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July 29, 1939


JAMA. 1939;113(5):417-418. doi:10.1001/jama.1939.02800300047015

Lavoisier's conception of respiration was the combustion of foodstuffs through oxygen. Although foodstuffs are oxidized by the body cells at relatively low temperatures, they do not react readily with oxygen in the laboratory. Powerful oxidizing agents are required to duplicate the combustion which occurs so readily in the organism. In view of this difference, the mechanism of cellular oxidation has long puzzled investigators. Work on this problem has been discussed in recent reports by Barron1 and by Szent-Györgyi.2 There are several ways in which the oxidation of a substance may be effected; addition of oxygen or removal of hydrogen accompanied by withdrawal of electrons, or simply removal of electrons without addition of oxygen or removal of hydrogen, results in oxidation. The cell is capable of oxidizing metabolites with the help of catalytic systems, oxidation being accomplished by means of a series of oxidation-reduction reactions involving a variety of