Birthday: June 9, 1875
Died At Age: 93
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Henry H. Dale
Born in: Islington
Famous as: Physiologist & Pharmacologist
Died on: July 23, 1968
place of death: Cambridge
City: London, England
education: Trinity College, Cambridge, University of Cambridge
awards: 1936 - Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
1937 - Copley Medal
Who was Henry Hallett Dale?
Sir Henry Hallett Dale was a British physiologist and pharmacologist who shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1936 with German pharmacologist Otto Loewi “for their discoveries in the chemical transmission of nerve impulses”. Shortly after specializing in physiology and zoology from Trinity College, Cambridge he embarked on his research career at the Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratories. He received his medical degree from Cambridge in 1909 and eventually became the Director of the National Institute for Medical Research, London. He also served as Secretary and later President of the Royal Society. In his research career, he identified the compound histamine in animal tissues and determined that the chemical’s physiological effects such as the dilation of blood vessels and contraction of smooth muscles were similar to the symptoms of some allergic and anaphylactic reactions. He successfully isolated acetylcholine, established its occurrence in animal tissue, and confirmed its presence at nerve endings. His research established the role of acetylcholine in the chemical transmission of nerve impulses. He played a crucial role in promoting international standards for active biological substances like hormones, antitoxins, and vaccines. During his lifetime, he was honoured with Knighthood, the Order of Merit, and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire.
Childhood & Early Life
Henry Hallett Dale was born on 9 June 1875, in London, to Charles James Dale, a pottery businessman, and his wife, Frances Anne Hallett. He had six siblings.
He attended Tollington Park College, London and then Leys School, Cambridge. In 1894, he joined Trinity College, University of Cambridge with a scholarship.
In 1898, he achieved a First Class in Natural Sciences Tripos (specializing in physiology and zoology) and obtained the Coutts-Trotter studentship at Trinity College. For the next two years, he worked under physiologist John N. Langley and also came under the influence of Gaskell and Sir Hopkins, leading to the publication of his first scientific paper in the Journal of Physiology at the age of 24.
In 1900, he received a scholarship and joined St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London for clinical medical studies. He researched under Professor Ernest Starling at University College London (UCL) and in 1903, was part of the team that conducted a vivisection of a dog, leading to the notorious event of the Brown Dog affair. At UCL, he met his lifelong friend Otto Loewi.
In 1903, he also studied under Paul Ehrlich in Frankfurt, Germany for four months following which he returned to UCL as Sharpey Scholar. He qualified as B.Ch. Cambridge the same year.
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In 1904, Henry Hallett Dale became a pharmacologist at the Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratories. Two years later in 1906, he became Director of these laboratories and continued in the post for the next six years. Meanwhile, he received his M.D. from Cambridge in 1909.
In 1914, he became Director of the Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology at the National Institute for Medical Research, London. The same year, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and served as Secretary from 1925 to 1935.
In 1928, he became Director of the National Institute for Medical Research London, a post he held till 1942. Meanwhile, he was honoured with a knighthood in 1932 and four years later, he and Otto Loewi jointly won the prestigious Nobel Prize in Medicine.
During World War II, he served on the Scientific Advisory Committees of the cabinet. He also served as President of the Royal Society from 1940 to 1945.
In 1942, he became Fullerian Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Davy-Faraday Research Laboratory at Royal Institution, London. He was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1944.
After 1946, he took an active interest in the administration of the Wellcome Trust, for the support of medical research and scholarships. He served as Chairman of the Board for twenty two years, from 1938 until 1960.
He was honoured with the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1948 and served as President of the Royal Society of Medicine from 1948 to 1950.
In later years, he supported the international campaign to standardize drugs and vaccines. He also promoted the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the value of scientific research.
Sir Henry identified the compound histamine in animal tissues in 1911 and determined that the chemical’s physiological effects such as the dilation of blood vessels and contraction of smooth muscles were similar to the symptoms of some allergic and anaphylactic reactions.
In 1914, he successfully isolated acetylcholine and established its occurrence in animal tissue. Later in the 1930s, he confirmed its presence at nerve endings. His research established the role of acetylcholine in the chemical transmission of nerve impulses.
Apart from frequent articles and papers published in medical and scientific journals, he authored ‘Adventures in Physiology’ in 1953 and ‘An Autumn Gleaning’ in 1954.
Awards & Achievements
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1936 was awarded jointly to Henry Hallett Dale and Otto Loewi “for their discoveries relating to chemical transmission of nerve impulses”.
He received several other honours such as the Knight Grand Cross, Order of the British Empire in 1948, Medal of Freedom (Silver Palm), U.S.A. in 1947, the Grand-Croix de l'Ordre de la Couronne, Belgium in 1950, and l'Ordre pour le Mérite, Western Germany in 1955.
He received fellowships of numerous learned societies and institutions of the world, including the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Trinity College, Cambridge. He received over twenty honorary degrees in his lifetime.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1904, Henry Hallett Dale married his first cousin, Elen Harriet Hallett. The couple had a son and two daughters.
He died on 23 July 1968 after a brief period of illness.
His younger brother, Benjamin Dale, was a skilled composer and warden of the Royal Academy of Music.