Oliver H. Lowry

Washington University in St. Louis

July 18, 1910 - June 29, 1996

Scientific Discipline: Physiology and Pharmacology
Membership Type:
Member (elected 1964)

Biochemist Oliver H. Lowry was one of the top authorities in the development of quantitative histochemical methods.  He applied these methods to achieve ultramicro determinations of cellular components and enzymes.  Lowry developed an innovative and simple method to measure (with a high level of sensitivity) the amount of protein and inorganic phosphate in a solution.  His other contributions include a freeze-drying procedure to preserve cells in their natural state, a microbalance capable of measurements less than a millionth of a gram, a fluorometric method to measure riboflavin and other nucleotides, and increasingly sensitive assays that were applicable to biology and medicine.  Using his quantitative microtechniques, Lowry performed biochemical experiments on minute brain regions, kidney and muscle cells, and developing mammalian embryos, all of which advanced the field of histochemistry. 

Lowry went to Northwestern University and earned his B.S. degree in 1932.  He then enrolled at the University of Chicago and received his both his M.A. degree and his Ph.D. (in biochemistry) in 1937.  The same year, Lowry became an instructor for the Department of Biological Chemistry at Harvard Medical School and stayed there for five years.  He left Harvard to join the Division of Physiology and Nutrition of the Public Health Research Institute of the City of New York.  Lowry accepted a position at the Washington University School of Medicine in 1947 as a professor of pharmacology and head of the department.  He continued teaching at the university, and in 1955, he was appointed the Dean of the Washington University School of Medicine; a post he would hold for three years.  In 1979, Lowry became a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology at the college, where he remained until his death nearly twenty years later.  He was a member of the American Society of Biological Chemists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, the American Chemical Society (ACS), and the Histochemical Society, where he served as president in 1960.  Lowry received numerous honors and awards for his biochemical contributions including the Midwest Award of the ACS in 1962, both the Merit Award of Northwestern University and the John Scott Award in 1963, and the Borden Award of the Association of American Medical Colleges in 1966.

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