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Herbert Tabor

  • Born: November 28, 1918, New York, New York

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0110
Interview Date: April 3, 1993
Location: National Insitutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 106
Sponsor: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

  Abstract of Interview

Herbert Tabor begins this interview with a discussion of his family and childhood. He grew up during the Depression in Manhattan, New York, and attended local public schools before becoming a student at City College in 1933. After spending two years at City College, he transferred to Harvard University, where he graduated with an A.B. in biochemical science in 1937. He earned his M.D. in 1941. While at Harvard, Tabor was influenced by several of his professors to pursue biochemistry rather than move into a clinical discipline. In 1942, Tabor began an internship at New Haven Hospital, where he was exposed to aspects of both clinical and biochemical medicine. After his internship at New Haven Hospital ended in 1943, Tabor entered the Public Health Service of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and worked closely with Dr. Sanford M. Rosenthal, then head of pharmacology at the NIH. Tabor and Dr. Rosenthal studied electrolyte changes in burns and shock and determined how to treat burn and shock victims using saline instead of plasma. This research proved extremely important during World War II, when there was little or no plasma available. While with the Public Health Service, Tabor was assigned to be a medical officer of one of the U.S. Coast Guard cutters. He made three round trips to Scotland and North Africa providing medical care. In 1961, Tabor joined the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC). Later, he advanced to associate editor before becoming editor in chief in 1971, a position he still holds today. While with the JBC, Tabor developed the Minireview Compendium, which is a yearly compilation of all short reviews published in the JBC for a particular year. Tabor discusses the importance of computer technology in advancing the usage and availability of the JBC in today's world. Tabor concludes the interview with a discussion on the future of the JBC and electronic journal availability.


1937 A.B., Biochemical Sciences, Harvard University
1941 M.D. Harvard University

  Professional Experience

Harvard University

1941 - 1942 Researcher, Department of Biological Chemistry

Yale Medical School

1942 - 1943 Intern in medicine, New Haven Hospital

United States Public Health Service

1943 - 1983 Commissioned Officer

United States Public Health Service

1943 - 1943 U.S. Marine Hospital and U.S. Coast Guard

National Institutes of Health

1943 - 1943 Staff Member, Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

National Institutes of Health

1962 - Present Chief, Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Journal of Biological Chemistry

1961 - 1966 Editorial Board

Journal of Biological Chemistry

1968 - 1971 Associate editor

Journal of Biological Chemistry

1971 - Present Editor in Chief


1956 Ninth Annual Arthur S. Flemming Award
1970 Meritorious Service Medal, U.S. Public Health Service
1971 Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1977 Member, National Academy of Science
1986 Co-recipient, Hillebrand Prize, American Chemical Society
1994 Co-recipient, Rose Award of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Family 1

Growing up in Manhattan, New York. Interest in science sparked by classic books. Attending high school. Post high school interest in science and medicine.

College and Graduate Education 5

Attending City College of New York. Meeting Arthur Kornberg. Effect of the Depression. Transferring to Harvard University. Anti-Semitism and discrimination. Senior thesis with Robert E. Johnson. Interest in biochemistry.

Harvard Medical School 16

Environment of the 1930s. Influence of A. Baird Hastings. Biochemistry. Physical Chemistry department. John T. Edsall. Enzymatic studies. Clinical medicine. Working in Dr. Hastings' lab.

1940s 26

Influence of World War II. Internship at New Haven Hospital. Working with Jim Hopper. Entrance into the U.S. Public Health Service. Serving on Coast Guard Cutter Duane. Origins of penicillin. Arthur Kornberg.

Career Beginnings 37

Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Motivation for career choice. Development of the NIH. Move to Bethesda, Maryland. Extramural program. Commissioned Officer system. Beginning shock and burn work with Sanford Rosenthal.

Research 45

Sanford Rosenthal. Study of hemorrhagic shock in mice. Experimental work with Arthur Kornberg. Explosion of biomedical sciences. Financial support for research. Development of spectrometer usage. Publishing results of research. Papers with Hastings, Rosenthal, Kornberg, and Ralph D. Lillie. Enzymology. Celia White Tabor. Spermine research.

Later Career 66

Becoming Chief of Laboratory of Biological Pharmacology. Directing laboratory work. Chromatography. Retiring from the Commissioned Corps. Function and direction of the NIH.

Journal of Biological Chemistry 73

Continuing work in laboratory. Function of the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC). Process for publication of manuscript. Minireview Compendium. History of JBC. Role of computers. Using CD-ROM version of JBC. Page charges. Quality of submissions.

Notes 91

Appendix 95

Index 99

  About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

James J. Bohning is professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he was a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and has presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was the foundation’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. He is currently a visiting research scientist and CESAR Fellow at Lehigh University. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.

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