Thursday 18 March 2010

Too many Cooks?

Recent articles in the newspapers have reminded us of the lengths some of our staff members have gone to in their quest to make an impact on the world of research. Debates about cholesterol, and the impact of eggs on cholesterol levels, called to mind the efforts of a Dundee pioneer in this field that are documented in the archives.

The papers of Professor Robert Percival Cook, the biochemist, refer to his investigations into cholesterol more than fifty years ago. Professor Cook had a lifelong fascination with nutrition and metabolism. His papers cover 1926 to 1973 and the articles include ‘Nutritive values of wartime foods’, ‘Riboflavin Deficiency in the Cebus Monkey and its Diagnosis' and ‘Vitamin Therapy Its Uses and Limitations'.

Cook came to Dundee from Australia in 1940 as Lecturer in Biochemistry at the Department of Physiology and Biochemistry. From an early period his ambition was to establish an independent department of Biochemistry, something he achieved in spite of much opposition in 1965.

He became an international authority on cholesterol, editing a definitive book and pursuing widely quoted research. His commitment was such that he carried out much of his research on himself. He would, for example, ask his wife to prepare omelettes made with twelve eggs, he would then eat them and measure the effect that this had on the composition of his blood. It is hoped that recent research, questioning the impact of egg consumption, has not forgotten his efforts!

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