McCollum is arguably under recognised in the public appreciation of the development of knowledge of nutrition. He started life with scurvy so was arguably more motivated than most and had a better understanding of the visceral importance of nutrition to health. The scurvy gave rise to life long dental issues which may account for his interest in the role of nutrition in dental health. He fought against the odds to access, then make the most of. career opportunities. The era between 1900 and 1920 was the golden age of nutrition, when most of what we know about the essential, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients such as Vitamin D were discovered.
Many researchers of the day were working on parallel paths tying to solve the same problems. McCollum was clearly both brave, and motivated by more than money, in that he himself funded some work that his peers would not fund.
He was also like McCarrison, Weston Price, Sinclair, and others heavily involved in trying to focus attention on the importance of nutrient dense foods in promoting public health.
He was a key author in a series of five volumes of a large book called ‘The Newer Knowledge of Nutrition’. The fifth volume contains fascinating material; and gives a real sense of the developing state of knowledge at the time. I have read much of it. When it is compared to earlier versions it is possible to see how knowledge and comprehension of nutritional needs expanded between 1918 and 1940.
I suggest it would be hard for anybody to read his book and not come away with the sense that McCollum was a key player in the development and promulgation of dietary knowledge.
John Hopkins University says of McCollum (Link):
“His dedication to research and teaching was equalled by his commitment to improve the awareness of the American public of the benefits of good nutrition. Between 1922 and 1946 he wrote regular columns for McCall’s Magazine “to translate the mysteries of the laboratory into kitchen commonplaces.”
As a result of his research, teaching and devotion to public education, Dr. McCollum brought about profound changes in the American diet.”
His book is arguably an obligatory addition to the library for anybody with a wider interest in nutrition and human health. It is full of fascinating snippets and insights