The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) was organized
in December 1906, as an offshoot of the American Physiological Society (APS). The
American Society of Biological Chemists (ASBC) changed their name to ASBMB in 1987
after molecular biologists threatened to split the society. The American Physiological
Society was created in 1887 with just twenty-eight members but by 1906 had grown considerably.
Some APS members felt that the chemical side of physiology was not being fully addressed
due to the many different areas of interest in physiology that were crowded within
the society. Other members of the APS regarded the chemical side of physiology as
outside the field of pure physiology. In addition, there was debate within the discipline
of physiology as to where to place chemical physiology, under chemistry or under physiology?
A chemical physiologist needed to have knowledge of organic chemistry and physiology
in order to be successful. Indeed, new discoveries were leading to the inevitable
conclusion that biochemistry was necessary to the solution of physiological problems.
The progress that was being made in the field of biological chemistry led Dr. John
J. Abel of The Johns Hopkins University to propose a meeting to organize an American
Society of Biological Chemists. This organizational meeting took place on December
26, 1906 at the Hotel Belmont in New York City. Twenty-nine chemical biologists attended.
They voted for the creation of a temporary organization with Russell H. Chittenden
as chairman and William J. Gies as secretary. Under the Articles of Agreement, the
society was governed by a council made up of nine members, who were selected by the
members at the organizational meeting. The officers consisted of a President, Vice-President,
Secretary, and Treasurer. The council would be made up of the four officers and five
regular members of the society. The council was instructed to prepare a constitution,
to be ratified by the members, and to call all future meetings of the society. A quorum
of twenty members was needed to transact business for the society. Immediately the
officers and council was elected. Officers consisted of Russell H. Chittenden, President;
John J. Abel, Vice-President; William J. Gies, Secretary; and Lafayette B. Mendel,
Treasurer. The additional members of the council were Otto Folin, Walter Jones, Waldemar
Koch, John Marshall, and Thomas B. Osborne. Short biographies of the founding members
of the society can be found in Chittenden's work.
It was voted a year later that in addition to the twenty-nine members in attendance
at the organizational meeting in 1906, any biochemists who supported the supported
the creation of the ASBC and wished to join could become charter members. This increased
the charter membership to eighty-one. The first meeting of the Society after its organization
was a special meeting held in Washington, D. C., on May 8-9, 1907. The APS and the
Washington section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) held their meetings at the
same time in Washington, thus allowing several joint sessions to be held. A decision
was made to publish the papers presented at the annual meetings in the Journal of
Biological Chemistry, under the title, "Proceedings of the American Society of Biological
Chemists." ASBC continued its close relationship with the APS by forming the Federation
of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) with them and the American
Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) in 1911. The three
groups' main objective was to coordinate the time and place of annual meetings and
the arrangement of joint sessions. The general goal was to prompt a close and social
affiliation between the three sister societies while at the same time to maintain
their individual independence. An Executive Committee of the Federation (FASEB) was
established and consisted of the presidents and secretaries of the constituent societies.
The Journal of Biological Chemistry was incorporated in 1905 by Christian A. Herter,
Edward K. Dunham, Alfred N. Richards, John J. Abel, and Reid Hunt, all of whom were
charter members of the ASBC. In 1919, ASBC members met to discuss the incorporation
of the Society in order to take control of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Inc.
Christian A. Herter had died in 1910 and a memorial fund, in the sum of $40,000, was
established by his friends and associates to further the interests of the Journal.
ASBC was incorporated on September 12, 1919. On October 24, 1919, all of the capital
stock of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the securities of the Herter Memorial
Fund were transferred to American Society of Biological Chemists, Inc. (Chittenden
The society continued to grow, reaching over 11,000 members by 2005. One result of
this growth was the establishment of an executive officer position. The executive
officer would be in charge of the day-to-day running of the society and would serve
as the manager of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Robert A. Harte became the
Society's first executive officer. Prior to the establishment of the executive officer
position, there had only been an administrative assistant. Harte took the executive
officer position beginning in September 1961. Upon Harte's retirement in 1977, Russell
J. Hilmoe succeeded him. Charles C. Hancock succeeded Hilmoe in 1979 and served for
Much of the historical information comes from Russell H. Chittenden's work, The First
Twenty-Five Years of the American Society of Biological Chemists, published in 1945.
Chittenden's history of the early years of the society is an account of the creation
and growth of the society and of science in society. Chittenden, as the first President
of the society was in a unique position to write the history of the society. There
at its creation he was able to watch the society and the fields expand. A special
note in the Scope and Content section can be found with more information about this
book and its location within the collection. The American Society of Biological Chemists
became the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1987 after the
molecular biologists threatened to break away from the Society. ASBMB has continued
to grow and currently has over 10,000 members and has created several new journals.
