The Biochemical Dining Club 1911 - 1913

The Biochemical Club/The Biochemical Dining Club was founded in 1911. Its founding was a result of several factors. Firstly, London medical schools had recently increased or were about to increase the staff of their physiological departments.

Secondly, holders of these new posts from across the UK were actively engaged in research and were presenting papers to the Physiological Society. Their papers were mainly devoted to physiological chemistry as opposed to physiology. Although their work was kept separate at international Congresses, the new Biochemists were warmly welcomed amongst the physiologists. Many other branches of workers were interested in Biochemistry such as brewers, agriculturalists and pathologists.

Thirdly, numerous chairs of Biochemistry already existed in other European countries and also the U.S.. Germany was particularly far advanced in Biochemistry by 1911, with the publication of Hoppe-Seyler’s three journals of Physiological Chemistry in 1877 titled Zeitschrift für physiologische Chemie. Likewise, with Hofmeister’s publication of Beiträge in 1901 and Biochemische Zeitschrift in 1906. The U.S. had also published the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 1905.

As such, it was deemed necessary to advance the status of Biochemistry in Britain to ensure that its progression remained the same as that of other countries. In January 1911, a postcard was sent out to over fifty friends and colleagues by biochemists John A. Gardner and R.H.A. Plimmer, inviting them to attend a meeting at the Institute of Physiology, University College London later that month. At the meeting it was proposed that a club/society be established to enable biologists and chemists who are both interested in the investigation of the problems common to biologists and chemists to associate. It became known as the Biochemical Club and followed the Physiological Society through simple organisation and the adoption of similar rules. Initially the Club primarily revolved around informal discussion and dining. Meetings took place between 1911-12 at various laboratories and were then followed by dinner at a range of establishments.

It was decided that, in order to improve its status, the Club would need to possess its own journal. The Biochemical Journal was already in existence; edited by Professors Moore (an active member and supporter of the Biochemical Club) and Whitley at the University of Liverpool. It was proposed that the Journal would remain under the editorship of Moore with the collaboration of the Biochemical Club committee, although the Club Committee did not want to act as collaborators but wanted a publicised journal of its own. After much deliberation, the Club became complete and could then move away from its status as an informal club through the attainment of its own journal c. 1912-13, thus becoming known as the Biochemical Society. The Society now has around 7,000 members and is also associated with the Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS).