Wilbur Atwater

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Atwater, Wilbur


Born May 3, 1844, in Johnsburg, N.Y.; died Sept. 22, 1907, in Middletown, Conn. American physiologist.

From 1869 to 1871, Atwater studied chemistry and physiology in Berlin and Leipzig. He became a professor at Wesleyan University in Middletown in 1873. In 1875 he organized in Middle-town the first agricultural experiment station in the USA, and in 1888 he became head of the Office of Experiment Stations of the US Department of Agriculture.

In 1887, Atwater worked in Munich in the laboratory of the German physiologist C. von Voit, where he studied problems of calorimetry. His principal works were on the physiology of nutrition, metabolism, and energy. Between 1891 and 1897 he collaborated with the American physicist E. Rosa in developing a respiration calorimeter, which was later named for them. While studying the relationship in humans between heat transfer and the caloric value of the nutrient matter assimilated, Atwater and his pupil the American physiologist and biochemist F. Benedict obtained extremely accurate data that made it possible to establish the applicability of the law of conservation of energy to the human body.


“Neue Versuche über Stoff- und Kraftwechsel im menschlichen Körper.” Ergebnisse der Physiologie, 1904, sec. 1, pp. 497–622.


“W. O. Atwater.” British Medical Journal, 1907, vol. 2, p. 1108.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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MORE THAN 120 years ago, a scientist named Wilbur Atwater launched what would become an enduring dieting trend: He started meticulously counting calories.
The body doesn't absorb all calories The reason we can't always rely on a label's calorie count goes way back to the 1800s when American chemist, Wilbur Atwater, first devised the measuring system - food labels are still based on this.
Nineteenth-century nutrition scientists like Rubner and Max Pettenkoffer in Germany and Wilbur Atwater, Edward Rosa and Francis Benedict in the United States, who were inspired by the operations of mechanical technologies like steam engines, offer an explanation for the cultural transformation of the calorie from a unit of measuring heat to a unit of analyzing food, people and activities.