Herter Lecture Series

See a complete list of the Herter lecturers, the year and the title of their lecture(s), beginning with the most recent.

Christian Archibald Herter was born in Glenville, Connecticut in 1865. His father, also Christian Herter, was a notable and wealthy artist and interior designer, head of the Herter Brothers. He was privately educated and began his medical degree at the early age of 15. By the age of 18, he had received an MD from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. He studied pathology under William H. Welch at Johns Hopkins University and traveled to Zurich to study under Auguste-Henri Forel.

Herter initially practiced mainly neurological medicine in New York City. His experience was captured in The Diagnosis of Diseases of the Nervous System, a manual he wrote for "students and practitioners" in 1892. Herter's interest in laboratory medicine led him to relinquish his medical practice and build a laboratory in the fourth floor of his house on 819 Madison Avenue. In 1897, he was appointed professor of Pathological Chemistry at University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College. His lectures were published in 1902.

He was commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) to examine the possible effects of sodium benzoate in its use in food preservatives and from the investigation concluded that it was perfectly safe. Herter returned to his alma mater in 1903 as Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics. It was during this time that he researched diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. His work on celiac disease, which he called "intestinal infantilism", led to the eponym Gee-Herter disease. His important contribution was to highlight the retarded growth of affected children. Herter's theory as to the cause - that it was due to overgrowth and persistence of gram-positive bacterial flora normally belonging to the nursling period - failed to gain acceptance. However, he did correctly identify that any "attempt to encourage growth by the use of increased amounts of carbohydrates" led to relapse. This would later be discovered to be due to the gluten content of wheat.

In 1905, along with John Jacob Abel, he co-founded and edited the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Herter financed the loss-making journal until his death, whereupon a fund was created in his memory to support it. Herter was instrumental in establishing the New York Harvey Society and was an initial trustee of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now the Rockefeller University). Herter married Susan Dows in 1885. He died aged 45 of a neurological wasting disease, possibly myasthenia gravis. Henry Drysdale, who had worked in Herter's lab since 1905, married Herter's widow in 1916. They moved the house and laboratory to Scarsdale, New York and continued Herter's unfinished research.

In 1903 Herter established this Lectureship as a memorial to his second son Albert, who died the previous year at the age of 2 years; Herter also established a similar Lectureship at the Johns Hopkins Medical School. Including the original lecture in 1904, given by W.D. Halliburton, there have been 96 Christian A. Herter Lecturers at the New York University School of Medicine, under the auspices of the Department of Biochemsitry.