Dr. Artemy Alexis Horvath: Work with Soyfoods

A Special Exhibit - The History of Soy Pioneers Around the World - Unpublished Manuscript

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

ęCopyright 2004 Soyinfo Center, Lafayette, California

Dr. A.A. Horvath, a Russian scientist, was one of the first Westerners to spend a significant amount of time in East Asia studying soyfoods. The author of several books and numerous scientific articles about soyfoods, he will probably best be remembered for his outstanding work The Soybean as Human Food, published in Peking in 1927, for giving the West the most accurate and detailed picture of the use of soyfoods in China during the 1930s, and for pioneering the food and industrial uses of soy oil and soy flour. Conversant in the major European languages, he kept up with the latest developments in soyfoods research and production in Europe, and was often the first to report these in English. He spent his life studying and promoting the use of soyfoods.

Early Years in Russia (1857-1919). Artemy A. Horvath was born on 6 July 1886 in Russia. He received his PhD from the University of Kazan in Russia, served in the Russian Army during World War I, taught for 2 years at the Institute of Agricultural Chemistry in the Maritime Provinces of Siberia, was an instructor in Chemistry at the Vladivostok Institute of Technology, and then went to China and Manchuria in 1919 to study the soybean first hand (Horvath 1938a). While in Russia he somehow became interested in soyfoods, perhaps from his father. In 1927 he wrote, apparently describing his father, "Horvath, fifty years ago, was the first to prepare soybean coffee for the market in South Russia." Fifty years before 1927 would have been 1877, or 9 years before Artemy was born. Gray (1936) stated that Horvath published a monograph entitled "The Soya Bean as a Russian Food," however neither Horvath nor any other writer ever referred to this document in articles or bibliographies; we believe that Gray was mistaken in his citation.

Work with Soy in China (1919-27). Horvath lived in China from 1919 to 1927, principally in Harbin, Dairen, Tientsin, and Peking. In Tientsin he was associated as a chemist for a firm processing oils and fats from soybeans, and he did investigations on soybeans at the University of Manchuria. In 1920 he performed comparative studies on the frothing capacity and stability of foams of soaps made from a single oil. Soybean soap was found to give a moderate amount of lather ?? in distilled water. This was his earliest known soy research. His earliest known article from China, published in 1920 (cit??), was a study of long-horned cattle from the interior of China, comparing those fattened on soybeans and those on grass. In 1923 Horvath joined the staff of the Peking University Medical College (PUMC) established by the Rockefeller Foundation. Working under a Rockefeller grant, he was put in charge of a new soybean research laboratory and program, which soon began to generate many important publications on soyfoods and nutrition. In 1921 Embry and Wang of PUMC had written "Analyses of Some Chinese Foods," containing nutritional analyses of numerous Chinese soyfoods. Between 1926 and 1933 Dr. Ernest Tso of PUMC published a series of seven highly significant articles on soymilk and human nutrition, the world's first nutritional studies of soymilk. They showed that soymilk, especially when fortified with calcium lactate, made a good substitute for cow's milk at a fraction of the cost. Tso later aided in the commercial development of soymilk in China (Arnold 1945). In 1926 Horvath, together with H.C. Chang, also of the Department of Medicine at Peking Union Medical College, published "The Effect of Soybean Feeding on the Blood Lipase of Rabbits." The same year he alone published "Changes in the Blood Composition of Rabbits Fed on Raw Soybeans," in which he found that on a diet of soaked raw soybeans, rabbits developed kidney swelling, a fact that later played a key role in the later development of theories relating to trypsin inhibitors. Also in 1926 he wrote "A New Method for the Determination of Fat in Soybean Milk." Although his previous articles on soyfoods had been rather limited in scope, between September 1926 and April 1927 Horvath wrote a remarkable series of six articles on soyfoods for the Chinese Economic Monthly, published by the Chinese Government Bureau of Economic Information. These clearly showed his great interest in and deep knowledge of his subject. In 1927 these articles were collected in an 86-page book, The Soybean as Human Food, published by the same bureau. This excellent book is one of the best early sources of information on many subjects related to soyfoods including the early history and development of soy flour, soymilk, soy oil, and tofu in China and Europe (especially Germany), the work of Li Yu-ying and A. Berczeller, the state of the soyfoods and soybean processing industry in China and Manchuria during the 1920s, early work on soyfoods nutrition in Europe and China, plus an extensive chronological bibliography, including many European works on soybeans and soyfoods. In this book, Horvath revealed that he was one of the first Westerners to truly understand the great potential of traditional soyfoods in the human diet. Yet he went one step further. Desiring to help the Chinese to become economically more self sufficient and better nourished, he urged them (and made his case convincingly) to use their soy oil presscake to make soy flour for use as a source of high-quality, low-cost protein in their baked goods and for famine relief, rather than exporting the presscake to Japan for use there as a fertilizer, and to use more of their soy oil to develop new industrial products instead of exporting the oil then importing the products. Horvath concluded his book with the statement:

If we take into consideration the enormous role which the various soybean preparations play in the diet of the natives of China, Japan, Indo-China and the Malayan Archipelago, it is evident that there is a great need for the foundation of a special Soybean Research Institute in one of the Oriental countries. This idea should meet with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, as rational nutrition is the basis of good health.

