09 January 2012

Featured Physiologist: Henry Hallet Dale (1875-1968)

Henry Dale, Life Magazine, 1936
Henry Hallet Dale (1875-1968), son of Charles James Dale and Francis Anne Hallet, was born in London, the third of seven children. Educated at Tollington Park College and The Leys School Cambridge, Dale matriculated at Trinity College Cambridge in 1894, where he worked under physiologist John Langley. A brief wanderjahr in Germany in 1903 saw Dale working with Paul Ehrlich, the 1908 Nobel Prize winner who developed the anti-syphilitic Salvarsan, coined the term chemotherapy, and developed and elaborated side-chain-theory. Dale eventually completed his MD at Cambridge in 1909, and he became the Director of the Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology at the National Institute for Medical Research in 1914. While in this position, Dale became increasingly concerned with the problem of standards in biology, especially as they pertained to anti-syphilitic medications, and eventually he became a leader in the development of international standards for biologically active substances. Such work was likely the reason he became Director of the National Institute for Medical Research in 1928. A regular adviser to British Medical Research Council, Dale was also active clinical research his entire professional life. He eventually developed much of basis for the theory of chemical transmission of nerve impulses, especially in his work on histamine, adrenalin, and acetylcholine – work for which he and Otto Loewi were awarded the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. Remembered as a warm, happy conversationalist, Dale’s expertise and advice were widely sought. He received many prestigious awards across the whole of his life. He married Ellen Harriet in 1904, and they had two daughters and one son.

 This article is part of an on-going series of biographies published in this blog.

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