The goals of ASBMB are " to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology
through publication of scientific and educational journals (Journal of Biological
Chemistry, Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, Journal of Lipid Research, Biochemistry
and Molecular Biology Education), organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for
funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels,
and promoting the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce."
Information in this Historical Note was drawn from:
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Accessed February 14, 2008
Chittenden, Russell H. The First Twenty-Five Years of the American Society of Biological
Organized into five series: Series I. Officers and Executive Council, 1925-2002. Series
II. Publications, 1914-2005. Series III. Committees, 1906-2005. Series IV. Meetings,
1906-2002. Series V. Affiliated Organizations, 1933-2002.
Series I. Officers and Executive Council
Series II. Publications
Series III. Committees
Series IV. Meetings
Series V. Affiliated Organizations
This collection contains the records of the American Society for Biochemistry and
Molecular Biology (ASBMB), 1906-2005. The collection covers the organization of the
society in 1906 as the American Society of Biological Chemists and continues through
to the present. The collection is divided into five series that reflect the society:
Officers and Executive Council, Publications, Committees, Meetings, and Affiliated
Organizations. Contained within these series are the documents of the various committees,
individuals, and groups responsible for the running of the society. The majority of
the collection covers the last half of the twentieth century. Not all subseries are
listed in the scope and content, for a full list of each series and sub-series, see
the "Organization of Collection."
Boxes 1-19, contains the records of the Officers and Executive Council. Subseries
one, contains the correspondence and papers of the society's Presidents, beginning
with Hubert B. Vickery in 1950. The papers of the Presidents prior to Vickery were
not found amongst the society papers. Presidential correspondence is arranged by the
order in which they served. Dates correspond to the range of each president's correspondence
and not specifically to when he or she was in office.
Subseries two, contains the correspondence and papers of the society's Secretary,
beginning with D. W. Wilson in 1925. Secretariat correspondence is arranged by the
order in which they served and similarly to the order of presidential correspondence.
The papers of E. H. Stotz and Phillip Handler contain records discussing the history
of the society and should be useful for tracing the society's history. Under Secretary
A.K. Balls, 1942-1946, records concerning "Post-War Problems" can be found. These
problems deal with returning military men who sought information on education and
programs of the biochemical sciences.
Subseries four, the largest, contains the papers of the Executive Officer, a position
created in 1961. Executive Officer materials are arranged into two sub-subseries:
correspondence and memos. Within the correspondence sub-subseries, the material is
divided by type of mail and arranged chronologically: personal, outgoing, and incoming
correspondence. This subseries contains the correspondence of the first three executive
officers, Robert A. Harte, Russell J. Hilmoe, and Charles C. Hancock. At the end of
this subseries is various miscellaneous correspondence and memos.
Subseries five, contains Association Legal Documents. This includes the articles of
incorporation and correspondence with legal advisors. Correspondence with legal advisors,
Albert S. Davis, Jr., Harold L. Stowell, Frank H. Weller, Jr., and Steptoe and Johnson
are the bulk of this subseries. Some of the legal correspondence deals with disputes
over publishing rights and the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC).
Boxes 19-29, contains materials related to publications. Subseries one, a small subseries,
contains copies of ASBMB News, newsletters, and correspondence relating to these publications.
The correspondence only dates from 2000-2002. The newsletters date from 1992-2001
and copies of ASBMB News date from 2001-2005 but are incomplete, the bulk are from
2004 and 2005. This subseries contains a CD-R disc with pdf files.
Subseries five, which is large and varied, contains materials related to the Journal
of Biological Chemistry (JBC). The correspondence concerns both the general and the
specific. Some of the issues concern copyright and JBC publishing with Williams and
Wilkins. Correspondence with legal advisor Albert S. Davis and various officers reveal
that there was some debate over the running of the JBC and the Christian A. Herter
memorial fund (see 1956). Also included are copyright renewal certificates and discussions
on copyright law revisions. Subseries five also contains financial information on
the JBC. This includes correspondence, publication costs, expenses, and profit and
loss statements. Also included are requests for permission to reproduce, the JBC's
articles of incorporation from 1905, various historical materials, and microfilm correspondence.
