works are “The Scientific Spirit in Medicine,” in Montreal Medical Journal,37 (1908), 1–21; “Die Methoden und Ergebnisse der Mikrochemie in der biolo-gischen Forschung,” in Ergebnisse der Physiologic, 1 (1908), 552–652; “On the Origin of Life on the Globe,” in Transactions of the Royal Canadian Institute,8 (1910), 423–441; “The Inorganic Composition of the Blood in Vertebrates and Invertebrates, and its Origin,” in Proceedings of the Royal Society,82B (1910), 602–624; “Oberflachenspannung und Lebenserscheinungen,” in Ergebnisse der Physiologic,11 (1911), 598–659; an English trans., “Surface Tension and Vital Phenomena appears in University of Toronto Studies. Physiological Series, no. 8 (1912), 1-82; “Acineta tuberosa: A Study on the Action of Surfaee Tension in Determining the Distribution of Salts in Living Matter,” in Proceedings of the Royal Society,86 B (1913), 527–550; “The Ancient Factors in the Relations Between the Blood Plasma and the Kidneys,5” in American Journal of the Medical Sciences,156 (1918), 1–11; “Paleochemistry of the Body Fluids and Tissues,” in Physiological Reviews,6 (1926), 316–357; and “The Significance of Ketogenesis,” in Canadian Medical Association Journal, 22 (1930), 3–11.

II. Secondary Literature. For obituaries of Macallum see Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society of London,1 (Dec. 1934), 287–291; and Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 3rd ser., 28 (1934), xix-xxi.

R. A. Richardson