Dean Carl L. A. Schmidt


Dean, 1937–1944

Carl Louis August Schmidt was born in 1885 in South Dakota and moved to St. Helena, California with his family as a young child. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) in 1908 with a BS in chemistry, publishing four articles while still an undergraduate. After three years of researching the toxicity of sulfite aluminum and copper in food preservation, he studied bacteriology at UCB. In 1913 he was appointed chemist, bacteriologist, and food inspector for the City of Berkeley. He completed his PhD, a study of immunological properties of proteins, in 1916.

He advanced to professor and chair of the UCB Department of Biochemistry and divided his time between Berkeley and San Francisco after being named dean in 1937 of what was then called the California College of Pharmacy of the Affiliated Colleges of the University of California, in San Francisco. He continued to pursue his academic interests in immunology, bile and liver function, and the physical chemistry of amino acids and proteins.

As part of his legacy, Schmidt elevated the requirements for admission to and graduation from pharmacy school, which had recently become a four-year BS program. He strengthened the curriculum by developing a closer connection between the basic sciences and the professional courses, adding a plant physiologist, biochemist, physical chemist, and biophysicist to the teaching staff for the contributions they could make to pharmacy education. He introduced strong courses in physical chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, and public health. For the first time, largely as a result of his support of the sciences, the faculty began to receive private and government research grants as well as grants from the University Research Board.

He also was instrumental in establishing the PhD Graduate Program in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at UCB in 1939, a program that later migrated west to the San Francisco campus in 1958.

Schmidt recruited Troy C. Daniels to the faculty and named him assistant dean. Together they developed such courses as organic and physical chemistry, physics, and plant physiology. He mentored 20 PhD students and edited The Chemistry of Amino Acids and Proteins, co-wrote the textbook The Fundamentals of Biochemistry, and published nearly 200 journal articles. Some of his publications are still in print.

In addition to being a prolific writer and editor, Schmidt served in 1938 as dean of the Medical Department of the Affiliated Colleges and on the advisory board of the College of Dentistry. In the 1930s he inaugurated an annual meeting of biochemists on the Pacific Coast; this meeting developed into the Pacific Coast Section of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine. He was recognized as a prominent member of a number of Pacific Coast and national biochemical communities.

He died in 1946, after 28 years of service to the Berkeley and San Francisco campuses of the University of California. His dedication to scientific discovery and an acknowledgement of its breakneck progress is reflected in his statement, “It is the fate of every book which deals with subjects that are as active as those of the amino acids and proteins, that it does not represent the status of the subject on the day of publication.”

Sources: “A History of UCSF,” UCSF Library. Introduction: the Chemistry of Amino Acids and Proteins, Addendum, 1943.