Subseries seven contains miscellaneous publications and ad hoc committees involved
in publications. Some subjects include the search for a new editor and the future
of the JBC as well as publications like, "Careers in Biochemistry and Trends in Biochemical
Boxes 29-65, contains materials related to activities of ASBMB's various committees
and is the largest series in the collection with 36 Boxes. This series contains 28
separate subseries and covers some dates as early as 1906 all the way to 2005. This
series is not arranged in alphabetical or date order as some committees were added
to the original alphabetical order. These newer records came with an additional donation
of six Boxes in August 2006 and were fit in as best as they could be.
Subseries one contains the records of the Membership Committee. The activities of
this committee were placed first because it was the largest committee (27 Boxes),
with the most materials. The membership committee is broken down into several parts.
The first being correspondence. Address service requests are mostly requests for address
mailing lists by companies and organizations. ASBMB policy is not to give out classified
address labels, so most answers were in the negative. Committee correspondence contains
information about new members, but also other committee matters. Within general correspondence,
there are inquiries into becoming a member and some correspondence related to dues.
Dues correspondence deals mostly with late payments, lost payments, incorrect payment
forms, and unknown payments. "Dear Colleague Letters," mailings to members, and reports
to members are mostly form letters sent out to members. The mailings contain original
material sent out to members such as ballots, newsletter type reports, and important
society information about meetings. Within the Membership Committee subseries there
are two sets of member files. The first set of member files are arranged in date order
according to member status in a specific year (i.e. "Deceased 1941-1946"). The second
set of member files are arranged alphabetically by the last name of the member according
to status (i.e. "Deceased, Ba-Bi"). This set retained its original order as presented
to the archives. These documents are primarily of note card size and were in ringed
hard plastic or leather binders. Each binder was labeled with a membership status,
Deceased, Resigned, etc and cards were alphabetical within the binders. This set of
records was part of the additional six Boxes donated in August of 2006. The sub-subseries,
"Member Files - Individuals" contains individual member files. Original folders have
been cut and included in the new folders to retain information that was written on
the outside of the original folders.
Subseries two is ad hoc committees. The ad hoc committees are committees, which only
met for a few years. They were organized to address a specific question or problem
and then were disbanded. For example, one ad hoc committee deals with the revision
of the society's constitution and by-laws. The ad hoc committee on by-laws revisions
contains some history of the society. Located within this ad hoc committee's files
is charter member Russell H. Chittenden's history of the society written in celebration
of ASBMB's 25th anniversary. This is a hardback copy of the history, published in
The remaining subseries are broken down by committee. Some are very short because
the committee was short-lived. Some of the more important committees are listed. For
a description of all committees see the "Organization of Collection."
Subseries fifteen is the Committee on the Relations of Biochemists to the Reorganization
of the Sanitary Corps. This committee was dissolved in 1949.
Subseries sixteen is the Educational Affairs Committee. This is a large subseries,
dating from1959-1994. In this subseries there are multiple folders consisting of correspondence
about the Latin American Program created by ASBMB to sponsor and encourage science
education and scientific cooperation with Latin America. These files date from 1989
Subseries twenty-one is the Public Affairs Committee which later became the Public
Affairs Advisory Committee. There were no records for the committee during 1977 included
in the collection. Correspondence from October 1986 contains a letter to Mikhail Gorbachev
over the release of Dr. David Goldfarb; it also contains newspaper reports about the
incident. Located within this subseries is correspondence with Peter Kyros. Kyros
was retained by the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) and the Biophysical Society
as well as by ASBMB. Kyros provided legislative services for the societies before
the Congress and the Executive Branch Agencies over the issue of federal funding of
basic biomedical research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Boxes 66-95, contain materials related to meetings that ASBMB was a part of, such
as annual meetings, council meetings and other miscellaneous meetings. Subseries one
is Council and Executive Board Meetings. Agendas, correspondence, minutes, and reports
of the Council and Executive Board are included and arranged in date order, from 1906-2002.
Some folders include various drafts of the meeting minutes, and sometimes there are
several copies of particular meeting minutes.
