Sir Charles Sherrington
Charles Scott Sherrington was born in November 1857 and was educated at Caius College, Cambridge where he was awarded a Fellowship in 1887. He was Professor of Physiology at the University of Liverpool between 1895 and 1913 when he came to Magdalen College as Waynflete Professor of Physiology. He was President of the Royal Society between 1920 and 1925.
Sherrington lived to an immense age and dedicated his life to the study of the nervous system. His ideas published in 1904 as ‘The Integrative Action of the Nervous System’ put the field onto a new plane with the realisation that the unit reaction of the nevous system was the simple spinal reflex. The role of the nervous system was to correlate the individual activities of all the cells of the body from which a new entity results – the animal itself.
Over the next forty years he went on to publish over 200 papers, nearly all of primary importance. His Gifford Lectures of 1937-8 were published as ‘Man and his Nature’ and resulted from his researches into the philosophy and science of the 16th and 17th centuries. But his interests went far beyond the study of the nervous system; he undertook research in bacteriology, the metablism of the body in cancer, histology, the formation of scar tissue. He was appointed by the Royal Society a member of the commission to study Asiatic Cholera in Spain in 1886 and was a member of the Society’s Malaria and Sleeping Sickness Commission. He served on a number of government committees including those on the lighting of factories, tetanus, alcohol, industrial fatigue, foot and mouth disease. He was awarded his Nobel Prize in 1932.
His early training had been as a classical scholar and Sherrington was admired beyond the world of science for the epigrammatic nature of his prose, for his enthusiasm for bibliography and for his skill as a poet. He published only one volume of poems, ‘The Assaying of Brabantius’, full of experimental metres and varied shapings, which was issued in the year in which he gave up the Presidency of the Royal Society. He died in March 1952, aged 94.