Henry Drysdale Dakin

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Henry Drysdale Dakin
Born12 March 1880
London, England
Died10 February 1952(1952-02-10) (aged 71)
Scarsdale, New York, United States
ResidenceFlag of England.svg England
NationalityFlag of England.svg English
Alma materUniversity of Leeds
Known forCarrel-Dakin method,
Dakin reaction,
Dakin-West reaction
AwardsDavy Medal (1941)
Fellow of the Royal Society[1]
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Leeds,
University of Heidelberg,
Columbia University
Doctoral advisorJulius B. Cohen,
Albrecht Kossel

Henry Drysdale Dakin FRS[1] (12 March 1880 – 10 February 1952) was an English chemist.[2]

He was born in London as the youngest of 8 children to a family of steel merchants from Leeds. As a school boy he did water analysis with the Leeds City Analyst. He studied chemistry at the University of Leeds with Julius B. Cohen and after he worked with Albrecht Kossel on arginase at the University of Heidelberg he joined Columbia University in 1905, working in the lab of Christian Herter. During his work on amino acids he obtained his PhD from Leeds.[3][4][5][6][7] In 1905, he was one of the first scientists to successfully synthesise adrenaline in the laboratory (see: History of catecholamine research).

In 1914 he went back to England to offer his service with the war effort. Due to a request for a chemist by Alexis Carrel to the Rockefeller Institute, Dakin joined Carrel in 1916 at a temporary hospital in Compiègne. There they developed the Carrel–Dakin method of wound treatments. This consisted of intermittently irrigating the wound with Dakin's solution, a dilute solution of sodium hypochlorite (the active ingredient in common liquid bleach products) and boric acid. In the process, he analyzed more than 200 candidate substances, and developed quantitative methods to evaluate their effectiveness for disinfection and wound healing. The solution is still widely used for that purpose, as of 2013.[8]

After he married the widow of Christian Herter in 1916, he worked in his private laboratory in Scarsdale, New York and had several close collaborations with other scientists. His main working fields were amino acids and enzymes. The extraction of amino acids from hydrolyzed peptides by butanol was invented by him. He also was interested in organic chemistry and synthesis, and devised the Dakin reaction and the Dakin–West reaction.

He died shortly after the death of his wife in early 1952.

In popular culture[edit]

Experiments with the Carrel-Dakin method were depicted in the 2014 BBC miniseries, The Crimson Field.


  1. ^ a b Hartley, Percival (1952). "Henry Drysdale Dakin. 1880-1952". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 8 (21): 128–148. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1952.0009. JSTOR 768804.
  2. ^ Rezayat, C.; Widmann, W. D.; Hardy, M. A. (2006). "Henry Drysdale Dakin: More Than His Solution". Current Surgery. 63 (3): 194–196. doi:10.1016/j.cursur.2006.04.009. PMID 16757372.
  3. ^ Dean, R. T. (1999). "Henry Drysdale Dakin (1880-1952): Early studies on radical and 2-electron oxidation of amino acids, proteins and fatty acids". Redox report : communications in free radical research. 4 (5): 189–194. doi:10.1179/135100099101534909. PMID 10731093.
  4. ^ "Classic articles in colonic and rectal surgery. Henry Drysdale Dakin 1880-1952. On the use of certain antiseptic substances in the treatment of infected wounds". Diseases of the Colon and Rectum. 26 (5): 354–358. 1983. doi:10.1007/bf02561720. PMID 6360592.
  5. ^ Hawthorne Jr, R. M. (1983). "Henry Drysdale Dakin, biochemist (1880-1952): The option of obscurity". Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. 26 (4): 553–566. doi:10.1353/pbm.1983.0023. PMID 6353350.
  6. ^ Clarke, H. T. (1952). "Henry Drysdale Dakin, 1880-1952". The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 198 (2): 491–494. doi:10.1039/jr9520003319. PMID 12999763.
  7. ^ Anon (1952). "Henry Drysdale Dakin". Lancet. 1 (6704): 426. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(52)90046-9. PMID 14898761.
  8. ^ Jeffrey M. Levine (2013): "Dakin’s Solution: Past, Present, and Future". Advances in Skin & Wound Care: The Journal for Prevention and Healing, volume 26, issue 9, pages 410–414.

External links[edit]