Courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science Administrative Archives
Herman Augustus Spoehr was born on June 18, 1885, in Chicago, Illinois. He received his Ph.D. (1909) at the University of Chicago. His two passions were carbohydrate chemistry and plant physiology, a previously uncommon combination that led to many discoveries in photosynthesis research. In 1910, Spoehr became a chemical plant physiologist at the Desert Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science where he characterized the carbohydrates involved in photosynthesis. At the time, photosynthesis research was not of interest in botany, and Spoehr was the first American to study the process. He published a book, titled “Photosynthesis”, which contained a complete account of what was known on the subject at the time. In 1928, Spoehr became the first Director of Carnegie Institution for Science’s newly created Department of Plant Biology in Stanford, California. He remained Director until 1947, three years before his retirement. Herman Spoehr revolutionized the field of photosynthesis research and plant biochemistry, and his works influenced generations of biologists after him.