2003 in the FSU Biological Science History project

2003 In the Department of Biological Science at Florida State University (updated 25 Apr 03)

     Back to Lloyd M. Beidler in memoriam page

LLOYD M. BEIDLER, 1922-2003

Dr. Lloyd M. Beidler, a long-time member of the Biological Science faculty, has been called "the father of taste physiology." He came to FSU in 1950, just as the university was making the transition to status as a major research institution, and his influence was strongly felt in our department's formation in 1956 from a collection of small teaching departments and its transformation into a major force in neuroscience research.

Lloyd's own research, which he described as focusing on "the physiology and biophysics of olfactory and gustatory systems, including regenerative properties, transduction, and their relationship to animal and human food intake," brought him many honors, of which a few were the American Physiological Society's Bowditch Lectureship for 1959; an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from his alma mater, Muhlenberg College (Allentown, PA) in 1969; FSU's Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professorship in 1971, and election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1974. The last two were both firsts for Biological Science. His presence at FSU served as a major recruiting tool and attracted many of our current and former neuroscience faculty to the department. Among other accomplishments, he was among the first to record currents directly from the nerves of the tongue, devised a standard method for integrating and representing the results of simultaneous recordings from many such nerves at a time, discovered that some taste buds are continually replaced in humans, and perhaps most important, learned that taste perception at the taste bud is a physical rather than a chemical process. Two years ago, our colleague Marc Freeman honored Dr. Beidler by becoming the Lloyd M. Beidler Professor of Biological Science.

Dr. Beidler also served on many editorial committees, helped to organize numerous scientific meetings and symposia, directed U.S. science exhibits at the Seattle World's Fair, and worked to counteract the "brain drain" from Florida universities to the biotechnology industry, but he is best known to the general public for his role in discovery and popularization of "miracle fruit" (Synsepalum dulcificum, Sapotaceae), a natural source of the compound that has since been developed and marketed as the artificial sweetener aspartame. Readers of the Tallahassee Democrat, though, may remember 1964 headlines about his successful study of taste discrimination thresholds in children. Such work was considered very difficult until Beidler designed (and Biological Science shop personnel built) a machine that dispensed nickels to test subjects as young as four who correctly chose the sweetest or the saltiest sample from an array of choices.

Perhaps his most tangible contribution to the Department of Biological Science came in the early 1960's, when he worked tirelessly to secure the funding that built Biology Unit I, for which ground was broken in 1965.

Dr. Beidler became a half-time University Service Professor in 1982 and retired from the university in 1993, but his enormous influence continues to be felt. For example, in 2001, Dr. Scott Herness, who earned his doctorate in Dr. Beidler's laboratory and is now on the faculty at Ohio State, returned to campus to receive FSU's annual Grad Made Good award. Dr. Herness is only one of the dozens of students, postdoctoral researchers, and visiting colleagues who today carry on the work that Dr. Beidler's pioneering research brought to prominence.

Compiled by Anne B. Thistle, August 2003

This page is part of the Departmental History Project of the Department of Biological Science at Florida State University. Can you help us fill in the blanks? If you were once a student here, or a member of our faculty or staff, we'd love to hear from you. Send an e-mail to thistle@bio.fsu.edu, a fax to (850) 644-9829, or snail-mail to Dr. Anne B. Thistle, Editor, Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1100. And thanks!