Biochemistry as a field of concentration should be viewed with caution by those interested in science. Although the subject is a definite science in itself, at Harvard the staff and facilities are so limited that, while the Department covers a wide range of subject matter, most of its material is useful only to the pre-medical students.
In showing the relationship between physical and biological factors in medicine, the Division gives an excellent preparation for medical work, and some schools recommend the field on principle for their candidates. But it is not generally required, and most schools are glad to take men who have majored in the humanities and picked up their science on the side. Because of the divergent and variegated nature of the topics studies, if a student falls of admission to a medical school, he then lacks the ground work needed to go on in either Biology or Chemistry alone, unless from, the start he chooses his courses for advanced work in either research department. Thus, except in unusual cases, the usefulness of the field is limited to those who intend to take up medicine as their life work.
The main difficulties experience in the field come form the lack of correlation between the various chemical and biological aspects of the subject. With only one half course in Biochemistry proper and that considered inadequate, all other courses are supplied by the Chemistry and Biology Departments proper, and that considered inadequate, all other courses are supplied by the Chemistry and Biology Departments This latitude of courses means that the tutorial work must pull the field together, and despite the recent efforts of Professors Edsall and Ferry to make the field a more closely knit body, many of the tutors and most of the concentrators still find it hard to make the subject matter a cohesive unit. The lack of a biochemistry laboratory, leaving all "lab" work to be done in the Chemistry and Biology Divisions, further aggravates this situation.
Since the parent departments control the courses, only the tutors can be discussed separately. (An estimate of professors and courses will be found in the articles on Chemistry and Biology). Despite natural human variation, most tutors are considered competent, if not excellent. Because the field is difficult to cover, tutorial work takes on particular importance, and though some tutors are not sufficiently at home in the field to know what must be stressed and what passed over, the average concentrator finds himself well enough prepared for divisionals.
Chem 1b is the only biochemistry course in college, and those in both Chemistry and Biochemistry find in unsatisfactory and inadequate. Professor Henderson's digressions on philosophy and scientific method, however interesting in themselves, prevent a thorough treatment of the subject and leave gaps which instructors and guest lecturers cannot fill. With no one to give the "biochem" course in the Division of Biology (Biology 4), biochemists feel a strong need for courses in their won field. Furthermore, the laboratory work which is essential to any experimental science, comes under the different departments, thus giving no chance for coordination of "lab" experiments. Many tutors and instructors have their "labs" in the Medical School.
Theses for honors must be either original "lab" experiments or "library" theses. The latter are not highly respected by the Department, while the pressure of "lab" problems accentuates the need for a laboratory designed for biochemists and not for the parent divisions.
But despite its many drawbacks, concentrators are satisfied that the field is worthwhile for medicine, and that if develops a good scientific technique. The comparative youth of the field, its wide scope, its lack of departmental unity, and its need for courses and "labs" of its own are problems which must be tackled in the coming years, but the ability of its present directors augurs well for the future. To the pre-medical student it gives a thorough background for his later work.
Summary of concentrators comments on men in the Biochemistry Department: Edsall--good director, inspiring tutor. Henderson--superb lecturer on philosophy and method, but he does not cover his field. Detached, uninterested in students, unavailable. Greenstein--good lecturer and organizer, clear and understandable when lecturing in Chem 15, Junes--good scientist, fair tutor, not very interested in tutees. Ferry--superb tutor, available and inspiring, Ritchings good scientist, fair tutor Danielson and Forter fair scientists not enthusiastic tutors. Forbes, Keys and Morisou good tutors