Obit: Robert Jenness, leader in the study of milk, dies

  • Article by: SUZANNE ZIEGLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 1, 1998 - 10:00 PM

Robert Jenness, who advanced the scientific study of milk and taught at the University of Minnesota for more than 40 years, died Friday in Alamogordo, N.M. He was 81.

Jenness also helped develop and improve powdered milk for the military during World War II, said Doug, one of Jenness' three sons. But he said it was important for his father to combine teaching with his research.

"He turned down job offers that would have paid more money from industry so he could do the teaching as well as the research," Doug Jenness said Sunday night.

Jenness worked in the University of Minnesota's Department of Biochemistry on the St. Paul campus from 1940 to 1984, when he retired and moved to New Mexico.

While at the university, he focused on how different species of mammals -- from bats to elephants -- differed in how they produced milk and vitamin C, said Victor Bloomfield, a professor of biochemistry at the university.

"He analyzed the milk for fat, protein, sugar and so on," said Bloomfield. He said Jenness' research found, for example, that animals from cold climates produce more fat in their milk.

"It just helped us gain a better awareness of the chemical characteristics of milk, how they are important in the processing of milk . . . and how that differed across species," Bloomfield said.

Jenness received many awards for his work.

He was born on a farm near Dover, N.H., received his master's degree from the University of Vermont in 1940 and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota four years later.

Services for Jenness will be held Tuesday at the Unitarian Fellowship Hall in Alamogordo.

Jenness is survived by his wife, Katherine, and three sons: Doug, of St. Paul; Ian, of Elkins, W.Va., and David, of Cloudcroft, N.M.

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