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James B. Sumner

James B. SumnerAKA James Batcheller Sumner

Born: 19-Nov-1887
Birthplace: Canton, MA
Died: 12-Aug-1955
Location of death: Buffalo, NY
Cause of death: Cancer - unspecified
Remains: Buried, Canton Corner Cemetery, Canton, MA

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Crystallized enzymes

American chemist James B. Sumner discovered the protein nature of enzymes, and developed a general crystallization method for enzymes. In 1926 he became the first scientist to isolate and crystallize an enzyme, urease, found in the Canavalia ensiformis jack beans. As this was widely believed to be impossible, his finding was ridiculed and ignored for several years, particularly by the famed German chemist Richard Willstätter. In 1930 John H. Northrop was able to isolate another enzyme, proving Willstätter wrong and Sumner right. In 1937 Sumner isolated and crystallized a second enzyme, catalase, found in blood. He shared the 1946 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Northrop and Wendell M. Stanley.

As a teenager, Sumner was shot in the left arm in a hunting accident, necessitating the amputation of his arm below the elbow. Since he was left-handed, this presented the added hurdles of re-learning how to write, dress himself, and operate equipment from doorknobs to test tubes. In addition to his one-handed accomplishments in chemistry, he continued to hunt and became a competitive amateur tennis player.

He was directly descended from anti-slavery campaigner Charles Sumner. After his divorce from his first wife, Cid Ricketts Sumner, she turned to writing and authored several best-selling novels, including the delicate study of racism Quality and the somewhat lighter Tammy Out of Time, which was filmed as Tammy and the Bachelor.

Father: Charles Sumner (cotton manufacturer)
Mother: Elizabeth Rand Kelly Sumner
Sister: Amie Sumner (d. 1958)
Wife: Bertha Louise Ricketts ("Cid", author, m. 10-Jul-1915, div. 1930, d. 15-Oct-1970 murder, four children)
Daughter: Roberta Sumner Cutler
Daughter: Prudence Sumner Ganard
Wife: Agnes Paulina Lundkvist (m. 1931, div., no children)
Wife: Mary Morrison Beyer (m. 1943, two children)

    High School: Roxbury Latin School, West Roxbury, MA
    University: BS Chemistry, Harvard University (1910)
    Teacher: Chemistry & Physiology, Mount Allison University (1910-11)
    Scholar: Chemistry, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (1911-12)
    University: PhD Chemistry, Harvard University (1914)
    Teacher: Biochemistry, Cornell University (1914-29)
    Professor: Biochemistry, Cornell University (1929-47)
    Administrator: Enzyme Chemistry Laboratory, Cornell University (1947-55)

    Scheele Medal 1937
    Guggenheim Fellowship 1937
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1946 (with John H. Northrop and Wendell M. Stanley)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    National Academy of Sciences 1948
    Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society
    Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences Foreign Member
    Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society
    Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
    Shot 1905 (hunting accident)
    Surgery 1905 (amputation of left forearm)
    English Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Amputee

Author of books:
Textbook of Biological Chemistry (1927, textbook)
The Chemistry and Methods of Enzymes (1943, textbook; with G. Fred Somers)
Laboratory Experiments in Biological Chemistry (1944, textbook; with G. Fred Somers)
The Enzymes: Chemistry and Mechanism of Action (1951-52, four volumes; with Karl Myrbäck)


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