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Biomedical heroes

  • Professor Peter Baker FRS (1939 - 1987)
  • Henry Barcroft (1904 – 1998)
  • Lionel Smith Beale (1828 – 1906)
  • Arnold Beckett (1920 - 2010)
  • Sir James Black (1924 - 2010)
  • Sir William Bowman (1816 – 1892)
  • Professor George Brownlee (1911- 2010)
  • William Cheselden (1688 – 1752)
  • Astley Paston Cooper (1768 -1841)
  • James Danielli (1911 – 1984)
  • Professor Harold Ellis, CBE, Mch, FRCS (b.1926)
  • Professor John Ernsting CB, OBE (1928 - 2009)
  • Sir William Fergusson, 1st Baronet FRCS FRS (1808-1877)
  • Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958)
  • Ronald Thompson Grant (1892 -1989)
  • Jean Hanson (1919 – 1973)
  • Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins (1861 – 1947)
  • Robert McCance (1898 – 1993)
  • Richard Partridge FRS FRCS (1805-1873)
  • John Turton Randall (1905 - 1984)
  • Ernest Starling (1866 -1927)
  • Robert Bentley Todd (1809 -1860)
  • Thomas Wharton (1614 -1673)
  • Elsie Widdowson (1906 -2000)
  • Maurice Wilkins (1916 – 2004)
  • Cicely Williams (1893 – 1992)
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 -1951)
  • Gray’s Anatomy


    bakerp140x180Professor Peter Baker FRS (1939 – 1987)

    Internationally acclaimed physiologist

    Professor Peter Baker was Head of the Department of Physiology and a Fellow of King’s College London from 1975 until his early death in 1987. His interests in the life sciences were diverse and his contributions in corresponding fields of research internationally acclaimed.

    He was appointed Halliburton Professor in Physiology at King's College London in 1975 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society a year later. Baker pursued his research interests in the area of calcium homeostasis and, using the squid axon as an experimental model, branched out into other areas of physiology.

    The Peter Baker Lecture is an annual lecture held by the Department of Physiology in his honour. Read more about the Peter Baker Lecture.

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    HenryBarcroft140x180Henry Barcroft (1904 – 1998)

    A physiologist who wasn’t afraid to get his feet wet


    Henry Barcroft was Professor of Physiology at St Thomas’ Hospital from 1948 to his retirement.  He was a scientist who stimulated research in medicine, with a particular interest in peripheral circulation. Early in his career, he developed a new form of the stromuhr, an instrument which measures the rate of blood flow, and during the Second World War he studied the physiological effects of haemorrhage.

    Barcroft famously tested the effect of mechanical contraction of blood vessels on local blood flow by using himself as a subject. With colleagues, he stood for hours in bins filled with water at core body temperature. His experiments showed that sustained muscle contraction at 20-30 per cent maximal strength almost completely arrested blood flow in the calf of the subject, whereas rhythmic contractions, such as those caused by walking, increased blood flow.

    Sympathetic Control of Human Blood Vessels, which Barcroft wrote with H.J.C. Swan, was the first monograph published by the Physiological Society, in 1953. One reviewer described it as being written in ‘simple and direct language, and illustrated by the elegantly clear diagrams that characterise all Barcroft's papers’, concluding: ‘It has stood the test of time.’

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    LionelSmithBeale140x180Lionel Smith Beale (1828 – 1906)

    Pioneer of the microscope in clinical medicine

    Lionel Beale was a prominent advocate for the scientific investigation of disease, and for the importance of the microscope and chemical pathology. His association with King’s spanned most of his life. When he was nine, he joined King’s College School (then a junior department of the College). At the age of 25, he was appointed as Professor of Physiology at King’s College London, following Robert Bentley Todd. After resigning from this post, he was made physician to King's College Hospital and promoted to professor of medicine in 1876, where he remained until his retirement in 1896. 

    In the nineteenth century, England lagged behind continental Europe in the laboratory investigation of disease. Beale argued for laboratories to be set up in teaching hospitals and for government grants to investigators. He worked with Bowman [link] on the histology of renal structures and muscle fibres and developed the clinical and practical aspects of microscopy. In 1854 he published The Microscope and its Application to Clinical Medicine, setting out procedures for microscopic examination of blood, urine, tumours and parasites.

