Those of us who have made the transition into the 21st century are fortunate as we benefit from the numerous inventions and creations from the past that make our daily existence so much more rewarding and enjoyable. One of the intellectual giants who contributed to our contemporary high standard of living and knowledge of human nutrition was Dr. Royal Lee. Even though his name is known to only a small number of Americans, Dr. Lee was a researcher, inventor, scientist, scholar, statesman, businessman and philanthropist of the first order.
Dr. Lee was born on April 7, 1895 and reared on a farm near Edmund in the southwestern part of Wisconsin. At the age of twelve he had compiled a notebook on biochemistry and nutrition by copying definitions from the school dictionary. He also started collecting books on those subjects that he continued collecting over the years, resulting in one of the largest individual such collections in the world. While a student in high school, he taught advanced physics to a class of fifteen students. Upon graduation he engaged in various businesses before being drafted by the army to serve in World War I. At the conclusion of the war and his discharge in 1919, he enrolled in Marquette University, Milwaukee, where he graduated from dental college in 1924.
One of his major interests at university was nutrition. During his senior year he presented a paper to his class on “The Systemic Causes of Dental Caries” which was written when he was the ripe age of sixteen. He outlined the relationship of vitamin deficiency to tooth decay and showed the necessity of vitamins in the diet for normal functioning of the endocrine glands.
The first of Dr. Lee’s many patents-for a motor speed controller for dentists-was granted in November 1924. One of Dr. Lee’s most important inventions was a speed governor for electric motors, patented on May 31, 1927. These are needed wherever precise time intervals or constant speeds must be maintained for such equipment as radar, calculating machines, food mixers, flame-cutting machinery, fusion welding equipment, drill presses, telephone equipment and motion picture sound equipment. When talking pictures came out, Bell Telephone Laboratories had a speed governor selling for $1,200-Dr. Lee sold his to them for $3.50. Through the years he acquired close to one hundred patents in the electrical field.
In the early 1920’s, America faced a new health threat: coronary heart disease. Dr. Lee knew that the vitamins and other nutrients were removed from flour and rice by commercial milling, and he believed that this had a bearing on the subject of heart disease. At about this same time, the scientific community was able to isolate vitamins and standardize them as drugs. In effect, the food manufacturers altered and removed the health-sustaining components from the grains they were milling and then “fortified” the product by adding synthetic, inert vitamins. Thus, the public was fooled into thinking they were getting the real thing.
Dr. Lee often ran advertisements in various newspapers exposing this food fraud. As a result, he spent a great deal of time in court battling the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA used its full power and unlimited taxpayer resources to brand Dr. Lee a racketeer because he promoted whole, natural unadulterated foods with their vitamins and minerals intact.
As far back as 1911, Dr. Lee had begun a systematic search of medical literature to assemble facts that could help to establish a rational theory of function of the ductless glands or endocrine system, a subject that was almost totally ignored at that time. The culmination of his project came in 1929 when he was able to produce a food-based, natural state package of nutrients in the most potent and “bioavailable form” which he named Catalyn. It was derived from the following whole foods: defatted wheat germ; carrots; nutritional yeast; bovine adrenal, liver, spleen, and kidney; ovine spleen; dried pea (vine) juice; dried alfalfa juice; mushroom; oat flour; soy bean lecithin; and rice bran extract. At the outset his product was provided at no charge solely for the health and welfare of his mother and intimate friends. However, because of the remarkable results the product achieved, the fame of this food concentrate spread rapidly. The volume of demand reached such proportions that he had to create a new company, the Vitamin Products Company.
With Catalyn becoming such a success as a multiple raw food concentrate, Dr. Lee began to produce other specialized products to give doctors nutritional tools to use in treating their patients. In 1931 he introduced Phosfood Liquid to support healthy calcium metabolism and sympathetic nervous system function. By 1934 the demand by physicians convinced Dr. Lee to separate the various vitamin complexes into separate products (vitamins A through G) for more precise clinical application. From 1935 through 1939 he introduced five new products: Drenamin (adrenal support), Organic Minerals (parasympathetic support), Soy Bean Lecithin, Lactic Acid Yeast (proper pH for healthy functioning of gastrointestinal system) and Wheat Germ Oil Perles (one of the richest sources of natural vitamin E complex).
The 1940’s saw a wide variety of specific nutritional products added to the Vitamin Products Company line. In the 1950s, Dr. Lee developed a type of glandular product, that he termed protomorphogen extracts, produced by a process he patented. These were not the normal desiccated glandulars but were uniquely derived nucleoprotein-mineral extracts that support cellular health.
For almost half a century, doctors throughout the nation have used Dr. Lee’s products with great success. Today Standard Process, as the company is now known, carries a line of almost 150 products to serve health professionals and their patients.
You can see from the following quote made by Dr. Lee on October 2, 1933 that he was fifty years ahead of his time in the field of nutrition:
“Candy, all white sugar or its products, and white flour including its products such as macaroni, spaghetti, crackers, etc., should be absolutely barred from the diet of the child. All these are energy-producing foods that contain no building materials for the body. The consequences of their toleration are susceptibility to infections, enlarged tonsils, carious teeth, unruly dispositions, stunted growth, rickets, maldevelopment and very often permanent damage to many organs of the body (especially the endocrine glands) that depend upon the vitamin supply for their normal function and development.”
In 1941 Dr. Lee organized the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research under a state charter as a nonprofit organization. The purpose of the Lee Foundation was to engage in research and to coordinate and communicate nutritional breakthroughs from laboratories around the world. The Foundation was the world’s largest clearinghouse for nutritional information for doctors, agriculturists and homemakers. During its existence the Lee Foundation disseminated millions of pieces of literature and hundreds of thousands of books on health and nutrition.
Dr. Lee took time in 1947 to coauthor a book with William Hanson entitled Protomorphology, Study of Cell Autoregulation, a study of biological growth factors and a survey of the problems of aging. He also provided moral and financial support to such organizations as Natural Associates, American Academy of Applied Nutrition, National Health Federation, and Health Publications, always championing freedom of choice in “the natural way.”
Today, Standard Process, Dr. Lee’s nutritional company, is continuing his tradition of producing biologically active raw food concentrates. The company organically farms over one thousand acres of mineral-rich fertile soil, created when the retreating glaciers moved mountains of earth across the Kettle Moraine area in Wisconsin. This is where the crops are grown that are used as ingredients for whole food supplements originally formulated by Dr. Lee over seventy years ago. These products are recommended and used by doctors in all fifty states to help balance their patients’ body chemistry and nutritional deficiencies.
Dr. Lee still touches our lives today. His many inventions in the electrical field add to the comfort and convenience of our daily existence. His nutritional discoveries help us to maintain a higher level of health. Dr. Lee was a stalwart disciple of the principle of free enterprise and individual liberty. He believed in the application of the golden rule not only in relationships between individuals but also between nations. He died on November 1, 1967.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2000.