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Sir Henry Hallett Dale

(1875—1968) physiologist and pharmacologist


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(1875–1968)

British physiologist who, in 1914, isolated the chemical acetylcholine from the fungus ergot. It was later found to be the same substance as that produced by the nerve endings during the passage of a nerve impulse, discovered by Otto Loewi in 1921. Dale and Loewi shared the 1936 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Dale was knighted in 1932 and was appointed to the OM in 1944.

Dale worked for a short time with Paul Ehrlich and E. H. Starling. He became a highly respected experimentalist and was appointed director of the Wellcome Institute at the age of twenty-nine. His work on the chemical composition and effects of the fungus ergot in rye showed that the physiological reactions to ergot were produced by acetylcholine. Dale recognized that such substances as acetylcholine, which can control some functions of the body, are widely distributed in nature and that they could be of therapeutic value, a branch of science he termed ‘autopharmacology’. Much of modern pharmacology is based on Dale's work. In 1914 Dale joined the staff of what later became the Medical Research Council and, when insulin was discovered in 1921, he travelled to Toronto to ensure that it would be adequately standardized. He became chairman of an international committee responsible for the standardization of immunological products, hormones, vitamins, and antibiotics. He became president of the Royal Society in 1940 and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the cabinet during World War II.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Science and Mathematics.


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