    ‘Beale undoubtedly did more than any other medical scientist of his generation to diffuse the new techniques and approaches of laboratory medicine, especially microscopy, to English-speaking audiences.’ Michael Worboys

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    ArnoldBeckett140x180Arnold Beckett (1920 - 2010)

    Anti-doping pharmacist

    Arnold Beckett developed new methods for the study of drugs in the small concentrations present in body fluids during his 27 years as head of the School of Pharmacy at Chelsea College of Science and Technology (later merged with King’s College London). By the time drug abuse in sport became a recognised problem – following the death of a cyclist due to amphetamine use during the 1967 Tour de France –  Beckett and his team had developed the analytical tools needed to test athletes.

    Beckett worked with Professor Raymond Brooks at St Thomas’ Hospital, who established a test for anabolic steroids which was later adopted across the world. In 1978, Beckett’s laboratory became the first one established independently of a city staging the Olympic Games to test for drugs in sport. Its successor, King’s College London’s Drug Control Centre, will operate a World Anti-Doping Agency accredited satellite laboratory during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

    Professor Beckett was made a member of the Olympic Order in 1980 for his contributions to the regulation of drug use in international sports and was appointed OBE in 1983.

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    SirJamesBlack140x180Sir James Black (1924 - 2010)

    Nobel-winning pharmacologist who developed beta blockers and anti-ulcer drugs

    'In intellectual terms the last five years at King's have been the most productive in my life. Surrounded by talented researchers and PhD students, I feel I have found my niche at last.’ 
    (Sir James Black, from the speech given on the acceptance of his Nobel Prize)

    Sir James Black was appointed as professor of pharmacology at King’s in 1984 and retained connections with the college for the rest of his life. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1988 for the development of two major families of drugs: beta blockers for the treatment of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and heart failure, and anti-ulcer histamine receptor blocking drugs.

    The great innovation in James Black’s approach was that he used his understanding of how cells communicate with one another to work out how to design new drugs.

    The James Black Centre on King’s Denmark Hill Campus, which opened in 2007, houses groups working on molecular haematology, neurobiology, translational stem research and transplantation. It provides a highly multi-disciplinary environment for 180 scientists with excellent core facilities including genomics, proteomics, mulitphoton confocal microscopy and a 7 tesla MRI scanner.

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    SirWilliamBowman140x180Sir William Bowman (1816 – 1892)

    Connecting microscopic structure to everyday function

    Sir William Bowman had a profound influence on the study of anatomy by relating microscopic structure to function. He had a particular interest in the kidneys, the eye and the liver. At 21 he joined the medical department of King’s College London, and was later appointed as a surgeon to the college’s new teaching hospital. At the unusually early age of 25, he was made a fellow of the Royal Society. He was elected joint professor of physiology and general anatomy at King’s College Hospital in 1848 (with Robert Bentley Todd) and retained connections with the hospital to the end of his life.

    The first part of his life was devoted to anatomical  research (culminating in the publication with Bentley Todd of The Physiological Anatomy and Physiology of Man, 1845-56). After 1850 he became a leading ophthalmic surgeon, the first in England to become expert in the use of the ophthalmoscope. Having played a large role in its foundation, he was elected first president of the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom.

    A friend of Florence Nightingale, Bowman helped to establish the St John's House and Sisterhood to provide trained nurses for the sick and poor. He gave his name to several structures in the human body: Bowman’s capsule in the kidney, Bowman’s glands in the olfactory mucosa and Bowman’s membrane in the cornea.

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    Professor George Brownlee (1911 – 2010)

    Professor George BrownleeThe first Professor of Pharmacology at King’s

    Professor George Brownlee was the first Professor of Pharmacology at King’s from 1950 until 1978. Initially taking up a Readership in Pharmacology, he was credited with building a ‘fine Department that touched many lives’ while continuing his research. He became a Professor in 1958 and retired in 1978. Professor Brownlee was a pioneer in the field of molecular biology: he was the first to clone and patent the production and clinical use of recombinant human blood clotting factor IX providing a recombinant source of this protein for Haemophilia B patients who had previously relied on the blood-derived products. With Peter Palese and co-workers, he also developed the first ‘reverse genetics’ system for the influenza virus, markedly speeding up the process of developing flu vaccines.

