To mark its 20th anniversary in 1982, NIGMS established an annual lecture to honor DeWitt Stetten Jr. He served as NIGMS’ third director and had a strong commitment to basic science, especially research in genetics, cellular and molecular biology, and chemistry.
Stetten was born in 1909. He received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and both his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University. Following residency training, Stetten served as assistant, instructor and then assistant professor in the department of biochemistry at Columbia. In 1947, he was appointed assistant professor in the department of biochemistry at Harvard, and from 1948 to 1954, he served as chief of the division of nutrition and physiology at New York City’s Public Health Research Institute.
In 1954, Stetten came to NIH, where he directed intramural basic and clinical research programs for what was then the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases. In 1962, he became dean of the newly established Rutgers Medical School.
Stetten returned to NIH as director of NIGMS in 1970. In 1974, he became NIH deputy director for science, and in 1979, he was named senior scientific advisor to the NIH director.
Among Stetten’s many contributions to the field of biochemistry is the classic text, “Principles of Biochemistry,” which he coauthored in its first and second editions. He also edited a book titled “NIH: An Account of Research in Its Laboratories and Clinics,” which contains scientists’ personal accounts of historical NIH research.
Stetten’s many honors and awards include three honorary doctor of science degrees, the 1957 Banting Medal from the American Diabetes Association and the 1974 Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Medicine from Columbia University. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1974. In May 1987, the NIH museum of medical research, whose creation Stetten spearheaded, was dedicated in his name.
Stetten died on August 28, 1990.
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