Gortner, Ross Aiken

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Ross Aiken Gortner came to the University of Minnesota in 1914 as Associate Professor of Soil Chemistry but transferred to the Division of Biochemistry in 1917. He contributed more than 300 papers to scientific journals in addition to writing several books. While his first publications were in organic chemistry, he began publishing in biochemistry in 1908. Gortner was active in professional organizations, an enthusiastic academic advisor mentoring 130 Ph. D.s, and the recipient of various awards, including the Osborne Medal from the American Assn. of Cereal Chemists, in 1942. The University of Minnesota Gortner Laboratory of Biochemistry was named in his honor.

From the description of Ross Aiken Gortner papers, 1918-1942. (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis). WorldCat record id: 63314176

Ross Aiken Gortner was born near O'Neill, Nebraska on March 20, 1885. He entered the preparatory school of Nebraska Wesleyan University at Lincoln, at the age of 17. Here he was educated and guided by chemistry Professor F. J. Alway. He received a B.S. degree from Wesleyan University in 1907, an M.A. degree from the University of Toronto in 1908, and a Ph.D. degree in 1909 from Columbia University.

Dr. Gortner came to the University of Minnesota in 1914 as Associate Professor of Soil Chemistry to work with his former mentor, Professor F. J. Alway, who had recently been appointed Professor of Soil Chemistry at the University. After two years, Dr. Gortner transferred to the Division of Biochemistry, and in 1917 was appointed full professor and chief, a position that he held until his death.

Dr. Gortner's scientific interests were very broad; his influence was felt in almost every field of agricultural science. He researched such fields as formation and chemistry of animals pigments, melanin, chemistry of embryonic growth, physicochemical properties of vegetables sap, soil analysis, organic constituents of the soil, colloids and proteins. His writings were published over 300 times in scientific journals. His first publications, in 1905 and 1906 as an undergraduate student, were chiefly in the area of organic chemistry, as was his doctoral dissertation. He then became interested in the field of colloid chemistry and began publishing papers in the field of plant and animal biochemistry as early as 1908. Among Dr. Gortner's major contributions to science were his textbook Outline of Biochemistry (1929, 1938) and lecture series at Cornell University titled Selected Topics in Colloid Chemistry (1935-1936). These lectures were later published as a book under the same title (1937). He was an associate editor of The Journal of the American Chemical Society and Journal of Physical Chemistry, and contributed chapters to several monographs.

Dr. Gortner's influence went far beyond the classroom as noted by his association with many scientific societies. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Chemical Society, and the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine. He served as both secretary and chair of the American Chemical Society and was a member of its editorial board for two terms. He was national president of the honorary chemical society, Phi Lambda Upsilon (1921-1926), president of the American Society of Naturalists (1932), and president of the prestigious national scientific society, Sigma Xi (1942).

Considered to be an inspiring teacher, he was the Wisconsin Alumni Foundation Lecturer (1930), Priestly Lecturer at Pennsylvania State College (1934) and George Fisher Baker Lecturer at Cornell University (1935-36). In 1932 the honorary degree of Doctor of Science was conferred on him by Lawrence College [Appleton, Wisconsin]. Dr. Gortner felt that his chief contribution to science was through his students. During his tenure at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Gortner personally directed 87 graduate students in residence, and counseled many others.

On May 19, 1942, Dr. Gortner was awarded the Osborne Medal of the American Association of Cereal Chemists, one of the outstanding chemical prizes in the country for having rendered distinguished service in research and student training in cereal chemistry. 1942 marked 25 years as chief of the Division of Biochemistry for Dr. Gortner.

Dr. Gortner was diagnosed with coronary thrombosis in 1938, but was able to pursue his interests nearly unabated until he died of heart failure on September 30, 1942, at the age of 57. In 1966, the Gortner Laboratory of Biochemistry was dedicated in his honor on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota.

From the guide to the Ross Aiken Gortner papers, 1908-1942, (University of Minnesota Libraries. University Archives [uarc])

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Department of Agricultural Biochemistry records, 1893-1974 University of Minnesota Libraries. University Archives [uarc]
referencedIn Guy Stanton Ford papers, 1885-1965 University of Minnesota Libraries. University Archives [uarc]
creatorOf [Ross Aiken Gortner, biographical materials] University of Wisconsin - Madison, General Library System
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Department of Botany records, 1893-1989, (bulk 1921-1982) University of Minnesota Libraries. University Archives [uarc]
referencedIn Institute of Technology papers, 1933-1945, 1954-1961 University of Minnesota Libraries. University Archives [uarc]
creatorOf Gortner, Ross Aiken, 1885-1942. Ross Aiken Gortner papers, 1918-1942. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn Department of Chemistry papers, 1880-1980 University of Minnesota Libraries. University Archives [uarc]
referencedIn University of Minnesota. Dept. of Agricultural Biochemistry. Department of Agricultural Biochemsitry records, 1893-1974. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn Biological Club papers, 1914-1970 University of Minnesota Libraries. University Archives [uarc]
referencedIn University of Minnesota. Dept. of Botany. University of Minnesota Dept. of Botany papers, 1847-1982, 1989. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
creatorOf Ross Aiken Gortner papers, 1908-1942 University of Minnesota Libraries. University Archives [uarc]
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Association of Cereal Chemists. corporateBody
associatedWith American Chemical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Ford, Guy Stanton. person
associatedWith Freundlich, Herbert, 1880-1941. person
associatedWith Fruendlich, Hubert Max Finlay, 1880-1941 person
associatedWith Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Holm, George Elmer, 1891-1955. person
associatedWith Lamb, Arthur Becket, 1880-1952. person
associatedWith Mathews, J. Howard (Joseph Howard), 1881-1970. person
associatedWith Mayo, William James, 1861-1939. person
associatedWith National Academy of Sciences corporateBody
associatedWith National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith National Research Council (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Nord, Friedrich Franz, 1889- person
correspondedWith Provine, William B. person
associatedWith Society of the Sigma Xi. corporateBody
associatedWith Treloar, Alan E. (Alan Edward), 1902- person
associatedWith University of Minnesota. Biological Club corporateBody
associatedWith University of Minnesota. Department of Botany. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Minnesota. Dept. of Agricultural Biochemistry. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Minnesota. Dept. of Botany. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Minnesota. Dept. of Chemistry corporateBody
associatedWith University of Minnesota. Division of Agricultural Biochemistry corporateBody
associatedWith University of Minnesota. Division of Agricultural Biochemistry. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Minnesota. Division of Soils. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Minnesota. Institute of Technology corporateBody
associatedWith Willaman, J. J. (John James), 1889- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Soil chemistry
Solar radiation
Agricultural chemistry
Biochemistry
Chemistry, Organic
Colloids
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1885

Death 1942

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