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    WilliamCheseldon140x180William Cheselden (1688 – 1752)

    First anatomy text written in English

    At the age of just 22, following his medical training at St Thomas’ Hospital, William Cheselden established a course of 35 lectures in anatomy, comparative anatomy and animal economy (physiology). This became the first programme of pre-clinical training in Britain.

    Appointed assistant surgeon at St Thomas's Hospital in 1718, Cheselden was made a principal surgeon within a year, enabling him to develop his own operative techniques, especially for bladder stone extraction. His new, faster procedure reduced operative mortality to less than 10 per cent.

    His first major work, The Anatomy of the Human Body, was published in 1713 and was to become a standard anatomical text for more than a hundred years. Its popularity was partly due to the fact that it was written in English rather than Latin. Cheselden’s most important anatomical work was Osteographia or The Anatomy of Bones, published in 1733, the first full and accurate description of human osseus anatomy. The bones were shown life size and illustrated by Cheselden himself.

    The poet Alexander Pope wrote of Cheselden, ‘He is the most noted and deserving man in the whole of the profession of Chirurgery: and has saved the lives of thousands by his manner of cutting for the stone’.

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    AstleyPastonCooper140x180Astley Paston Cooper (1768 -1841)

    Influential anatomist who believed in practical demonstration

    ‘Nothing is known in our profession by guess; observation on the diseased living, examination of the dead, and experiments upon living animals, are the only sources of true knowledge’.

    Astley Paston Cooper was both an accomplished surgeon and an original anatomist and teacher. Initially articled to his uncle William Cooper, senior surgeon at Guy's Hospital, he was later apprenticed to Henry Cline, surgeon at St Thomas's Hospital and became a teacher there. In 1800 his uncle resigned as surgeon to Guy's Hospital and Cooper was elected to the post.

    Cooper stressed practical demonstrations over didacticism and gained the respect and admiration of his students, who included the poet John Keats [link]. Cooper helped Guy's to establish its anatomical and surgical museum (the Gordon Museum) with specimens from his own dissections. He would typically dissect for two or three hours before breakfast and once dissected an elephant in the front garden of his house, throwing a carpet over the railings to conceal it from public view.

    Cooper’s chief publications were on the testes, breast and the inguinal region. He also described several new anatomical structures including Cooper’s ligaments, the suspensory ligaments of the breast and Cooper’s pubic ligament.

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    JamesDanielli140x180James Danielli (1911 – 1984)

    A model of the cell membrane - the basis of modern pharmacology

    In 1949 James Danielli was appointed as Professor of Zoology at King's College, London. He remained there for more than a decade, assembling a team of talented young scientists, extending his earlier work on the cell membrane, and becoming involved in the development of anti-cancer drugs. It was a particularly fertile moment at King’s, with John Randall, Jean Hanson, Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin working in neighbouring departments.

    Danielli is best known for the Davson–Danielli (or ‘sandwich’) model of the cell membrane. With Hugh Davson, he investigated the mechanisms that made the membranes of red blood cells selectively permeable. The model the two researchers first proposed in 1943 is the basis for modern understanding of how drugs enter cells – and thus for much later physiological and pharmacological research.  They are commemorated in King’s Davson-Danielli Prize for Physiology.

    Danielli’s early work was on the structure of the living cell membrane, membrane permeability and function. During the war, he was involved in research on the problems of wound healing and on the search for an antidote to the chemical warfare poison Lewisite. Later in life, he studied environmental health issues such as waste-water treatment and water pollution and campaigned for the preservation of the DNA of endangered species.

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    HaroldEllisProfessor Harold Ellis, CBE, Mch, FRCS (b.1926)

    Inspirational teacher of clinical anatomy

    Harold Ellis has taught Anatomy at Guy's Hospital since 1993 – an inspirational teacher now in his nineth decade who has introduced generations of medical students to anatomy and surgery. He is the author of 25 books, including the student textbook Clinical Anatomy, now in its twelfth edition.

    Ellis graduated from the University of Oxford in 1948, in the month that the NHS was established. He was appointed Professor of Surgery at Westminster Hospital in 1962,  selecting a team which included as senior lecturer Roy Calne [link] the future kidney transplant specialist.

    Ellis was appointed CBE in 1987, and the Royal College of Surgeons established The Professor Harold Ellis Medical Student Prize for Surgery in recognition of his teaching and contribution to surgery.

