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Donations Enhance NIH Museum of Medical Research

By Michele Lyons

Two recent donations to the Stetten Museum of Medical Research gave the museum some of its oldest objects and document the career of colorful early NIH scientist Dr. Claude S. Hudson. Dating from 1919 to the 1950's, a collection of Hudson's manometers (with lead shot or mercury) and two urino pycnometers illustrate most of Hudson's career.

Dr. Cyrus Creveling, scientist emeritus in the Laboratory of Bio-Organic Chemistry, NIDDK, rescued the manometers, and a piece of history, from the trash. An AO Spencer polarizing microscope reflects Hudson's later career as chief of what is now the carbohydrate section, Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry, NIDDK. R. Theodore Fletcher, senior research assistant, NEI, donated the microscope, which was also used by his father Dr. Hewitt G. Fletcher and Dr. Nelson Richtmeyer. Fletcher succeeded Hudson as chief of the carbohydrate section and Richtmeyer was a senior investigator in the section.

Dr. Claude Silbert Hudson pores over papers in his lab.

Claude Silbert Hudson (1881-1952) is considered a father of carbohydrate chemistry. He established a series of rules known as "Hudson's rules" having to do with the optical rotation of sugars. A Southerner, he trained to be a minister until he discovered chemistry was his calling. He studied at Princeton and in Germany, receiving his doctorate in physics. At the start of his career, he used urine analyses to test food preservatives for the Bureau of Chemistry. During World War I, he joined the "poison squad studies" and discovered how to activate charcoal to absorb poisonous gas. After WWI, he became a commercial consulting chemist and secured patents for activated charcoal, confectionary glaze and isopropyl alcohol. He worked at the National Bureau of Standards (1923-1928), until he came to NIH (then the Hygienic Laboratory of the Public Health Service), where he stayed until retiring in 1951.

Hudson was known for concentrated work in the laboratory, mentoring the "undergraduates of Hudson's University" as Richtmeyer put it, and telling good stories. One story told about Hudson by a senior NIH scientist recalls how Hudson took one of his doctoral candidates out on the town before the student's oral boards. The next day, facing the Georgetown exam board with a hangover, the student was asked, "Can you tell us what Hudson's Rules are?" The student answered, "Hudson's first rule says that any drink with gin in it is a good drink." "That's my boy!" roared Hudson from the back of the room.

If you have any more information about Hudson, Fletcher or Richtmeyer, or an instrument or photographs to donate, call the Stetten Museum curator, 496-7695.


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