Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian

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Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Hampstead, London
Death: August 04, 1977 (87)
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK
Immediate Family:

Son of Alfred Douglas Adrian and Flora Lavinia Barton
Husband of Hester Agnes Adrian, Baroness Adrian, DBE
Father of Private; Richard Hume Adrian, 2nd Baron Adrian and Private
Brother of John Adrian and Harold Douglas Adrian

Occupation: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1932
Managed by: Timothy Michael Gell
Last Updated:

About Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian

Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian, OM PRS was an English electrophysiologist and recipient of the 1932 Nobel Prize for Physiology, won jointly with Sir Charles Sherrington for work on the function of neurons. He provided experimental evidence for the all-or-none law of nerves.

Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian was educated at Westminster School, Westminster, London, England.1 He was educated in 1919 at Trinity College, Cambridge University, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, Doctor of Medicine (M.D.).4 He was invested as a Fellow, Royal Society (F.R.S.) in 1923.4 He was invested as a Fellow, Royal College of Physicians, London (F.R.C.P.) in 1929.4 He was Foulerton Research Professor of the Royal Society between 1929 and 1937.4 He was decorated with the award of Nobel Prize (in Medicine) in 1932.3 He was Professor of Physiology between 1937 and 1951 at Trinity College, Cambridge University, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England.4 He was decorated with the award of Order of Merit (O.M.) in 1942.3 He was decorated with the award of Copley Medal in 1946.4 He held the office of President of the Royal Society between 1950 and 1955.4 He was Master between 1951 and 1965 at Trinity College, Cambridge University, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England.4 He was created 1st Baron Adrian, of Cambridge, co. Cambridge [U.K.] on 28 January 1955.1 He held the office of Chancellor of the University of Leicester in 1957.4 He held the office of Chancellor of Cambridge University in 1968.4 He has an extensive biographical entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.


Biography

Adrian was born at Hampstead, London to Alfred Douglas Adrian, CB MC, legal adviser to the Local Government Board, and Flora Lavinia Barton.[3] He attended Westminster School and studied Natural Sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge, remaining in Cambridge for the major part of his life.

Completing a medical degree in 1915, he did clinical work at St Bartholomew's Hospital London during World War I, treating soldiers with nerve damage and nervous disorders such as shell shock. Adrian returned to Cambridge in 1919 and in 1925 began his studies of nerve impulses in the human sensory organs.

Adrian married Hester Agnes Pinsent on 14 June 1923 and they had three children, a daughter and mixed twins:

  • Anne Pinsent Adrian, who married the physiologist Richard Keynes
  • Richard Hume Adrian, 2nd Baron Adrian (1927-1995)
  • Jennet Adrian (b. 1927), who married Peter Watson Campbell.

He died in Cambridge.

'''Career'''

Continuing earlier studies of Keith Lucas, he used a capillary electrometer and cathode ray tube to amplify the signals produced by the nervous system and was able to record the electrical discharge of single nerve fibres under physical stimulus. An accidental discovery by Adrian in 1928 proved the presence of electricity within nerve cells. Adrian said,

   "I had arranged electrodes on the optic nerve of a toad in connection with some experiments on the retina. The room was nearly dark and I was puzzled to hear repeated noises in the loudspeaker attached to the amplifier, noises indicating that a great deal of impulse activity was going on. It was not until I compared the noises with my own movements around the room that I realized I was in the field of vision of the toad's eye and that it was signaling what I was doing."

A key result, published in 1928, stated that the excitation of the skin under constant stimulus is initially strong but gradually decreases over time, whereas the sensory impulses passing along the nerves from the point of contact are constant in strength, yet are reduced in frequency over time, and the sensation in the brain diminishes as a result.

Extending these results to the study of pain causes by the stimulus of the nervous system, he made discoveries about the reception of such signals in the brain and spatial distribution of the sensory areas of the cerebral cortex in different animals. These conclusions lead to the idea of a sensory map, called the homunculus, in the somatosensory system.

Later, Adrian used the electroencephalogram to study the electrical activity of the brain in humans. His work on the abnormalities of the Berger rhythm paved the way for subsequent investigation in epilepsy and other cerebral pathologies. He spent the last portion of his research career investigating olfaction.

Among the many awards and positions he received during his career were Foulerton Professor 1929-1937; Professor of Physiology at the University of Cambridge 1937-1951; President of the Royal Society 1950-1955; Master of Trinity College, Cambridge 1951-1965; president of the Royal Society of Medicine 1960–1962; Chancellor of the University of Cambridge 1967-1975; and Chancellor of the University of Leicester 1957–1971. Adrian was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1938.[5] In 1942 he was awarded the Order of Merit, and in 1955 was created Baron Adrian, of Cambridge in the County of Cambridge.

Bibliography

  • The Basis of Sensation (1928)
  • The Mechanism of Nervous Action (1932)
  • Factors Determining Human Behavior (1937)

External links

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Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian's Timeline

1889
November 30, 1889
London
1927
October 16, 1927
Age 37
1977
August 4, 1977
Age 87
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK