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An American Physiologist Abroad - continued...

The war had affected physiology in other ways as well. When Benedict took his third European tour in 1913, his last before the war, the Carnegie Nutrition Laboratory was well established in the international arena, and Benedict visited the European labs as one with equal standing. Although the Nutrition Laboratory was affected to some degree by the wartime conditions, the affect was comparatively minor. Research continued, apparatus were built and perfected. In Europe, in contrast, most research had come to a halt or was directed to areas directly relevant to the war, such as reaction times or food substitutes. Physiologists had been recruited as physicians, laboratories had been turned into hospitals and instruments had been dismantled for their raw materials. Much of the financial and material infrastructure of European physiology had been destroyed. Broken equipment and out-dated apparatus could not be replaced, new equipment could not be purchased, and many labs could not even afford journal subscriptions to at least keep abreast of research developments. In post-war Germany, inflation meant that nutrition researchers could not afford to feed themselves, let alone invest in food for research, and dogs were needed for protection, not experiments.

When Benedict returned to Europe after the war, he considered himself both a “scientific diplomat” and an “emissary of knowledge”. The Carnegie Nutrition Laboratory had emerged from the war as the internationally dominant laboratory in metabolism research, and with it, its apparatus, techniques and methods. Much had changed since Benedict’s apprenticeship visit of 1907, and travel to Europe was no longer a necessity for an American physiologist. As he concluded in 1929, “one of the deciding factors in taking up another tour to Europe would be not what the Nutrition Laboratory would receive but what the Nutrition Laboratory could give,” (Benedict, vol. 6, 1929, p. 306-7). Throughout the 1920s it exported and donated instruments, apparatus, publications, funds and lectures on the latest American research; Benedict personally intervened in foreign science policy by writing letters to European governments in support of specific labs and researchers, and he continued to invite European physiologists to the Carnegie Nutritional Laboratory, where they could learn to use the new techniques and apparatus that had been tested and perfected in Boston in the years that had been lost to European nutrition physiology.

Reference: Elizabeth Neswald. 2010. An American Physiologist Abroad: Francis Gano Benedict’s European Tours. The Virtual Laboratory (ISSN 1866-4784),