Wilbur O. Atwater’s final sad years

The founding father of American nutritional science, Wilbur O. Atwater, 60, suffered an incapacitating stroke in late 1904 in Washington, DC. His wife Marcia took him to Philadelphia to consult a specialist, but little could be done for him. Eventually, Atwater moved back to his home in Middletown, Connecticut, where he remained bedridden for the remaining three years of his life. His obituary in the New York Tribune reported that he had been “practically helpless” since the stroke.

His daughter Helen, who worked with her father on his calorimetry research, spoke of “the agonizing days when for three years she sat outside her father’s bedroom door making up stories about his experiments at the laboratory to assure him that all was going well,” according to Atwater’s daughter, Catherine Atwater Galbraith (1913-2008).

After her father’s death in 1907,  Helen W. Atwater (1876-1947) moved back to Washington to work in the scientific division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Home Economics. She later was editor of the Journal of Home Economics.

From Atwater’s obituary in the New York Tribune September 23, 1907: “Professor Wilbur O. Atwater, head of the department of chemistry at Wesleyan University, and famous for his experiments with the calorimeter, died tonight, after an illness of two years. He suffered a stroke of apoplexy two years ago, and had been practically helpless ever since.”

Atwater obituary

 

Reference: Catherine Atwater Galbraith: Wilbur Olin Atwater. J Nutr 124: 1715S-1717S. (full-text)

 

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