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Oral history interview with Herbert Tabor

  • 1993-Apr-03

Oral history interview with Herbert Tabor

  • 1993-Apr-03

Herbert Tabor begins this interview with a discussion of his family and childhood. He grew up during the Depression in Manhattan, New York, and attended local public schools before becoming a student at City College in 1933. After spending two years at City College, he transferred to Harvard University, where he graduated with an AB in biochemical science in 1937. He earned his MD in 1941. While at Harvard, Tabor was influenced by several of his professors to pursue biochemistry rather than move into a clinical discipline. In 1942, Tabor began an internship at New Haven Hospital, where he was exposed to aspects of both clinical and biochemical medicine.

After his internship at New Haven Hospital ended in 1943, Tabor entered the Public Health Service of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and worked closely with Dr. Sanford M. Rosenthal, then head of pharmacology at the NIH. Tabor and Dr. Rosenthal studied electrolyte changes in burns and shock and determined how to treat burn and shock victims using saline instead of plasma. This research proved extremely important during World War II, when there was little or no plasma available. While with the Public Health Service, Tabor was assigned to be a medical officer of one of the US Coast Guard cutters. He made three round trips to Scotland and North Africa providing medical care. In 1961, Tabor joined the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC). Later, he advanced to associate editor before becoming editor in chief in 1971, a position he still holds today. While with the JBC, Tabor developed the Minireview Compendium, which is a yearly compilation of all short reviews published in the JBC for a particular year. Tabor discusses the importance of computer technology in advancing the usage and availability of the JBC in today's world. Tabor concludes the interview with a discussion on the future of the JBC and electronic journal availability.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 106 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning was professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he had been a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was CHF’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.  Bohning passed away in September 2011.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0110

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • November 28, 1918
  • New York , New York, United States
  • August 20, 2020
  • Bethesda, Maryland, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1937 Harvard University AB Biochemical Sciences
1941 Harvard University MD

Professional Experience

Harvard University

  • 1941 to 1942 Researcher, Department of Biological Chemistry

Yale University. School of Medicine

  • 1942 to 1943 Intern in medicince, New Haven Hospital

United States. Food and Drug Administration

  • 1943 to 1983 Commissioned Officer
  • 1943 US Marine Hospital and US Coast Guard

National Institutes of Health (U.S.)

  • 1943 Staff Member, Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  • 1962 to 2017 Chief, Laboratory of Biochemial Pharmacology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Journal of Biological Chemistry

  • 1961 to 1966 Editorial Board
  • 1968 to 1971 Associate Editor
  • 1971 to 2005 Editor-in-Chief


Year(s) Award
1956 Ninth Annual Arthur S. Flemming Award
1970 Meritorious Service Medal, US Public Health Service
1971 Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1977 Member, National Academy of Science
1986 Co-recipient, Hillebrand Prize, American Chemical Society
1994 Co-recipient, Rose Award of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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PDF — 729 KB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

15 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads