Giants of the Past

Artemy A. Horvath pioneer in Soy foods (1886-1979)

Artemy Horvath appears to be a forgotten scientist and technologist despite the fact that he was an early pioneer in soybean research including the use of its oil and protein for food. Horvath was born in Russia in 1886 and received the PhD degree at the University of Kazan. It is believed that he received the MD degree as well since he added MD to his publication bylines. His father was a general in the Russian Army and no doubt influenced Artemy to join the army (1914-1918) during the first World War.  Horvath married Maria Kuznetsova in late 1914. Like Artemy she came from a distinguished Russian family. Following his war service, he taught for 2 years at the Institute of Agricultural Chemistry in Siberia and was an instructor in chemistry at the Vladivostok Institute of Technology. 1917 marked the Russian revolution and the Horvaths including an unborn child fled because of their aristocratic ancestry. They stopped in Vladivostok long enough for their first child Irene to be born. In early 1919 they arrived in Tianjin (China) where their second child (Tatiana) was born on October 24, 1920. Records show that Dr Horvath was a chemist for a company processing oils and fats while in Tianjin. Later the family moved to Peking (Beijing) where, in 1923, Horvath joined the staff of the Peking Union Medical College established by the Rockefeller Foundation. Here he was put in charge of a new soybean research laboratory and soon a number of important publications on soy foods and nutrition were generated. Between late 1926 and early 1927 Horvath published 6 articles on soy foods. Eventually these papers were published as an 86 page book entitled “The soybean as human food” which is considered the best early work on soy foods.

Horvath recognized the importance of China becoming self-sufficient economically as well as being better nourished.  Traditionally the Chinese exported soy press cake to Japan for fertilizer. Horvath convinced them to use the press cake for soy flour in baked goods and for famine relief. He also promoted the use of soy oil for industrial products rather than export the oil and import the products.

In 1927 Horvath was appointed as an Associate of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in the United States and by late 1927 arrived via ship from Germany and joined the Rockefeller Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.  He remained there until 1930 when he accepted a position as head of biochemical research in the Health section of the US Bureau of Mines in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By 1931 Horvath published his first article with soya flour in the title. (“Soya flour as a national food”, Scientific Monthly, pp 251-260)

Horvath along with Armand Burke established the Soya Corporation of America in 1932 with the goal of producing a palatable full fat soy flour. Although this goal was not achieved immediately they were eventually successful. In late 1933, Horvath was employed at the Agricultural Experiment Station, School of Agriculture, and University of Delaware in Newark, New Jersey. By 1937 Horvath applied for patents on insulating compositions for electrical wires and a soy based food product. While in Newark, Horvath published his major book entitled “The Soybean Industry”, Chemical Publishing Company, New York (1938) 221 pages. The book is very well written and researched and provides much historical background for the early industry. In 1939 his most important US patent was issued “Developing palatability of Soya” US 2 147 097 with rights to Soya Corporation.
In 1939 Horvath retired from the Delaware Experiment Station but quickly established the Horvath laboratory in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania where he developed soybean products and machinery to produce them on a commercial scale as well as carrying out research. Circa 1941 the Soya Corporation finished construction of a factory to manufacture good tasting whole soy flour in Hagerstown, Maryland. Within a few years the company was making and selling whole soya flour and full fat soy grits. In about 1946 the income from soya products allowed the Horvaths to purchase their first home in Princeton, New Jersey. They had previously rented.

In 1951 Soya corporation introduced “Kim Mix” a low-cost high-protein soya food supplement based on soy flour or meal. The product was described by Armand Burke as one built on the Horvath patents. A year later Soya Corporation announced that consumer tests have shown that a new soya butter will be acceptable in taste and have good storage characteristics. Again the new product was developed from Horvath patents. In 1953 the Horvaths moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico to be near their daughter. In 1956 Armand Burke was injured by a taxicab in Newark and passed away at the age of 58. His leadership of the Soya Corporation was sorely missed and the company soon went downhill. Horvath was awarded his last patent in 1958.
The Horvaths lived in Santa Fe until 1979 when Maria passed away on April 20th and Artemy in October same year

The contributions of Artemy Horvath would probably have been lost forever except for the excellent and through research of William Shutleff and Akiko Aoyagi of the Soy Info Center. A complete biography of Dr.Horvath can be found on the Soy Info Center website.

Updated: February 18, 2016