Updated: May 29, 2020
A pioneer in animal research and founder of the American Society of Animal Nutrition, Armsby is best known for building the world’s only respiration calorimeter for cattle research at Penn State in 1898.
1853-1921 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936)
Impact & Accomplishments
A pioneer of laboratory experimentation in animal research, Dr. Henry Prentiss Armsby elevated the field of feeding and nutrition to an advancing science in the United States. The Massachusetts-born Armsby did undergraduate work in chemistry at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Yale University and completed his doctorate at Yale.
After investigating digestion and metabolism at the Agricultural Research Station in Mochern, Germany, he joined the staff of the first Agricultural Research Station in the United States, in Connecticut. Dr. Armsby wrote the principal textbooks in the field, served as professor and dean of agriculture, and conducted groundbreaking research at the Agricultural Experiment Stations in Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
With USDA funding, Armsby modified the human nutrition work of Atwater, Benedict, and Rosa, building the world’s only respiration calorimeter for cattle research at Penn State in 1898. The apparatus, which measured heat, methane, and carbon dioxide produced by farm animals, is preserved in a museum to agriculture research today. The decades of work did not lead to a practical feeding standard, but rather to a more complete understanding of the complex factors of animal nutrition, digestion, and the utilization of feeds.
Dr. Armsby additionally held the positions of director of the Institute of Animal Nutrition, president of the Society for the Promotion of Agricultural Science, and founder/president of the American Society of Animal Nutrition.
He was awarded numerous honorary doctorates, honors from European scientific organizations, membership in the National Academy of Science, and was inducted into the Saddle & Sirloin Club upon his death.
Did You Know?
"He was a thinker. . . . He would sit with his feet to the fire, not drowsing or dreaming, but thinking hard, and then he would go to his desk and write awhile, and then come back to think." - close friend E. H. Jenkins about Armsby
A researcher performing an experiment on animal nutrition using the Armsby Respiration Calorimeter in the early 1900s. In 1969 the calorimeter was converted to a museum, and in 1979 was named to the National Register of Historic Places. Photo credit: Penn State University Archives