Subseries two contains materials about ASBMB annual meetings, 1934-2002. Prior to
1971, ASBMB's annual meeting was held with FASEB. By 1971 the society decided to hold
an annual meeting independent of FASEB. A great deal of planning went into this meeting
and it was very successful. After 1971, ASBMB alternated between having an independent
meeting, versus having it with FASEB or another society. For instance in 1974 and
1980, they met with the Biophysical Society. Beginning in the 1970s ASBMB began to
work with Steven K. Herlitz who became their exhibitor and meeting manager. Most of
his correspondence is located under annual meetings and exhibits. The abstracts from
the annual meetings 1906-1941 were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Subsequent abstracts were published in FASEB's Federation Proceedings. In this subseries
is a bound copy of the proceedings, including abstracts, from the society's meetings
dating from 1934 to 1941. Meetings from 1957-1960 only have general correspondence
concerning the meetings but beginning with the 1963 meeting, the number, and variety
of items increases. Some photographs from the Annual Meetings have been included in
this collection. They have been put in separate folders under each year that they
occur, namely 1985, 1986, and 1990. Box 73 contains a magnetic tape of a symposium
given by a group of society Nobel Laureates at the 1973 annual meeting. The information
on the Ad Hoc Committee on Procedures and the Program Planning Committee is located
after the 1991 meeting starting in Box 85. Since the materials covered multiple meetings,
it was placed at the end in chronological order rather than with the individual meetings.
Fellowships that were awarded to individuals to attend the annual meetings follow.
Materials for annual meetings that were part of the additional donation in 2006 were
sparse and varied. Annual meeting materials from 1988-2002 are at the end of this
subseries. These materials contain correspondence, meeting minutes, agendas, and other
information. A separate folder about a lecture given by Elias Zerhouni at the 2002
annual meeting can be found in Box 88.
Subseries three contains materials related to Bioterrorism. This was an ASBMB symposium
held in response to the threat of bioterrorism after September 11, 2001. This subseries
consists of email correspondence from ASBMB leaders and responses from the society
members. There is also general information about the issues concerning scientists
and bioterrorism. Responses to the letters sent from ASBMB to its members are arranged
alphabetically by an individual scientist's last name. These materials date from 2001
Subseries seven contains records of the International Congress of Biochemistry (ICB),
which met every 3 years. The subseries includes correspondence from the second Congress
that meant in 1952. There are no records from the third Congress. The records from
the sixth Congress are extensive because it was held in New York City and ASBMB was
largely responsible for hosting the event. It should be noted that the US National
Committee of IUB records have been included in series five. This was done to keep
the meeting materials separate from the affiliated organization. Of particular interest
is the correspondence pertaining to visa applications. Since this was an international
meeting, scientists from all over the world attended. The correspondence revealed
the difficulties of entering the US during the height of the Cold War in 1964. Visa
materials are located in Box 91. The applications for subsistence allowance were not
kept in original order of a separate folder for each country. The records have been
combined to allow for maximum use of space. The original alphabetical order was retained
but in the case where a country had only one or two applications, separate folders
have been removed. These applications are found in Boxes 90 and 91. The records of
the seventh through twelfth meetings of the ICB are included in this collection. After
this the ICB records are incomplete.
Subseries eight contains records for the Gordon Research Conferences, 1953-1983. These
records are mainly correspondence and handouts run from 1954 to 1976. Of special interest
is a slide from the very first Gordon Conference held in 1953. Much of the materials
on the Gordon Conference are included because of the involvement of Executive Officer,
Robert Harte, in the conference, of which he was chairman of in 1969.
Boxes 95-109, contains materials related to organizations affiliated with or in contact
with ASBMB, 1933-2002. These organizations have been arranged alphabetically and then
by date. Materials range from organizations with multiple folders and information
over decades to organizations with only enough information for one folder. Some of
the larger organizations have been arranged and separated into their own subseries
and therefore are out of direct alphabetical order.
Subseries one contains Affiliated Organizations A-B, arranged alphabetically. There
are several documents within this subseries that are interesting and should be highlighted.
There are multiple folders on the American Association for the Advancement of Science
(AAAS), an organization begun in 1848. Correspondence with the AAAS begins in 1954
and continues through 1991. In Box 95, Folder 19 is an article, "Social and Political
Action of Scientific Societies," by Deal Wolfe written in 1969. Also in Folder 19
are controversial resolutions submitted to the AAAS at the 1969 meeting in Boston.
These resolutions deal with social protests of the late 1960s. Of the three resolutions
submitted it seems that only one was passed. The resolutions concern the Vietnam War,
"Repression of Black People," which mentions recent violence against the Black Panther
Party, and a resolution on the equality of women in the sciences. These documents
would be useful for anyone interested in the history of science and social protest.
Subseries four is the largest subseries with almost four Boxes of materials related
to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), 1933-1992
bulk. These materials include correspondence, meeting notes, and committee meeting
Subseries five contains records of the International Union of Biochemistry, US National
Committee. These records date from 1953 to 1990. In Box 104, Folder 27, IUB Miscellaneous
International Meetings, is a pamphlet for an "LSD Conference" from 1966. This conference
was held at the University of California, Berkeley and the pamphlet contains short
biographies on some of the major scientists who gave talks at the conference, among
them is Timothy Leary. Also of note, is the talk Allen Ginsburg, gave entitled "Consciousness
Politics in the Void."
