Graham Lusk was a leading American nutrition scientist during the first three decades of the 20th century, most of the time as a professor of physiology at the Cornell University Medical College in New York City.Profoundly influenced by his graduate education abroad under the leading German scientists, Lusk worked to put nutrition on a firm scientific foundation in the United States. His “The Elements of the Science of Nutrition,” first published in 1906, was an important textbook of the day.
Lusk’s own research concerned the phenomena of specific dynamic action, the sharply increased metabolism and heat production during the first few hours after eating protein, and metabolism as measured in calorimeters. At Cornell, Lusk had a small calorimeter where he could study dogs and sleeping children. When he became scientific director of the Russell Sage Institute of Pathology in 1912, he had a larger calorimeter built where he could study the metabolism of a variety of adult humans, including those of different ages, those suffering different illnesses, a dwarf, and a one-legged man.
Lusk helped found the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, which still exists, and the Harvey Society to forge a closer relationship between science and medicine. The Harvey Society continues to host monthly seminars by leading researchers. Lusk died at age 66 after an operation a few weeks following his retirement.