    ‘A lecture by Professor Harold Ellis entitled ‘60 years in the NHS’… was a breath of fresh air, a real inspiration.’ (Kathryn Topley, 4th year medical student)

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    ernstingj140x180Professor John Ernsting CB, OBE (1928 - 2009)

    Outstanding contributor to human and aviation physiology

    Professor John Ernsting was a senior British military commander and renowned aerospace physiology and medicine researcher and teacher. During his careers in the Royal Air force and at King’s College, London, Professor John Ernsting made an outstanding contribution to applied research in altitude physiology and protection. His research and development of breathing systems enabled test pilots and aircrew to conduct trials of prototype military and civilian aircraft over four decades. The counter-measures he devised to the stresses encountered at high altitude and supersonic speeds won him international acclaim.

    Professor Ernsting oversaw the introduction of the Aviation Medicine MSc at King’s and the internationally renowned six-month Diploma in Aviation Medicine, a joint programme between King’s and RAF Henlow, accredited by the Royal College of Physicians. It continues to attract physicians from around the world.

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    SirWilliamFergusson140x180Sir William Fergusson, 1st Baronet FRCS FRS (1808-1877)

    A fast operator and surgeon to Queen Victoria

    ‘The great master of his craft, the greatest practical surgeon of our time.’ (Sir James Paget)

    Fergusson was appointed as Professor of Surgery to the newly opened King’s College Hospital in 1839 when he was just 32, and remained a surgeon at King’s for 37 years, until his death. Today, a ward in King’s College Hospital is named after him. He was famous for the speed at which he worked – a great advantage in the days before anaesthetics. It was said that if you blinked during one of his lithotomies, you would miss it entirely. In 1849, Fergusson was appointed surgeon-in-ordinary to Prince Albert, and in 1855 surgeon-extraordinary; in 1867 he became sergeant-surgeon to Queen Victoria.

    Fergusson’s name is linked with operations on harelip and cleft palate, the excision of joints and amputations of limbs. He extended the principle of ‘conservative’ surgery, preserving parts of the body which would otherwise have been amputated, and revived the neglected operation for cleft palate.

    Fergusson was known to be ambitious and something of a dandy. He travelled about London in a bright yellow coach, called by his students ‘the mustard pot’, attended by two postilions and two specially-trained Dalmatians.

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    rosalindfranklin Rosalind Franklin (1920 -1958)  

    The most important photographer of our time?

    Rosalind Franklin came to King's in early 1951 and that summer she took the famous 'Photo 51' and made important studies of the DNA molecule. When Francis Crick and James Watson of Cambridge University obtained this photo, together with some of Franklin's data in the report of an MRC visit to King's, they were able to use this with their own deductions to build the first correct model of the DNA molecule. Their famous paper in Nature (April 1953) was accompanied by a paper by Wilkins, Stokes and Wilson, and another by Franklin and Gosling.

    This was the beginning of a further seven years of work for Maurice Wilkins and his colleagues to check and verify Crick and Watson's hypothetical model. It was for this, as well as his original X-ray diffraction studies, that Wilkins was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Crick and Watson in 1962. Rosalind Franklin died of cancer at the age of 37 in 1958. Read more about Rosalind Franklin and the discovery of the structure of DNA at King’s.

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    RonaldThompsonGrant140x180Ronald Thompson Grant (1892 -1989)

    A researcher on the battlefield

    In 1934 Ronald Thompson Grant was appointed director of a newly established MRC Clinical Research Unit at Guy’s Hospital Medical School, and was also elected a fellow of the Royal Society. At Guy’s he studied the physiology and pathology of blood vessels, until in 1940, his laboratory was destroyed by a bomb.

    He was then commissioned to study ‘traumatic shock’ or ‘wound shock’, caused by bomb injuries, an area little understood before the Second World War. Grant and his colleague Basil Reeve recognised that haemorrhage was a major factor in wound shock and suggested that patients with massive injuries and continuing haemorrhage could be kept alive by transfusions. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was a laboratory assistant to the team from 1943 to 1944. Grant and Reeve’s research continued in Newcastle upon Tyne with patients injured in industrial and road accidents, and from late 1943, they studied injuries on the Italian battlefield, just 10 miles from the front.

    Grant received the OBE in 1945, and returned to Guy’s to continue research until his official retirement. Personal grants from the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust allowed him to continue working at the bench up to the age of 80.

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    JeanHanson140x180Jean Hanson (1919 – 1973)

    Described the double sliding filament structure of muscles

    Jean Hanson was one of the most influential researchers to have worked at King's in modern times. She was a founder member of the King’s biophysics research unit established by the Medical Research Council in 1947, which was set up to examine structural problems in biology using powerful new physical methods. She remained at King’s until her untimely death, apart from an important period of research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    Hanson discovered the overlapping arrays of actin and myosin filaments which slide past each other during contraction. She demonstrated the existence of the double sliding filament mechanism in a wide variety of muscle types, including smooth muscles from invertebrates. Her work led to an understanding of how athletes can run faster and develop greater stamina by providing an insight into the molecular secrets of locomotion. Recovery from injury and disease became speedier and more complete with increased knowledge of the operation of muscles, including those of the heart.

    Hanson received the title of Professor of Biology in the University of London in 1966 and became King’s first female Fellow of the Royal Society in 1967.

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    SirFrederickGowlandHopkins140x180Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins (1861 – 1947)

    Nobel-winner who discovered vitamins

    Frederick Gowland Hopkins entered Guy's Hospital as a medical student at the mature age of 28 and was immediately given the William Gull Studentship. He then taught physiology and toxicology at Guy's Hospital for four years. However, he had a background in chemistry, and became instrumental in establishing biochemistry as a separate discipline, concerned with the ‘active chemistry of the life process’.

    Hopkins carried out a series of experiments which led to the discovery of trace elements in fresh foods essential to animal health. Hopkins called these ‘accessory substances’ – they are now known as vitamins. He was knighted in 1925, and in 1929 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (jointly with Christiaan Eijkman) for the discovery of vitamins.

    Among his other outstanding contributions to science were the discovery of a method for isolating tryptophan and for identifying its structure; the identification of  substance he named glutathione which is widely distributed in the cells of plants and animals that are rapidly multiplying, and the discovery of xanthine oxidase.

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    RobertMcCance140x180Robert McCance (1898 – 1993)

    Joint author of the nutritionist’s bible

    McCance and Widdowson’s The Chemical Composition of Foods (1940) details the nutritional content of thousands of foods and is still considered the standard reference for chemical data on food – the nutritionist’s bible. The scientific partnership between its authors, Dr Robert McCance and Dr Elsie Widdowson  was formed in the kitchens of King’s College Hospital in 1933.

    McCance was a clinical scientist and head of the hospital’s biochemical laboratory when he met Widdowson, a postgraduate student of dietetics at King’s. They worked together fruitfully for 60 years, contributing to the successful planning of food rationing during the Second World War, studying the effect of diet on infant growth and development, and nutritional principles such as the relation between disease risk and nutrient intakes and the effect of early nutrition on health later in life. 

    McCance and Widdowson often used themselves as guinea pigs for their nutritional experiments. They lived on their proposed wartime diet – based on ingredients in relatively plentiful supply such as bread, cabbage and potatoes – for three months before going to the Lake District to test their physical fitness on long walks. The experiment was successful and the diet was subsequently promoted by the Ministry of Food. As a result of McCance and Widdowson’s work, Britain’s population was at its healthiest in the years of food rationing.

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    RichardPartridge140x180Richard Partridge FRS FRCS (1805-1873)

    Surgeon who turned in London bodysnatchers

    In 1831, while working as a demonstrator of anatomy at King's College, Richard Partridge was offered the suspiciously fresh body of a teenage boy for dissection. Partridge alerted the police and the ‘London Burkers’ (so-called after the Scottish bodysnatchers Burke and Hare) were arrested and brought to trial. The public outcry about the case led to the passing of the Anatomy Act of 1832. This allowed the bodies of paupers unclaimed by relatives to be supplied to medical schools for dissection.

    Partridge was appointed surgeon at the newly established King’s College Hospital in 1840,  colleague to the more famous William Fergusson. In the autumn of 1862, Partridge was asked to examine the Italian general Guiseppe Garibaldi, who had been shot in the ankle. He was unable to detect the bullet, which was later found and removed by colleagues.

