Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ernest Starling

Ernest Henry Starling was born on April 17, 1866 in London, England. His father, M. H. Starling, was a Clerk to the Crown in Bombay, India. His five children, of which Starling was the oldest, were brought up in London by their mother. He was educated at Kings College School and entered Guy's Hospital Medical School at the age of 16. Starling was a brilliant student, winning two thirds of the awards that were availible to him, enough to earn him a free studenship at Guy's and enough in scholarships to maintain himself. He graduated M.B. in 1889 and M.D. in 1890.

While at Guy's, Starling studied physiology under Leonard Woolridge, who acted as a mentor to him. Woolridge died in 1889 leaving a young widow, whom Starling married in 1891, and who became a supporting companion in all of Starling's efforts. At the time Germany was the world leader in the study of physiology and Starling made trips there to study under Wilhelm Kuhne. In addition to his work overseas, and at Guy's limited laboratory facilities, Starling was invited to work at University College, where he met William Bayless, who became a frequent collaborator.

Starling researched many areas of physiology, but he is best known for the Franck-Starling Law of the Heart, or simply Starling's Law. The law states that the stroke volume of the heart increases in response to an increase in the volume of the blood filling the heart. When a greater volume of blood fills the heart the muscle walls of the heart are streched. In response to this stretch the muscle walls contract with a greater force, forceing more blood out of the heart. Staring is also responsible for coining the term hormone, which he based on the Greek word for impetus. Also Starling, with Bayliss, first described the peristalsis of the digestive system.

Honors won by Starling include, election to the Royal Society (1899), The Royal Medal (1913), and the Baly Medal (1907). Although he had spent much time in Germany his opinion of the German Nation changed with the outbreak of the First World War, during which he served as a director of research to study defensive measures against gas warfare. By 1920 Starling's health began to decline, suffering from malaria, aquired on a trip to India. In 1927 Starling took a warm water cruise, in an effort to improve his health. He died, probably on April 20, 1927, as his ship aproached Kingston, Jamaca.


O'Connor, W. J.; British Physiologists 1885-1914: A Biographical Dictionary; Manchester University Press ND; 1991

Fye, W. Bruce; "Erenest Henry Starling"; Clinical Cardiology (2006)29:181-182

Ernest Starling Wikipedia Entry

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bernardo Houssay

Bernardo Alberto Houssay was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on April 10, 1887, one of eight children of Dr. Alberto and Clara Houssay, who had emigrated to Argentina from France. His father was a barrister. His early education was at a private school, the Colegio Britanico. He entered pharmacy school at the University of Buenos Aires at the age of 14, graduating in 1904. He continued into medical school, graduating in 1907. After graduating he took a position in the physiology department and completed his thesis on pituitary extracts, which won a university prize.

In 1910 he was appointed Professor of Physiology in the university's School of Veterinary Medicine. During this time he continued his hospital practice, becoming the Chief Physician at Alvear Hospital in 1913. In 1915 he took charge of the Laboratory of Experimental Pathology at the National Public Health Laboratory in Buenos Aires. In 1919 he became the chair of the Department of Physiology at the University of Buenos Aires. In 1943 he was removed from his position by the Peronist Argentine government for expressing his opinion that Argentina should be more democratic. Although he recieved many invitations from overseas he remained in Argentina and continued his research, setting up the privately funded Instituto de Biologia y Medicina Experimental. In 1955 he was restored to his university position when a new government took power.

Although Houssay researched many aspects of physiology, his primary research was endocrine glands. Endocrine glands are a glands that secrete hormones directly into the blood without a duct. Endocrine glands include the pitutary gland, the pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid, and the adrenal glands. His studies of the anterior pituitary gland led him to discover the relationship between its hormones and carbohydrate metabolism.

In 1947 he won the Nobel Prize for Physiology in Medicine, which he shared with Carl and Gerty Cori, for "his discovery of the part played by the hormone of the anterior pituitary and the metabolism of sugar". Other honors won by Houssay include twenty five honorary degrees and membership in the Argentine National Academy of Medicine, the Academy of Letters, the National Academy of Sciences of Buenos Aires and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
He died on September 21, 1971.


Parker, William Belmont; Argentines of Today, Hispanic Society of America, 1920

Bernardo Houssay Wikipedia Entry

Bernardo Houssay Nobel Biography

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Katherine Esau

Katherine Esau, the youngest of her parent's four children, was born on April 3, 1898 in Yekaterinoslav in the Russian Empire, which is now Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. Her family were descendants of German Mennonites who had emigrated to Ukraine. Her father was a mechanical engineer and the city engineer of Yekaterinoslav. In 1918 her family fled to Germany to escape the Bolshevik Revolution. Esau learned to read and write at home, before beginning school. When she was 11 she entered the gymnasium, which she graduated from in 1916, and before leaving Russia, Esau had completed one year at Moscow's Golitsin Women's College of Agriculture. In Berlin she continued her education at the Agricultural College of Berlin. From Berlin, Esau went to a estate in northern Germany, where she worked at a wheat seed breading station. In 1922 Esau's family emigrated to the United States, settling in Reedly, California, where there was a large Mennonite community. Esau took a job in Oxnard, California working for the Sloan Seed Company. Sloan Seed went bankrupt a year later and Esau took a job with the Spreckles Sugar Company in Spreckles, California, working on a cure for curly top, a viral disease of sugar beets. While working in Spreckles, Essau was visited by Wilfed Robbins, the Chairman of the Botoany school at University of California at Davis. Impressed with her work, he offered her a graduate assistantship. Esau took the offer and graduated with a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of California at Berkeley (at that time U.C. Davis did not have a Ph.D. in Botany). After graduation Esau remained at Davis, first as an instructor and then as a professor of botany. She remained at Davis until 1963, going to U.C. Santa Barbara, where she used the electron microscope for research into plant anatomy. Esau's research involved using the electron microscope to study the development and structure of the phloem of plants. In plants there are two major types of vascular tissues, the phloem and the xylem. Plants use the phloem to transport glucose and other nutrients and use the xylem to transport water. Esau's publications included the textbook Plant Anatomy (1953), which had a great impact on the study of botany. Awards won by Esau include the National Medal of Science, awarded her in 1989, election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and honorary degrees from Mills College and the University of California. Esau died on June 4 1997. References: Everet, Ray; "Katherine Esau, April 3 1898-June 4, 1997" at Grinstein, Louise S., Biermann, Carol A., and Rose, Rose K.; Women in the Biological Sciences: a Bibliographic Sourcebook; Greenwood Publishing Group; 1997 "Remembering Katherine Esau"; U.C. Davis Biological Sciences Newsletter Fall 1997