Alfred H. Free, PhD

In July 2023, we changed our name from AACC (short for the American Association for Clinical Chemistry) to the Association for Diagnostics & Laboratory Medicine (ADLM). The following page was written prior to this rebranding and contains mentions of the association’s old name. It may contain other out-of-date information as well.

2000 Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Chemistry in a Selected Area of Research

Alfred H. Free, PhD, was selected to receive the 28th annual award, sponsored by Roche Diagnostics Corp. Dr. Free, who passed away in May, was best known for his work as inventor and developer of the dry reagent urinalysis dipsticks that have had a major place in laboratory medicine since the mid-1950s.

Dr. Free received an AB in Chemistry with honors from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and an MS and PhD in Biochemistry from Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He served as a research assistant at the Cleveland Clinic, in various teaching capacities at Western Reserve University, and as a consultant to BenVenue Laboratories, a producer of human blood plasma and penicillin, during World War II. In this latter position, he made important contributions to the development of lyophilization of human plasma for field transfusion and to the early production of antibiotics.

In 1946, Dr. Free joined the Ames Division of Miles Laboratories (now a part of the Bayer Corporation), and over time rose to head the research laboratory. In 1972, he became Vice President for Technical Services and Scientific Relations. Dr. Free made many contributions in a career that extended for 60 years, but it was from his posts at this corporation that he left his indelible mark.

Dr. Free introduced the idea that important analytes in urine could be tested on a strip of paper impregnated with chemicals that would produce color changes with differing amounts of analyte in the urine—an idea that became the now ubiquitous urine dipstick. In 1946, he developed dry reagent chemistries for semiquantitative detection of blood in urine, and in subsequent years followed this with chemistries for ketones, albumin, and bilirubin. He expanded this technology to the dry reagent strips we now call dipsticks with the introduction of CLINISTIX for urine glucose in 1956 and went on to add a range of chemistries to dipsticks. He also conceived the idea for multiple reagent pad strips for chemical urinalysis. Dr. Free also provided key leadership in developing the clinical concepts for the use of CLINISTIX and in introducing them into physicians’ offices worldwide. Today, this technology remains among the very first tests in the routine evaluation of any patient, in any part of the world. In 1997, on the 25th anniversary of the first instrument used for reading dry reagent strips, the CLINITEK Reflectance Urinalysis Analyzer, it was estimated that the Bayer Corporation had distributed more than 20 billion multiple reagent urinalysis strips and more than 100 000 CLINITEK instruments. The portability and low cost of dipsticks have allowed worldwide testing for major public health conditions, contributing in a major way to the improvement of healthcare worldwide.

Dr. Free was the author or co-author of more than 200 scientific papers and the holder of 15 major patents. He formed an extraordinary partnership with his wife Helen, who has also served the profession of clinical chemistry as president of the the Association for Diagnostics & Laboratory Medicine (formerly AACC) and of the American Chemical Society.

In addition to his substantial scientific, clinical, and commercial contributions, Dr. Free was an important participant in the activities of AACC, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, Association of Clinical Scientists, American Board of Clinical Chemistry, and many other scientific and civic organizations. He served the AACC in many capacities, for example, serving as Chair of the Task Force on Membership Awareness, of the International Relations Committee, of the Membership Committee, and of the Chicago Local Section. His many honors ranged from election to the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame to receiving the AACC Award for Outstanding Contributions through Service to the Profession of Clinical Chemistry to being recognized with an award from the local Lions Club chapter as Citizen of the Year of Elkhart, Indiana. In June 2000, he was inducted posthumously into the Inventors Hall of Fame.
1982 Outstanding Contributions through Service to Clinical Chemistry as a Profession. Alfred H. Free received the 17th AACC Award for Outstanding Contributions through Service to Clinical Chemistry as a Profession. The award is sponsored by Fisher Scientific Company.

Dr. Free, a native of Ohio, graduated magna cum laude from Miami University in Oxford, OH, and received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Western Reserve University. He recently retired as vice-president of Ames Company, Division Miles Laboratories, Inc., in Elkhart, IN. Currently he is chairman of Helen-Al Creative Approaches, Inc., and also has the position of Senior Scientific Contractor, Ames Division of Miles Laboratories, Inc. He previously was Director of the Ames Research Laboratory and taught in the Medical School at Western Reserve University before joining Miles.

He is active in many scientific, technical, and professional organizations and has held high-level offices in several. He is chairman of the Committee on International Relations, AACC, and previously was chairman of the AACC Publications Committee. He is a past president of the Association of Clinical Scientists; a past director of the American Board of Clinical Chemistry; and past chairman and councilor of the St. Joseph Valley Section of the American Chemical Society. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Committee on Clinical Laboratory Standards.

He has published extensively, holds several patents, and has lectured at national and international meetings in the U.S.A., Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Orient. He is a past visiting professor of chemistry at Goshen College. Dr. Free is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi and has received the Chicago Section’s Clinical Chemistry Award. He and his wife, Helen, also a chemist, were joint recipients of the Honor Scroll Award of the Chicago Section of the American Institute of Chemists. Dr. Free has also received the Diploma of Honor of the Association of Clinical Scientist and the Service Award of the St. Joseph Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.

Dr. Free is one of the founders of the Indiana Lions Eye Bank and is also a founder and Executive Board Member of the Elkhart County Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.