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    Sir John Turton Randall (1905-1984)

    Pioneer and leader in biophysics

    Sir Jonn Randall, in his role as Wheatstone Professor of Physics at King's College London, was responsible for setting up the Medical Research Council Biophysics Unit that pioneered x-ray analysis of the DNA molecule under the supervision of Maurice Wilkins.

    His early career was spent at the University of Birmingham and it was here that in 1940 he collaborated with Harry Boot on the development of the cavity magnetron, which was a type of vacuum tube crucial to improving the performance of radar for the war effort. The cavity magnetron is also the key component of microwave ovens.

    Randall proved an inspirational leader at King's, fostering a collegial and 'democratic' working environment among a team of talented young researchers. He was willing to take research in radically new directions, initiating research into DNA, and the structure of collagen and muscle fibre, among other projects.

    The Biophysics Unit was later renamed in his honour, and the world-leading research centre at King’s is now known as the Randall Division of Cell & Molecular Biophysics.

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    ErnestStarling140x180Ernest Starling (1866 -1927)

    Hormones and the ‘law of the heart’

    Ernest Starling’s interests in the mammalian heart and circulation developed while he was working at Guy’s Hospital in the late nineteenth century. His connection with King’s began with his schooling at King’s College School (then a junior department of the College) and medical studies at Guy’s Hospital. He became a demonstrator in the department of physiology at Guy’s and was made head of the department in 1889.

    In 1902, Starling discovered secretin. He wrote the first description of a chemical substance produced in one part of the body that could circulate in the blood and produce a specific response elsewhere in the body, and coined the term ‘hormone’ for such substances.

    Starling is best known to clinicians and physiologists for his ‘law of the heart’: ‘the energy of contraction is function of the length of the muscle fibres’. This physiological concept still influences clinical management of patients with congestive heart failure.

    Starling also carried out innovative studies on the electromotive force of the mammalian heart and made fundamental observations about lymph and the peripheral circulation, showing that lymph resulted from intercapillary pressure and permeability of the capillary wall and was controlled by blood pressure and osmosis.

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    RobertBentleyTodd140x180Robert Bentley Todd (1809 -1860)

    Physican and physiologist who reformed medical education

    Robert Bentley Todd joined King’s as Professor of Physiology and Morbid Anatomy in 1836. He radically reformed medical education and campaigned persuasively for the establishment of a new teaching hospital for the college. King’s College Hospital was officially opened in 1840, housed in a former workhouse near the King’s site on the Strand.

    Todd is best remembered for his description of transient paralysis after an epileptic fit – Todd’s paralysis – but this is a small part of his contributions to neurology and neuroscience. He was the first to recognise the functions of the posterior columns of the spinal cord, the concept of sensory (afferent) and motor (efferent) nerves and to give an account of the syphilitic disease of the spinal cord.

    Todd was the first to apply Michael Faraday’s concepts of the polar forces of electricity and magnetism to the brain, laying the foundations of modern understanding of the electrical basis of brain activity and developing the first electrical theory of epilepsy.

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    ThomasWharton140x180Thomas Wharton (1614 -1673)

    The thyroid and the salivary glands described

    Thomas Wharton was a physician at St Thomas’ hospital from 1657 and remained there for the majority of his career. He was the author of Adenographia, the first thorough account of the glands of the human body, which he published at his own expense in 1656.

    At that time, the nerves and lymphatics were thought to be vascular in nature and were not considered important in understanding the functions of the human body. Wharton stated that the glands excreted fluid from lymph, conveying it to nerves, and also evacuated waste material from the nervous system into lymphatic channels. He described the ovaries, the testes and their production of sperm, the breasts and their production of milk, and showed why the tongue, spleen and brain were not glands. In addition to describing the duct of the submandibular salivary gland (Wharton’s duct) and the jelly of the umbilical cord (Wharton’s jelly), he also named the thyroid gland. All this was the fruit of careful dissection of human and animal bodies.

    Wharton was one of the few physicians not to flee London during the plague of 1665, remaining at St Thomas’ Hospital to treat patients, and his commitment was commended by the Royal College of Physicians.

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    ElsieWidowsson140x180Elsie Widdowson (1906 -2000)

    Joint author of the nutritionist’s bible

    McCance and Widdowson’s The Chemical Composition of Foods (1940) details the nutritional content of thousands of foods and is still considered the standard reference for chemical data on food – the nutritionist’s bible. The scientific partnership between its authors, Dr Elsie Widdowson and Dr Robert McCance, was formed in the kitchens of King’s College Hospital in 1933.

    Elsie Widdowson (1906 – 2000) was a postgraduate student of dietetics at King’s when she met Robert McCance (1898 – 1993), a clinical scientist and head of the hospital’s biochemical laboratory. They worked together fruitfully for 60 years, contributing to the successful planning of food rationing during the Second World War, studying the effect of diet on infant growth and development, and nutritional principles such as the relation between disease risk and nutrient intakes and the effect of early nutrition on health later in life.

    McCance and Widdowson often used themselves as guinea pigs for their nutritional experiments. They lived on their proposed wartime diet - based on ingredients in relatively plentiful supply such as bread, cabbage and potatoes – for three months before going to the Lake District to test their physical fitness on long walks. The experiment was successful and the diet was subsequently promoted by the Ministry of Food. As a result of McCance and Widdowson’s work, Britain’s population was at its healthiest in the years of food rationing.

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    mauricewilkins Maurice Wilkins (1916 – 2004)

    Nobel Prize winner for the discovery of the structure of DNA

    The discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 revealed the physical and chemical basis of how characteristics are passed down through the generations and how they are expressed in individual organisms.

    Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin, together with Ray Gosling, Alec Stokes and Herbert Wilson and other colleagues at the Randall Institute at King's, made crucial contributions to the discovery of DNA's structure in 1953.

    Wilkins began using optical spectroscopy to study DNA in the late 1940s. In 1950 he and Gosling obtained the first clearly crystalline X-ray diffraction patterns from DNA fibres, and Alec Stokes suggested that the patterns indicated that DNA was helical (spiral) in structure. Read more about Maurice Wilkins and the discovery of the structure of DNA at King’s.

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    cecilywilliams140x180Cicely Williams (1893 – 1992)

    Nutritionist and paediatrician

    The pioneering nutritionist and paediatrician Cicely Williams undertook clinical training at King’s College Hospital during the First World War. She was the first Head of Mother and Child Health at the World Health Organisation (1948 -51) and was the first woman to be elected to an honorary fellowship of the Royal College of Medicine (in 1977).

    Williams was particularly active in research and debate on the causes and treatment of protein nutrition. In 1929 she identified ‘kwashiorkor’, a protein deficiency disease affecting young children on the Gold Coast (now Ghana). She was later transferred to Malaya, where she criticised companies which aggressively promoted infant foods in developing countries and led mothers to abandon breastfeeding.

    During the Second World War, Williams was interned in Changi prison in Singapore for three and a half years. She was able to use her nutritional knowledge to care for her fellow prisoners, keeping the death rate lower than in other camps. She remained active in research and teaching on nutrition to the end of her life, and was equally important as a pioneer of maternal and child care in developing countries, with a vision of local resources as key to improving the health of the poor.

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    LudwigWittgenstein140x180Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 -1951)

    Philosopher and porter

    The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein worked as a porter at Guy’s Hospital from 1941. He later became a laboratory assistant to Ronald Grant and Basil Reeve, who were studying trauma shock.

    It was Wittgenstein who suggested to Grant that wound sizes might be described in terms of the volume of tissue damaged, using the hand or fist as a unit of measurement. This made a significant contribution to Grant’s work on measuring wounds and blood-loss. Grant wrote of Wittgenstein:

    ‘He has a keenly critical mind and in discussions of medical and physiological problems has proved a most helpful and stimulating colleague. He has undertaken observations on respiratory variations of blood pressure in man, devising his own experiments and apparatus. The results of his work so far are at variance with commonly accepted views and of considerable interest.’

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    GraysAnatomy140x180Gray’s Anatomy

    The ultimate reference book in anatomy

    Gray's Anatomy is recognised the world over as the ultimate anatomical reference book and has never been out of print since it first appeared in 1858. It was first edited at this institution by T B Johnson in 1930.

    The current Editor-in-Chief, Susan Standring, Emeritus Professor of Anatomy, and until her recent retirement, Head of the Anatomy & Human Sciences Department at King’s, has been on the editorial board since 1973.

    She presided over the radical re-organisation of the of the 39th edition in 2004, which differed from earlier editions in that the body was described in regions, not systematically, for easier clinical reference. The title was extended to reflect this change, becoming Gray's Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice.

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