Rowe, Allan Winter

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(b. Gloucester, Massachusetts, 31 July 1879; d. Boston, Massachusetts, 6 December 1934)

physiological chemistry.

Rowe was the son of Arthur Howard Rowe and Lucy Haskell Rowe. In 1901 he received a B.S. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a M.S. from Wesleyan University in 1904; and in 1906 a Ph.D. from the University of Göttingen, where he studied under Nernst. He returned to the United States and undertook further graduate study with Theodore William Richards at Harvard University from 1907 until 1914 (receiving no degree). Late in life he was awarded the M.A. from Harvard as of 1908 in recognition of the value of his thermochemical studies. He described himself as an unmarried Republican, who although not a church member preferred Unitarian services.

Rowe’s teaching career began in 1902 at Wesleyan, where he was assistant in chemistry for two years while working for his master’s degree. Shortly after receiving his Ph.D. in 1906, he joined the faculty of the Boston University School of Medicine as a lecturer. Two years later he was promoted to professor of chemistry, a position he held until his untimely death. For most of his adult life Rowe was affiliated with the Robert Dawson Evans Memorial for Clinical Research and Preventive Medicine. Since he was one of the first research associates chosen by the founding director of the memorial in 1910, his advice was frequently sought in many matters; and in 1921 he was appointed director of research, a position he held until his death. He was responsible for drastically enlarging the staff of the memorial and also the scope of its research.

Physiological chemistry, specifically the disorders of the ductless glands, was his major area of research during his last twenty years. An orderly, logical survey of normal individuals and of those known to have abnormal endocrine functions led him to design a system of objective tests to recognize these disorders. Forty-seven papers, some written with collaborators, appeared between 1929 and 1934. Included among these publications were three series: “Studies of the Endocrine Glands,” “The Metabolism of Galactose,” and “Vital Function Studies.” He also published papers on changes caused by pregnancy, the chemistry of urine, and behavior problems of the young. In 1932 his monograph The Differential Diagnosis of Endocrine Disorders appeared and was favorably reviewed by his professional colleagues. The book contains a survey of work done after 1912, but it is primarily a summary of his publications of 1929 and 1930.

Although not a physician, Rowe was honored by the medical profession. He was president of the Society for the Study of Internal Secretions (1933), vicepresident and trustee of the Memorial Foundation for Neuro-Endocrine Research, and on the editorial staff of Endocrinology. He was a member of the American Academy of Medicine, honorary member of the American Medical Association and the Massachusetts Medical Society, and an honorary secretary of the International Anesthesia Society.

Rowe and Richard’s studies of the thermochemistry of electrolytes resulted in the publication of standard data, which still appear in handbooks. Using the adiabatic calorimeter in their measurements (thus eliminating the need for complex cooling corrections in their calculations and yielding more accurate results), Rowe and Richards studied heats of dilution and specific heats of numerous simple acids, bases, and salts. The results were of interest in connection with the then new theories of electrolytic dissociation, although Richards cautioned against the premature attempt to explain the data solely on those bases.

The most significant studies of the series were determinations of the heat of neutralization of strong acids and bases. Checking earlier observations that this value is nearly independent of the acid and base used, Rowe observed that upon dilution of the solutions the heat decreases regularly and a nearly constant value is indeed observed for different samples. Extrapolation to zero concentration yielded a value for the heat of dissociation of water of about 13.65 calories per mole. These preliminary results later enabled Richards and his students to determine the value with greater accuracy and to investigate other systems such as acetic acid, which shows an increase with dilution in the heat of neutralization. Although Rowe had completed the experimental work by 1914, publication was delayed until after the end of World War I.

Shortly before the war, Rowe sustained a badly fractured ankle and was rejected for active military service. He performed, however, a great service to his country by organizing and helping to maintain Base Hospital 44, which was regarded as a model field hospital. He took pride in his nickname “Mother of the Unit.”

Rowe’s knowledge of different areas of chemistry was essential to his teaching at Boston University, where at different times he gave courses in inorganic, organic, biological, physiological, and pathological chemistry; qualitative and quantitative analysis; toxicology; and dietetics. He was an accomplished lecturer. During the winter of 1932–1933, he gave twenty-five speeches to learned associations. A number of graduate students earned doctorates under his direction.


I. Original Works. Rowe’s monograph Differential Diagnosis of Endocrine Disorders (Baltimore, 1932) lists in its bibliography many of his significant articles on that subject. His thermochemical studies are cited in his last paper on that subject, “The Heats of Neutralization of Potassium, Sodium, and Lithium Hydroxides With Hydrochloric, Hydrobromic, Hyriodic, and Nitric Acids, at Various Dilutions,” in Journal of the American Chemical Society, 44 (1922), 684, written with Theodore W. Richards.

II. Secondary Literature. A short, anonymous obituary notice with a portrait is in “Allan Winter Rowe,” in Bostonia (Jan. 1935), 2–8. A more readily accessible abstract of this notice is W. Goodwin, “Allan Winter Rowe, 1879–1934,” in Journal of the Chemical Society (1935), 863–864. The only detailed treatment of his thermochemical studies is Sheldon J. Kopperl, The Scientific Work of Theodore William Richards, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin (Madison, 1970), 218–222.

Sheldon J. kopperl

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Rowe, Allan Winter

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