Key Dates

21 July 2013
On site registration opens

Further key dates

Historical perspectives on early physiology, 1870‐1960

Date & Venue

0930 - 1130
Lecture Theatre: 

This panel comprises five papers exploring the history of physiology in a regional and specialist context. The papers are connected in that they touch on frontiers in physiology. Not just the early days of cardiovascular and respiratory physiology, but the more remote outposts where this work and research was conducted, ie not capital cities or ordinary research laboratories. Given the local setting of this conference (Birmingham), the first papers will explore the emergence of academic physiology c.1870, both in the familiar settings of London, Edinburgh and Cambridge, but also the provincial English medical schools, and Birmingham in particular. In the context of early provincial medical education, other papers will explore the rise of a specialty in this field, namely exercise physiology, with a particular focus on extreme physiology in the first years of the twentieth century and mountaineering and Antarctic exploration. The third paper will explore this further in the context of the history of frost-bite. The fourth paper will chart the early days of cardiorespiratory physiology in the first high altitude research laboratories, rather than the traditional institutional research laboratory. It will discuss the Pikes Peak expedition (1911) led by J.S. Haldane (Oxford) and Y. Henderson (Yale), experiments which laid the basis for much that we know today in environmental physiology. The panel will conclude with a detailed study of the Himalayan Scientific and Mountaineering Expedition (1960), a legacy of the earlier high altitude tradition in physiology dating back to Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa and Pikes Peak. Based on interviews with one of the expedition's physiologists, Dr James Milledge, it considers the practicalities of these early extreme research trips, while detailing his research on acclimatisation. Comprising two medical historians, a senior physiologist and two young clinicians (one in training), this panel will explore several themes relevant to the conference, but with a focus on early, extreme physiology in an historical context. It also aims to link historical lessons with contemporary concerns and developments in a number of physiology's specialist spheres.

The timings for this session are as follows

Stephen Jacyna 0930-1000
Vanessa Heggie 1000-1030
Lauren Howarth 1030-1045
Roberta Rabbitts 1045-1100
John West 1100-1130


Jonathan Reinarz
University of Birmingham
United Kingdom
The growth of academic physiology in Britain, 1860-1930
Stephen Jacyna
University College London
United Kingdom
Early physiology in Birmingham, c.1870-1930
Vanessa Heggie
University of Birmingham
United Kingdom
The prevention and the treatment of frostbite in the early twentieth century
Lauren Howarth
University of Brirmingham
United Kingdom
The Silver Hut Expedition: A seminal research expedition into high altitude medicine
Roberta Rabbitts
University of Birmingham
United Kingdom
Historical aspects of the physiology of high altitude
John West
University of California
United States