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Biographical Memoirs, Volume 85
EDWIN THEODORE MERTZ
December 6, 1909–February 1, 1999
BY JOHN E. HALVER
ED MERTZ WAS A professor emeritus in biochemistry at Purdue University and a member of Section 61 (Animal, Nutritional, and Applied Microbial Sciences) of the National Academy of Sciences. He is best remembered for codiscovering high-lysine corn, which dramatically increased available protein levels in the typical Central American corn and beans diet. He also developed the test for phenylketoneuria in newborn humans. He also coproduced a method to quickly and simply isolate pure native plasminogen from the plasma of practically any species. This is used to dissolve blood clots.
He was born on December 6, 1909, in Missoula, Montana, the son of a Lutheran minister, who was also a school-teacher. His grandfather and an uncle were also Lutheran ministers. Both of Ed’s parents were of German descent and spoke both German and English fluently. They were determined to stay in a university town so that their five children (Richard, Edwin, Art, Hildy, and Ethyl) could obtain an advanced education. Music was also important to them, and all five children were given piano lessons. Ed had piano lessons from ages 8 to 18 and excelled musically. The family had limited financial resources, as was typical of many families