Andrew Huxley

Andrew Huxley

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Sir Andrew Fielding Huxley, OM, FRS
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (born 22 November 1917, Hampstead
Hampstead
Hampstead is an area of London, England, north-west of Charing Cross. Part of the London Borough of Camden in Inner London, it is known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations and for Hampstead Heath, a large, hilly expanse of parkland...

, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

) is an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 physiologist
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

 and biophysicist
Biophysics
Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that uses the methods of physical science to study biological systems. Studies included under the branches of biophysics span all levels of biological organization, from the molecular scale to whole organisms and ecosystems...

, who won the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will...

 for his experimental and mathematical work with Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin on the basis of nerve action potential
Action potential
In physiology, an action potential is a short-lasting event in which the electrical membrane potential of a cell rapidly rises and falls, following a consistent trajectory. Action potentials occur in several types of animal cells, called excitable cells, which include neurons, muscle cells, and...

s, the electrical impulses that enable the activity of an organism to be coordinated by a central nervous system
Central nervous system
The central nervous system is the part of the nervous system that integrates the information that it receives from, and coordinates the activity of, all parts of the bodies of bilaterian animals—that is, all multicellular animals except sponges and radially symmetric animals such as jellyfish...

. Hodgkin and Huxley shared the prize that year with John Carew Eccles
John Carew Eccles
John Carew Eccles, AC FRS FRACP FRSNZ FAAS was an Australian neurophysiologist who won the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the synapse. He shared the prize with Andrew Huxley and Alan Lloyd Hodgkin....

, who was cited for research on synapse
Synapse
In the nervous system, a synapse is a structure that permits a neuron to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another cell...

s. Hodgkin and Huxley's findings led the pair to hypothesize the existence of ion channel
Ion channel
Ion channels are pore-forming proteins that help establish and control the small voltage gradient across the plasma membrane of cells by allowing the flow of ions down their electrochemical gradient. They are present in the membranes that surround all biological cells...

s, which were isolated only decades later. Together with the Swiss physiologist Robert Stämpfli he evidenced the existence of saltatory conduction
Saltatory conduction
Saltatory conduction is the propagation of action potentials along myelinated axons from one node of Ranvier to the next node, increasing the conduction velocity of action potentials without needing to increase the diameter of an axon.-Mechanism:Because the cytoplasm of the axon is electrically...

 in myelin
Myelin
Myelin is a dielectric material that forms a layer, the myelin sheath, usually around only the axon of a neuron. It is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Myelin is an outgrowth of a type of glial cell. The production of the myelin sheath is called myelination...

ated nerve fibres.

Huxley was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London on 17 March 1955. He was knighted
Knight Bachelor
The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

 by Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

 on 12 November 1974. Sir Andrew was then appointed to the Order of Merit on 11 November 1983.

Family and Education


Huxley is a youngest son of the writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

 and editor
Editing
Editing is the process of selecting and preparing written, visual, audible, and film media used to convey information through the processes of correction, condensation, organization, and other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete...

 Leonard Huxley
Leonard Huxley (writer)
Leonard Huxley was an English schoolteacher, writer and editor.- Family :His father was the zoologist Thomas Henry Huxley, 'Darwin's bulldog'. Leonard was educated at University College School, London, St. Andrews University, and Balliol College, Oxford. He first married Julia Arnold, daughter of...

 by his second wife Rosalind Bruce, and hence half-brother of the writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

 Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley
Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel...

 and fellow biologist
Biologist
A biologist is a scientist devoted to and producing results in biology through the study of life. Typically biologists study organisms and their relationship to their environment. Biologists involved in basic research attempt to discover underlying mechanisms that govern how organisms work...

