Advancing the Science

Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog – an eclectic collection of research- and research education-related stories: feature stories, mini news bites, learning opportunities, profiles and more from Mayo Clinic.

December 24, 2021

Yuletide discoveries in the research lab

By Advancing the Science contributor

Edward Kendall, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic biochemist, was a tenacious investigator who spent most of his time – holidays included – in his laboratory.

On the night of December 23, 1914, he dozed off while conducting the chemical extraction of hog thyroid. When he awoke, what to his wondering eyes did appear but a mysterious white crust inside a glass beaker.

This breakthrough brought glad tidings to medical research. What did Dr. Kendall discover?

  1. Cortisone
  2. Penicillin
  3. Thyroxine
  4. Vitamin C

Answer: (4.) Thyroxine

Dr. Kendall was the first person in history to isolate the iodine-containing compound now known as thyroxine. It is the main hormone produced by the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland in the front of the neck. The thyroid is involved in the metabolic rate of cells, heart and digestive functions, as well as other biological processes. Dr. Kendall’s work helped lead to the development of much-needed treatments for thyroid disorders. Read more here.

There are Mayo Clinic connections to the other options in this quiz. Dr. Kendall and his Mayo Clinic colleague, Philip Hench, M.D., shared the 1950 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with a Swiss researcher, Tadeus Reichstein, for their discovery of cortisone.

Mayo Clinic Proceedings published early reports on the effectiveness of penicillin. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi von Nagyrapolt, a Hungarian biochemist, received the 1937 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his pioneering work in vitamin C, some of which he conducted in Dr. Kendall’s laboratory while he studied at Mayo Clinic between 1929 and 1930.

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Tags: About, cortisone, Edward Kendall, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, penicillin, republished, thyroid disease, thyroxine, vitamin C

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