Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 66.djvu/154

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150
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE PRESENT PROBLEMS OF PHYSIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY.[1]
BY RUSSELL H. CHITTENDEN,
DIRECTOR OF THE SHEFFIELD SCIENTIFIC SCHOOL OF YALE UNIVERSITY.

IN considering a proper presentation of the subject assigned me, I am impressed with the influence which a man's own field of work and his own line of thought will naturally exercise upon his point of view. It may be questioned whether his judgment can be wholly trusted, whether he will not, in fact, unconsciously it may be, give a dwarfed or one-sided presentation of the subject from a natural habit of looking at things in their bearing upon the line of work and thought in which he himself is personally most interested. While this may not be wholly undesirable, still of greater advantage will be a brief but judicious presentation of all the more important problems that confront the physiological chemist of the present day, but whether this can be done satisfactorily in the time allotted is very questionable. However, the effort will be made to emphasize, so far as the time will allow, what to the writer seem the more significant and far-reaching problems in physiological chemistry that call for speedy solution.

Of fundamental importance is the question, what is the exact chemical constitution of proteid matter? The basis of all cell life, the most complex molecule that enters into the structure of the living organism, proteid or albuminous material holds a peculiar position. A labile molecule, it is easily prone to change, and its many decomposition products confront us on all sides in our study of life's processes. Yet to-day, in spite of all that has been accomplished, even with the brilliant work of Kossel and Emil Fischer, we still lack adequate knowledge of all the groups and radicles that are combined in this atomic complex.

In the study of metabolism and nutrition, both in health and in disease, in our conception of the anabolic processes of life, in our theories regarding the chemical relationships of the varied katabolites floating about through the organism and in many other connections, we need for our guidance a full knowledge of the chemical nature of this most important class of substances. Thanks to the work of many brilliant investigators, our knowledge is progressing and broadening, but we still lack that comprehensive understanding of the inner struc-

  1. Read before the Section of Physiological Chemistry in the International Congress of Arts and Science held at St. Louis, September 22, 1904.