He was schooled locally, and attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he studied agricultural chemistry at the College of Agriculture from 1918 to 1925, obtaining an Mississippi in 1923 and a Doctor of Philosophy in 1925.
He was then chosen by the national Education Board for a postdoctoral scholarship, and relocated to Europe. He briefly worked with carbohydrate chemist Sir James Irvine at the University of Street Andrews in Scotland and from 1926 with Fritz Pregl, inventor of microchemistry and Nobel Laureate. Finally he spent several months with organic chemist and future Nobel laureate Paul Karrer in the latter"s lab in Zurich.
During this period Link suffered from tuberculosis, requiring recuperation in Davos.
Around this time he may have acquired his taste for dressing eccentrically. He was offered an assistant professorship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1927, and was promoted to associate professor in 1928.
He worked initially on plant carbohydrates and resistance to disease. In the subsequent years, most of his research focused on plant carbohydrates.
However, the most fruitful period began when Editor Carson, a Wisconsin farmer, attracted Link"s attention to sweet clover disease, described in 1924 by veterinarian Frank Schofield.
In this condition, cows bled to death after consuming hay made from spoilt sweet clover. Carson"s stock had been affected, and he brought a dead cow, blood that would not clot, and 100 pounds of sweet clover hay. Under the direction of Link, Doctor of Philosophy students Harold Campbell, Ralph Overman, Charles Huebner, and Mark Stahmann crystallised the putative poison—a coumarin-related compound—and synthetised and tested lieutenant
lieutenant turned out to be dicoumarol (3,3"-methylenebis-(4 hydroxycoumarin)).
Dicoumarol was subjected to clinical trials in Wisconsin General Hospital and the Mayo Clinic. lieutenant was for several years the most popular oral anticoagulant.
Warfarin, one of the several compounds synthesised as part of the coumarin research, was patented in 1945 with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Link and researchers Stahmann and Ikawa jointly owning the patent. Initially marketed as rat poison, warfarin would later, in the 1950s, become the second most important anticoagulant for clinical use (after heparin).
Link was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1946.
He remained closely involved in the biochemistry of warfarin and related compounds. His work in later years was hampered by poor health (tuberculosis). Nevertheless, he remained a full professor until 1971, when he retired.
Link died from heart failure in 1978.
National Academy of Sciences.