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Ernest Lyman Scott Papers 1897-1966
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Biography

Biographical Note

Ernest Scott was born in Kinsman, OH, and received his B.S. from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1902. In 1911 he earned an M.S. from the University of Chicago, and then a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1914, where his dissertation included the development of the Standard Blood Test for Diabetes. Scott is best known for his early research on isolating insulin from the pancreas for treating diabetes.

Scott left the University of Chicago to teach at the University of Kansas, but soon left for a teaching post at Columbia in 1912, where he remained until his retirement in 1942. During World War I, Scott served as a major in the Sanitary Corps of the American Expeditionary Force, stationed in France. After retiring from Columbia, Scott began a second career as a horticulturist, establishing the National Chrysanthemum Society in 1944.

It was during his graduate research at the University of Chicago where he was the first to successfully separate a substance from the pancreas that aided carbohydrate metabolism. Scott came to the lab of Anton Carlson, hoping to focus his research on diabetes after a close friend died of the disease. Left to his own devices in the lab, he was doing experiments on dogs that had had their pancreas removed or tied off. When the Diener (a German word for laboratory assistant-animal-attendant employee of the university) quit because of the constant presence flies, sticky urine puddles, and the general uncleanly state of the dogs used for Scott's experiments, Scott came to realize that the flies were attracted to high concentrations of sugar in the urine. Scott's experiments showed that dogs whose pancreas was removed had high levels of sugar in their blood. He then isolated internal secretions from the removed pancreatins and injected the dogs, causing blood sugar levels to drop in half.

Controversy over his discovery started when Scott left for Kansas, leaving behind his thesis for Carlson to publish for him. The thesis appeared in the 1912 American Journal of Physiology with edits made to the original thesis that discounted Scott's discoveries. It was not until 1922 that Frederick Banting, using Scott's theretofore little-known article, reproduced Scott's experiments more fully and identified insulin as the active internal pancreatic secretion. Banting credited Scott's previous work in his landmark article and later won the 1923 Nobel Prize for solving the problem of diabetes. Controversy remained, however, over Carlson's alleged tampering of Scott's original thesis, as well as his lack of support for Scott's pioneering work that ultimately won a Nobel Prize.