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Hammond, Earl Gullette

Published onAug 18, 2021
Hammond, Earl Gullette

(November 21, 1926 - May 10, 2017)

Quick Facts

A lipid chemist, Earl Hammond spent 50 years in Dairy Science as a faculty member known for his work with soybeans and soybean oil and his developments for cheese-making processes.


Earl Hammond was born in Terrell, Texas in 1926, receiving his BS (1948) from the University of Texas in chemistry, and his MA (1950) in biochemistry and PhD (1953) in agricultural biochemistry from the University of Minnesota. Hammond began his professional career at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) as an Assistant Professor (1953-1959) in what is now known as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He was promoted to Associate Professor (1959-1966) and Professor (1966-2003), and earned the title of University Professor in 1997. When he began his ISU career, the department he entered was named the Department of Dairy Industry, the name still carved in the stone surface of the building where he worked and maintained his laboratory during his long career at ISU. That building is currently named the Food Sciences Building. The department underwent name changes and mergers through the years. By the time he served as Department Head from 1985 to 1990, his unit was called The Department of Food Technology. In 1990, that department merged with the Department of Food and Nutrition, administered by the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, to become the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, which continues to be jointly administered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Human Sciences.

Although Hammond officially retired in 2003, after 50 years of service as a faculty member, he actively continued his research work on a regular basis, also maintaining a research laboratory for a number of years following retirement, but reducing his “work” to just three days a week. He often said his only hobby was science. Hammond is most noted for his work as a lipid chemist. He was internationally known for his work with plant breeders to develop soybeans with reduced percentages of linolenic acid and increased percentages of palmitic acid to enhance the shelf-life and flavor stability of soybean oil, thus improving its quality as an edible oil as well as the economics of the soybean industry and its ability to compete with other sources of food oils. Hammond also was known for his work with dairy products, mostly studying the impacts of the dairy fat on cheese production and flavor quality. He devised new processes for making cheeses, with his favorite being Swiss cheese. Other impactful work included studies on the determination and control of hog confinement odor, glyceride structure, and lipid oxidation.

Hammond holds patents for cheese-making processes, and for soybean lines with reduced percentages of linolenic acid and increased percentages of palmitic acid. As of 2002, he had published over 207 peer-reviewed manuscripts in scientific research journals, plus 30 patents. That number of publications continued to increase during his retirement.

Hammond was a member of Sigma Xi, Phi Lambda Upsilon, and Gamma Sigma Delta. He was an active member of the American Oil Chemists’ Society and the American Dairy Science Society, where he regularly presented scientific papers at annual meetings. He also was a member of the American Chemical Society and the Iowa Academy of Sciences. He received many distinguished awards during his career, including the Pfizer Award from the American Dairy Science Association and the Steven S. Chang Award and appointment as fellow from the American Oil Chemists’ Society. In 1991, he and his co-worker, Walter Fehr, earned coveted recognition by the Research and Development Magazine for “Top Basic Research Accomplishments having Practical Significance” for their work in modifying soybean oil fatty acid composition.

Hammond attended many international scientific meetings, establishing important ties with researchers around the world. In 1972, he served as a visiting scientist/professor in the Department of Chemistry at St. Andrews University in Scotland, working with the world-famous lipid chemist, Professor Frank Gunstone. That tight relationship continued throughout both their professional careers. Hammond earned The Honorary Medal of the University of Agriculture and Technology, Olsztyn, Poland, in 1986, followed by the Doctoris Honoris Causa, in 1990, as results of impactful collaborations with scientists from that university. He also traveled to Turkey and hosted many visiting scientists from Turkey at Iowa State.

Hammond’s love of science was very clear to all who knew him. As a professor, he typically had many graduate and post-doctoral students and other lab researchers at work in his laboratory. His office was immediately adjacent to his laboratory, allowing close proximity to everyone’s work. He always was available for consultation and direction, providing advice on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis. His ability to make research a fun and exciting endeavor is unparalleled. In addition to directly supervising the activities of these individuals, he nearly always was conducting one or more of his own experiments. His hands-on approach to student learning was greatly appreciated by his many novice researchers, especially when it came to conducting new, unknown procedures. On three occasions, such activities required a call to the fire department, perhaps more than in any other ISU faculty member’s laboratory.

With Hammond being an “old-time” chemist, one of learning opportunities available to those who worked in his lab was glass-blowing. His laboratory was equipped with an oxygen tank to fuel the fire needed to soften glass to create specialized glassware for lab experiments. Lab workers blew many glass columns and specialty beakers to just the right specifications to meet their research needs. The glassware wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it was precisely functional!

A typical afternoon in Hammond’s laboratory involved a tea break. Water was boiled in a battered old tea kettle over a Bunsen burner – of course, that was before stricter laboratory safety practices became common. Everyone would stop their work to enjoy the daily ritual of drinking tea together and sharing stories. Hammond also was known for his love of Dr. Pepper, but at that time of day it was hot tea.

Hammond married Johnie Wright Hammond, September 17, 1951, and they had four children: Linda, Bruce, Pamela, and Christopher. Earl and Johnie have been active members of the First Baptist Church of Ames for most of their years in Ames. Both Earl and Johnie remain avid Democrats (Johnie becoming an Iowa Legislator), truly believing in opportunities for all, and in advocating for the underprivileged. As a Professor, Hammond portrayed this same type of generosity of spirit with his students and colleagues. He was easy to work with, and accepted everyone, regardless of their background. He was more interested in producing exciting results than in promoting himself, allowing him to develop excellent partnerships with even the most ambitious scientists. He was the kind of person and scientist everyone admired, and many are modeling in their own careers.

Earl Hammond, age 90, died on May 10, 2017 at Northcrest Health Care after a long, productive and rewarding life. He is interred in the Iowa State University Cemetery.

Selected Sources


AOCS Lipid Library:

E.G. Hammond. “Confessions of an unfocused research professor,” INFORM 17. pp. 448-450, 2008.

E G Hammond, LA Johnson, C.Su, T. Wang and PJ White, Soybean Oil in Baileys Industrial Oil and Fat Products, 6th  Edition, Ed F Shahidi. 2005.

Earl Hammond, Filled and artificial and altered milk fats, in modifying lipids for use in foods, Ed. F. Gunstone, Woodhead Publishers. 2006.

E.G. Hammond, Edible oils from herbaceous crops in technological advances in improved and alternative crops, Ed. BS Kamel, Blackie and Sons. 1994.

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