Prize Lecture Memoria – Andrew Huxley


AF Huxley1957smallSir Andrew Fielding Huxley (1917 –2012) was a Nobel Prize winning English physiologist. Huxley studied at Trinity College, Cambridge where he joined Alan Hodgkin to study nerve impulses. Regrettably, their work was interrupted at the outbreak of war in 1939. During World War II Huxley served with the British Anti-Aircraft Command working on radar control and then with the Admiralty on naval gunnery. At the end of the war, in 1946, Huxley returned to take up a research fellowship post at Trinity College and resumed his collaboration with Hodgkin. Their experiments on the giant axons of the Atlantic squid led to their discovery of the basis of excitation and propagation of the nerve impulses (the action potential) which earnt them the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1963. Huxley was also interested in the then unsolved problem of how muscles contract.Using a technique of his own design, Huxley deployed interference microscopy to view living muscle fibre structure with greater precision than previously possible. In 1952, he was joined by Rolf Niedergerke and in 1954 they reported their discovery of what is commonly known as the sliding filament mechanism (The same concepts were independently published by Hugh Huxley – no relation – and Jean Hanson in the same edition of Nature). This insight is the foundation of modern understandings of muscle mechanics. Huxley’s later work developed the ‘crossbridge’ concept that accounts for all cellular movement involving ‘motor’ proteins. Sir Andrew Fielding Huxley died on 30 May 2012 aged 95. In 1999 The Physiological Society established the Hodgkin-Huxley-Katz Prize Lecture; this prestigious biennial lecture celebrates the contributions to the physiological sciences of Alan Hodgkin, Andrew Huxley and Bernard Katz. The Society’s headquarters building in London is named Hodgkin Huxley House.

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