This call is as visionary today as it was more than 50 years ago.

Also in 1927 the Manchurian Research Society published Horvath's "The Soybean for Food and Feed," Dr. J.H. Kellogg's magazine Good Health published, in June, his article on soyfoods entitled "Better Food Values for Smaller Expenditure," and Japan Medical World published his "The Effect of Soy Sauce on Blood Sugar and Phosphorus." In 1928 his "Soybean Feeding and Blood Calcium" was published.

As well as developing great respect for soyfoods, Horvath also grew to admire the great efficiency, simplicity, frugality, and sustainability of the Chinese way of life. In 1933 he wrote, "The average Chinese lives on but a few cents a day. This is an economic accomplishment of which China may feel justly proud."

Work with Soy in the USA (1927-39). In 1927, at age 41, Dr. Horvath moved from China to the United States, where he joined the research staff of the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research at Princeton, New Jersey. Some of his work here was done with the Department of Animal Pathology.

From 1930-1933 he served as a research chemist, head of biochemical research in the Health Section of the US Bureau of Mines Experiment Station at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His publications on soyfoods during this period included "The Soybean Oil of China and its Manifold Uses "(1930; one of the best monographs to date on this subject, which he had studied first hand in China), "Changes in Hens' Blood Produced by a Diet of Sprouted Soybeans (1930; the sprouts showed anti-hemorrhaging properties), "Soya Flour as a National Food" (1931; here he came out in support of a largely vegetarian diet, with soy and grains as the primary protein sources, as making the most efficient use of land and labor), and "The Soy Bean as Human Food" (1931a; a reprint of his 1927 article by the same title in an American Journal).

We saw in the chapter on Berczeller that a Soy Institute was organized in Moscow in 1930; Horvath may have aided Berczeller in its establishment.

From December 1933 until December 1939 Horvath was employed at the Agricultural Experiment Station of the School of Agriculture, University of Delaware, in Newark. As head of the Chemistry Department there, his research was initially on pectins, then on the multitude of industrial and food uses of soy. He worked steadily to help introduce soyfoods, especially soy flour and oil to America. A description by McKowen (1934) of a friendly soybean farmer recounting how Horvath arrived in town for his work at the Delaware Experiment Station gives a good feeling for Horvath's dedication to the soybean.

"He came to town last fall to take over his new job at the station. Soon as he'd rented a house and washed up he went down to the business men's clubs and asked if they wanted a speech on soy beans. Don't know if they did or not but he gave the speech anyhow. And at the luncheon where he talked he fed 'em rolls and doughnuts made from soy-bean flour."

"Next he went down to see Mrs. Fader, who runs the bakery in town. Talked her into making up some soy-bean bread. Told her where to order her flour, and when it came he went down with a recipe and a pair of good strong arms and helped her mix the first batch of dough.

"Trouble was, nobody in town had ever heard of soy-bean flour bread, although all us farmers around here have been growing the crop for years. So he had to be Mrs. Fader's salesman and spread the word around. He was pretty good. She sold her first dozen loaves in a couple of days. Saw her the other afternoon and she says before closing up time Saturday nights she's sold over a hundred loaves in the week, right there in that little town.

"Next he pestered the grocery store into stocking up on soy-bean salad oil and cooking oil. He talked the arm off our hardware man and got him to put some soy-bean oil paint on his shelves. Won't quit, I guess, until every store in town sells soy beans in one form or another."

During the same 1934 interview, Horvath told McKowen, "In China 15 years ago I went soy-bean a hundred percent . . . In Peking the Chinese government has a great central laboratory where they research the soybean. The Soviets have a research institute for the same purpose in Moscow. But we have none in the US."

Horvath's articles written during the 1933-39 period give a good idea of the scope of his interests in soy: "The Soy-bean Industry in the United States" (1933, described the soybean's diversity of industrial uses as a way out of the current economic depression), "Soya Flour--Its Manufacture and Uses" (1935; specifically urged the establishment of a National Soya Industries Research Institute as in China and the USSR), "Some Recent Views about Soybean Flour" (1935), "Soya Flour is a Miller's Best Friend" (1935; argued that fortifying what flour with soy flour would boost consumption of both), "Newer Methods of Refining Soya Oil Preserve its Food Value" (1935), "Continuous Extractors for Soybean Oil" (1935), "The Soybean Points the Way to Agricultural Recovery" (1936; described the soybean's many industrial uses and some food uses), "The Chemistry of Soybean Protein Extraction" (1937), "Soya Phosphatides" (1937), and "The Nutritional Value of Soybeans (1938; an excellent review of the literature with nice emphasis on traditional soyfoods, information on nutritional research in Europe, and a bibliography containing 114 entries. In 1937 Horvath corresponded with Dr. J.H. Kellogg. In 1938 he wrote a 197-page book, The Soybean Industry, with detailed information on soy flour, meal, oil, and phosphatides, plus an extensive bibliography.

In 1938 Horvath was also working as a consultant with many soyfoods producers and soybean processors. He was a member of the American Soybean Association and a special associate member of the National Soybean Processors Association.

Nothing is known of Dr. Horvath's life, work, or relatives after his retirement from the Delaware Experiment Station in December 1939, at age 53.