Barry Blackwell’s final reply to Hector Warnes’ final comment
Barry Blackwell: Thudichum: “Father of Neurochemistry”
Collated by Olaf Fjetland


         In defense of Thudichum and the patronym he justly deserves Hector Warnes rightly took me to task, as does Ed Shorter for failing to be more specific about the precise contributions Thudichum made to understanding the composition of the brain. I plead guilty to relying entirely on Drabkin’s 273-page biography in which this pre-eminent contemporary biochemist also fails to document the substances Thudichum identified and which Hector painstakingly names; cephalin, sphingomyelin, galactose, lactic acid and sphingosine. Drabkin cites the same source as Warnes (Thudichum 1896) but does not discuss it in detail.

       About phosphorous I do not yield so easily – why name a substance known to be present in the brain for centuries? Thudichum was averse to false claims of priority. In the preamble to my brief biography of Thudichum I relate the tale of how David Tower wrote his own monograph of Johann Hensing, attributing his identification of phosphorus to the year 1719 in a volume which received an Award of Distinguished History from a German University (Tower 1983). If indeed an alchemist named Henning Brand preceded Hensing in 1669 it is not ratified by a citation but may be yet another example of disputed priority in scientific discovery.

            So, we may have another controversy on our hands. Who is the “Great Grandfather of Neurochemistry” – Brand or Hensing?


March 22, 2018