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Lester J. Reed Professorship in Biochemistry

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Lester J. Reed, Ph.D.
Lester J. Reed, Ph.D.

The Lester J. Reed Professorship in Biochemistry was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System on August 25, 1997, for the benefit of the College of Natural Sciences. Gift funds were provided by Ms. Janet G. Reed of Austin, Texas. The endowment honors Lester J. Reed, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas.

Lester Reed discovered his lifetime interest in science when he was a teenager at Tulane University in his home town of New Orleans. Since then science has been his life.

Lester came to The University of Texas at Austin from a post-doctorate post at Cornell Medical School with Dr. Vincent Du Vigneaud, who won the Nobel Prize shortly after Lester arrived at UT. Starting in the Chemistry Department at the age of 23, Lester joined Drs. Roger Williams, William Shive, and Robert Eakin in the Clayton Foundation Biochemical Institute. As an excellent researcher and teacher of biochemistry, Lester soon became a full professor. His research led to the isolation, crystallization, identification, and naming of lipoic acid, as well as establishing lipoic acid’s biological function as a vitamin-like enzyme co-factor necessary for human life.

In his early years at UT, Lester arrived at his laboratory by 8:00 in the morning and came home between 5:00 and 6:00 for dinner with his family. He returned to the laboratory after dinner and came home again at 10:00 p.m. For many years he maintained this research schedule for seven days a week. His family joked that the children liked Christmas because daddy never worked on Christmas. Lester’s dedication to his research made him the outstanding scientist he became. His entire family is proud of him and his scientific accomplishments.

The Lester J. Reed Professorship in Biochemistry was funded by Lester’s wife with the enthusiastic endorsement of his children. The endowment is a creation of love to honor Lester as a wonderful husband, father, and scientist.

Lester and Janet Reed were married in New York in 1948 and moved to Austin, when Lester joined the faculty of The University of Texas. The couple has been married for over 60 years and raised four wonderful children, two sons and two daughters. Because Lester was invited to give seminars and lectures around the world, he and Janet had many opportunities to visit parts of the world they always wanted to see. In later years they traveled together to all continents and have experienced life in many countries. Lester taught post-doctoral students from Japan, China, South Korea, Germany, Scotland, and England. This collaboration gave the Reeds an invaluable opportunity to host these students many times in their home, getting to know the students and their cultures.

As a scientist Lester had many doctoral as well as post-doctoral students. His impact on the lives of these young scientists is judged by what they have accomplished in their home countries or in the United States. His scientific impact on the world is further shown by his election to membership in the prestigious National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as membership in many scientific organizations. Lester authored, co-authored, or collaborated on many scientific articles, which have been published in numerous scientific journals. Throughout his career he received many honors such as an honorary doctorate from Tulane University, honorary membership in the Vitamin Society of Japan, the Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry in 1958, and the Merck Award in 1994. In 1999, after 51 years as a teacher, researcher, and director of the Biochemical Institute, Lester retired as a professor emeritus of chemistry and biochemistry.

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