Subseries seven is a broad category of materials organized under Government Science
Organizations. Some of the organizations in this subseries are the National Academy
of Sciences, the National Research Conference, the National Institute of Health, and
the National Science Foundation. In Box 108, Folder 23 under the US public Health
Service is the "Report of Delegation of American Biochemists to Russia" 1959. This
report contains information on the Russian education system, biochemical facilities
at Russian universities, and the general state of Russian biochemical research. The
visit was made possible by an agreement between the U.S. Public Health Service and
the U.S.S.R. Ministry of Health. American scientists were granted information and
the freedom to study Russian sciences in a friendly exchange between international
scientific communities. This document might be useful for anyone studying international
scientific exchange during the Cold War.
MSS 1996-02; SARCV 2006-03; This collection was donated by the American Society for
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ABSBMB) under Executive Officer Charles Hancock
in March of 1996.
This collection was processed under the supervision of Marcia Frank Peri, by assistants
Rose King, Kristen Tranier, and Angelica Marini. The processing of the collection
began in the Fall of 2003 and was finished in December of 2006. This was a very large
collection with 211 banker Boxes donated. The existing collection is 109 Boxes. During
the initial inventory, multiple copies were disposed of whenever there were more than
two copies of a given document. General invoices, receipts and personnel information
such as time sheets and payroll documents were also taken out of the collection. Plastic
spiral binders and oversized folders were removed from the collection. A second deposit
of materials in August of 2006 contained six additional Boxes. The initial organization
of the collection was complete and the records from the additional Boxes were fit
into the collection. The majority of the records were found to be in relatively good
order since they were kept by ASBMB at their headquarters. The remaining records have
been organized by type of activity based on the order in which they were received.
Whenever possible the original order has been maintained. For the most part items
are organized in chronological order, followed by alphabetical order.
Describing Archives: a Content Standard (DACS)
Archives Processing Manual: Description (2015): The processing manual used in Special Collections for all descriptive platforms, including
Finding aid available.
Finding Aid: http://library.umbc.edu/speccoll/findingaids/coll011.php
Reproduction for research purposes. Copyright maintained by creator.
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Chittenden, R. H. (Russell Henry), 1856-1943
American Society of Biological Chemists
Biochemistry -- History
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
International Union of Biochemistry
Date: 1925-2002; 1950-2002 bulk
Extent: 27.25 linear feet (27,165 items)
Extent: 57 folders
Date: 1925-1983; 1938-1964 bulk
Extent: 21 folders
Extent: 72 folders
Date: 1960-1991; 1964-1991 bulk
Extent: 257 folders
Date: 1949-1988; 1955-1981 bulk
Extent: 36 folders
Extent: 6 folders
Date: 1914-2005; 1946-2005 bulk
Extent: 14.50 linear feet (9000 items)
Extent: 7 folders
Extent: 12 folders
Date: 1925-1991; 1967-1981 bulk
Extent: 34 folders
Extent: 33 folders
Extent: 219 folders
Extent: 3 folders
Extent: 17 folders
Date: 1906-2005; 1946-1990 bulk
Extent: 36 boxes (53.5 linear feet)
Date: 1906-1991; 1959-1990 bulk
Extent: 618 folders
Include correspondence, member status files, and member files. The member status
and member files are organized alphabetically by last name; all other files are chronological.
Date: 1930-1991; 1960-1980 bulk
Extent: 19 folders
Extent: 1 folder
Date: 1979-2002; bulk 1979-1991
Extent: 7 folders
Date: 1930-1969; bulk 1954-1969
Extent: 3 folders
Extent: 4 folders
Date: 1971-2001; bulk 1979-1988
Extent: 23 folders
Extent: 14 folders
Extent: 1 folder
Extent: 2 folders
Extent: 5 folders
This committee was dissolved in 1953.
This committee was dissolved in 1949.
Date: 1946-2001; bulk 1960-1990
Extent: 20 folders
Extent: 2 folders
Date: 1970-2002; bulk 1990-2002
Extent: 60 folders
Date: 1946-2002; bulk 1962-2002
Extent: 32 folders
Extent: 10 folders
Extent: 7 folders
Extent: 3 folders
Date: 1906-2002; bulk 1934-2002
Extent: 29 boxes (42.35 linear feet)
Date: 1906-2002; bulk 1942-2002
Extent: 98 folders