 Julian Huxley
Julian Huxley
Sir Julian Sorell Huxley FRS was an English evolutionary biologist, humanist and internationalist. He was a proponent of natural selection, and a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century evolutionary synthesis...

 and grandson of the biologist T. H. Huxley. He studied Natural Sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

. In 1947 he married Jocelyn Richenda Gammell Pease (1925–2003), the daughter of the geneticist Michael Pease
Michael Pease
Michael Stewart Pease OBE was a British classical geneticist at Cambridge University.Pease was the son of Edward Reynolds Pease, writer and a founding member of the Fabian Society, of the Pease family of Quakers...

 and his wife Helen Bowen Wedgwood, a daughter of the first Lord Wedgwood, and is thus affiliated with the Darwin-Wedgwood family. They have one son and five daughters:
  • Janet Rachel Huxley (born 20 April 1948)
  • Stewart Leonard Huxley (born 19 December 1949)
  • Camilla Rosalind Huxley (born 12 March 1952)
  • Eleanor Bruce Huxley (born 21 February 1959)
  • Henrietta Catherine Huxley (born 25 December 1960)
  • Clare Marjory Pease Huxley (born 4 November 1962)

Family tree




Nobel Prize


The experimental measurements on which the pair based their action potential theory represent one of the earliest applications of a technique of electrophysiology
Electrophysiology
Electrophysiology is the study of the electrical properties of biological cells and tissues. It involves measurements of voltage change or electric current on a wide variety of scales from single ion channel proteins to whole organs like the heart...

 known as the voltage clamp
Voltage clamp
The voltage clamp is used by electrophysiologists to measure the ion currents across the membrane of excitable cells, such as neurons, while holding the membrane voltage at a set level. Cell membranes of excitable cells contain many different kinds of ion channels, some of which are voltage gated...

. The second critical element of their research used the giant axon
Squid giant axon
The squid giant axon is the very large axon that controls part of the water jet propulsion system in squid. It was discovered by English zoologist and neurophysiologist John Zachary Young in 1936...

 of the Atlantic squid
Loliginidae
Loliginidae, commonly known as pencil squids, is an aquatic family of the order Teuthida .-Species:The following classification follows Vecchione et al. and the Tree of Life Web Project .*Genus Afrololigo...

 (Loligo pealei), which enabled them to record ionic currents as they would not have been able to do in almost any other neuron
Neuron
A neuron is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information by electrical and chemical signaling. Chemical signaling occurs via synapses, specialized connections with other cells. Neurons connect to each other to form networks. Neurons are the core components of the nervous...

, such cells being too small to study by the techniques of the time. The experiments started at the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

, beginning in 1935 with frog
Frog
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura , formerly referred to as Salientia . Most frogs are characterized by a short body, webbed digits , protruding eyes and the absence of a tail...

 sciatic nerve
Sciatic nerve
The sciatic nerve is a large nerve fiber in humans and other animals. It begins in the lower back and runs through the buttock and down the lower limb...

, and soon after they continued their work using squid giant axons at the Marine Biological Association Laboratory in Plymouth. In 1939, reporting work done in Plymouth, Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley published a short paper in the journal Nature
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

 announcing their achievement of recording action potentials from inside a nerve fibre . Research was interrupted by World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 but after resuming their experimental work in Plymouth, the pair published their theory in 1952. In the paper, they describe one of the earliest computational models in biochemistry, that is the basis of most of the models used in Neurobiology during the following four decades. He continued to hold college and university posts in Cambridge until 1960, when he became head of the Department of Physiology at University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

. For his research, in 1963 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will...

. In 1969 he was appointed to a Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 Research Professorship which he holds in the Department of Physiology at University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

.
He currently maintains his position as a fellow
Fellow
A fellow in the broadest sense is someone who is an equal or a comrade. The term fellow is also used to describe a person, particularly by those in the upper social classes. It is most often used in an academic context: a fellow is often part of an elite group of learned people who are awarded...

 at Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

, teaching in physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

, natural sciences and medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

.

Sir Andrew is inarguably one of the greatest mathematical biologists of the 20th Century. From his experimental work with Hodgkin, he developed a set of differential equations that provided a mathematical explanation for nerve impulses—the "action potential". This work provided the foundation for the all of the current work on voltage-sensitive membrane channels, which are responsible for the functioning of animal nervous systems. Quite separately, he developed the mathematical equations for the operation of myosin "cross-bridges" that generate the sliding forces between actin and myosin filaments, which cause the contraction of skeletal muscles. These equations presented an entirely new paradigm for understanding muscle contraction
Muscle contraction
Muscle fiber generates tension through the action of actin and myosin cross-bridge cycling. While under tension, the muscle may lengthen, shorten, or remain the same...

, which has been extended to provide our understanding of almost all of the movements produced by cells above the level of bacteria.

External links