Birthday: November 22, 1917
Died At Age: 94
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Sir Andrew Fielding Huxley
Born in: Hampstead, London, England
Famous as: Physiologist & Biophysicist
Spouse/Ex-: Richenda Gammell
father: Leonard Huxley
mother: Rosalind Bruce
children: Camilla, Clare, Eleanor, Henrietta, Janet, Stewart
Died on: May 30, 2012
place of death: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
awards: FRS (1955)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1963)
Copley Medal (1973)
Knight Bachelor (1974)
Order of Merit (1983)
Who was Andrew Huxley?
Sir Andrew Fielding Huxley was a British physiologist, biophysicist, mathematician and mechanical wizard. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for showing how nerve cells produce electrical impulses to control the sensations of human body and all its activities. He shared this prize with Sir Alan Hodgkin who was a British scientist and his former teacher, and Sir John Eccles, an Australian biophysicist. The experiments carried out by Huxley and Hodgkin helped to explain the effect of anesthesia on the human body and the identification of many genetic diseases. Their work also helped in the design of prosthetic hands, arms, legs and feet. Huxley and Hodgkin explained how an electrical impulse travels from one end of the nerve cell to the other while Eccles described how the impulse was transferred from one cell to the adjacent one. They were able to solve an age old mystery where an Italian physicist made a dead frog’s leg twitch by touching it with electrical current. They used a nerve cell from a squid known as a ‘giant axion’ which is the largest nerve cell found in any type of living creature. They successfully inserted micro electrodes into the nerve cell and recorded the change in potential between the two ends when an electric current was passed through it.
Childhood & Early Life
Sir Andrew Huxley was born in Hampstead, north London on November 22, 1917. His father, Leonard Huxley, was a writer and editor while his mother was Rosalind Bruce.
He was the younger of the two sons born to Leonard and Rosalind. His elder brother was David.
Julian Huxley, a scientist on animal behavior, and the novelist Aldous Huxley were his half-brothers from his father’s first marriage.
Both his half-brothers were older than him and had very little influence on his work. When Andrew was born, Aldous was 23-year-old and Julian was 30.
His parents had presented him a lathe when he was 14 as he was technically quite proficient from a young age. He kept the lathe intact and used it to build a large number of equipment for his experiments later.
After his father died when he was 15, his mother encouraged him to study physics as he had a talent for all mechanical things.
He did his initial schooling at the ‘University College School’ from 1925 to 1930 and then at the ‘Westminster School’ from 1930 to 1935. He won a scholarship for higher studies from here.
He joined the ‘Trinity College’ under the Cambridge University to study engineering and physics in 1935 but changed over to physiology which he had taken as an elective subject.
He studied anatomy from 1937 to 1938 hoping to qualify in medicine.
He received his bachelor’s degree in physiology in 1938 and his master’s degree in 1945.
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In the summer of 1939 he started working with Professor Alan Hodgkin on squid axon at the ‘Marine Biological Laboratory in Plymouth, England.
When the Second World War broke out in September 1939 with the German invasion of Poland, he had to abandon his experiments and join the war effort.
He was recruited by the ‘British Anti-Aircraft Command’ to work on the development of radar that would be able to control antiaircraft guns.
Later he was transferred to the Admiralty where he did the same work for anti-aircraft guns mounted on warships. He helped Hodgkin design a new gun-sight during this period.
In 1946, after the war had ended, he resumed his research with Professor Alan Hodgkin and carried out a teaching job at the ‘Department of Physiology’ even though he had been awarded a research fellowship by the ‘Trinity College’ in 1941.
He carried out his research work with Hodgkin from 1946 to 1951.
Huxley and Hodgkin published their findings in 1952.
His later researches from 1952 onwards were on the conduction of electric current in muscles.
From 1950 to 1957 he acted as the editor for the ‘Journal of Physiology’ and the ‘Journal of Molecular Biology’.
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In 1953 he worked at the ‘Woods Hole’ in Massachusetts, USA.
In 1959 he gave lectures at the ‘John Hopkins Medical School’
He was appointed as professor and head of the department of physiology at the ‘University College’ in London in 1960 after being selected as a ‘Jordell Professor’. He remained in that post till 1983.
In 1961 he took part in an exchange scheme involving Russian and British professors and gave lectures on Neurophysiology at the Kiev University’.
In 1964 he gave lectures at the ‘Columbia University’.
In 1969 he got an appointment at the ‘Department of Physiology’ at the ‘University College London’ as a ‘Royal Society Research Professor’.
He was the President of the ‘British Association for the Advancement of Science’ from 1976 to 1977.
In 1983 he defended the decision made by the ‘Royal Society’ to elect Margaret Thatcher as a fellow against the opposition of 44 who protested against it.
He was made the master of the Trinity College in 1984 and held the post up to 1990.
He served as the President of the ‘Royal Society’ from 1980 to 1985.
He was the President of the ‘International Union of Physiological Sciences’ from 1986 to 1993.
Awards & Achievements
Sir Andrew Huxley was named a ‘Fellow of the Royal Society’ in 1955.
He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1963.
He was honored with the knighthood in 1974.
He was awarded with an ‘Order of Merit’ in 1983.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Jocelyn Richenda Gammell Pease in 1947 and had a son, Stewart, and five daughters, Janet, Camilla, Eleanor, Henrietta and Clare from the marriage.
Sir Andrew Huxley died of cancer on May 30, 2012.