Physiologist Quotes (29 quotes)
A physician’s subject of study is necessarily the patient, and his first field for observation is the hospital. But if clinical observation teaches him to know the form and course of diseases, it cannot suffice to make him understand their nature; to this end he must penetrate into the body to find which of the internal parts are injured in their functions. That is why dissection of cadavers and microscopic study of diseases were soon added to clinical observation. But to-day these various methods no longer suffice; we must push investigation further and, in analyzing the elementary phenomena of organic bodies, must compare normal with abnormal states. We showed elsewhere how incapable is anatomy alone to take account of vital phenenoma, and we saw that we must add study of all physico-chemical conditions which contribute necessary elements to normal or pathological manifestations of life. This simple suggestion already makes us feel that the laboratory of a physiologist-physician must be the most complicated of all laboratories, because he has to experiment with phenomena of life which are the most complex of all natural phenomena.
All of our experience indicates that life can manifest itself only in a concrete form, and that it is bound to certain substantial loci. These loci are cells and cell formations. But we are far from seeking the last and highest level of understanding in the morphology of these loci of life. Anatomy does not exclude physiology, but physiology certainly presupposes anatomy. The phenomena that the physiologist investigates occur in special organs with quite characteristic anatomical arrangements; the various morphological parts disclosed by the anatomist are the bearers of properties or, if you will, of forces probed by the physiologist; when the physiologist has established a law, whether through physical or chemical investigation, the anatomist can still proudly state: This is the structure in which the law becomes manifest.
As a progressive discipline [biochemistry] belongs to the present century. From the experimental physiologists of the last century it obtained a charter, and, from a few pioneers of its own, a promise of success; but for the furtherance of its essential aim that century left it but a small inheritance of facts and methods. By its essential or ultimate aim I myself mean an adequate and acceptable description of molecular dynamics in living cells and tissues.
Biological disciplines tend to guide research into certain channels. One consequence is that disciplines are apt to become parochial, or at least to develop blind spots, for example, to treat some questions as “interesting” and to dismiss others as “uninteresting.” As a consequence, readily accessible but unworked areas of genuine biological interest often lie in plain sight but untouched within one discipline while being heavily worked in another. For example, historically insect physiologists have paid relatively little attention to the behavioral and physiological control of body temperature and its energetic and ecological consequences, whereas many students of the comparative physiology of terrestrial vertebrates have been virtually fixated on that topic. For the past 10 years, several of my students and I have exploited this situation by taking the standard questions and techniques from comparative vertebrate physiology and applying them to insects. It is surprising that this pattern of innovation is not more deliberately employed.
By destroying the biological character of phenomena, the use of averages in physiology and medicine usually gives only apparent accuracy to the results. From our point of view, we may distinguish between several kinds of averages: physical averages, chemical averages and physiological and pathological averages. If, for instance, we observe the number of pulsations and the degree of blood pressure by means of the oscillations of a manometer throughout one day, and if we take the average of all our figures to get the true or average blood pressure and to learn the true or average number of pulsations, we shall simply have wrong numbers. In fact, the pulse decreases in number and intensity when we are fasting and increases during digestion or under different influences of movement and rest; all the biological characteristics of the phenomenon disappear in the average. Chemical averages are also often used. If we collect a man's urine during twenty-four hours and mix all this urine to analyze the average, we get an analysis of a urine which simply does not exist; for urine, when fasting, is different from urine during digestion. A startling instance of this kind was invented by a physiologist who took urine from a railroad station urinal where people of all nations passed, and who believed he could thus present an analysis of average European urine! Aside from physical and chemical, there are physiological averages, or what we might call average descriptions of phenomena, which are even more false. Let me assume that a physician collects a great many individual observations of a disease and that he makes an average description of symptoms observed in the individual cases; he will thus have a description that will never be matched in nature. So in physiology, we must never make average descriptions of experiments, because the true relations of phenomena disappear in the average; when dealing with complex and variable experiments, we must study their various circumstances, and then present our most perfect experiment as a type, which, however, still stands for true facts. In the cases just considered, averages must therefore be rejected, because they confuse, while aiming to unify, and distort while aiming to simplify. Averages are applicable only to reducing very slightly varying numerical data about clearly defined and absolutely simple cases.
Differences between individuals are the raw materials for evolutionary change and for the evolution of adaptations, yet of course most physiologists treat these differences as noise that is to be filtered out. From the standpoint of physiological ecology, the traditional emphasis of physiologists on central tendencies rather than on variance has some unhappy consequences. Variation is not just noise; it is also the stuff of evolution and a central attribute of living systems. The physiological differences between individuals in the same species or population, and also the patterns of variation in different groups, must not be ignored.
For even they who compose treatises of medicine or natural philosophy in verse are denominated Poets: yet Homer and Empedocles have nothing in common except their metre; the former, therefore, justly merits the name of the Poet; while the other should rather be called a Physiologist than a Poet.
For the first time there was constructed with this machine [locomotive engine] a self-acting mechanism in which the interplay of forces took shape transparently enough to discern the connection between the heat generated and the motion produced. The great puzzle of the vital force was also immediately solved for the physiologist in that it became evident that it is more than a mere poetic comparison when one conceives of the coal as the food of the locomotive and the combustion as the basis for its life.
Helmholtz—the physiologist who learned physics for the sake of his physiology, and mathematics for the sake of his physics, and is now in the first rank of all three.
Heredity is to-day the central problem of biology. This problem may be approached from many sides—that of the breeder, the experimenter, the statistician, the physiologist, the embryologist, the cytologist—but the mechanism of heredity can be studied best by the investigation of the germ cells and their development.
In systemic searches for embryonic lethal mutants of Drosophila melanogaster we have identified 15 loci which when mutated alter the segmental patterns of the larva. These loci probably represent the majority of such genes in Drosophila. The phenotypes of the mutant embryos indicate that the process of segmentation involves at least three levels of spatial organization: the entire egg as developmental unit, a repeat unit with the length of two segments, and the individual segment.
[Co-author with American physiologist Eric Wieshaus (1947-)]
[Co-author with American physiologist Eric Wieshaus (1947-)]
In the endeavor to clearly comprehend and explain the functions of the combination of forces called “brain,” the physiologist is hindered and troubled by the views of the nature of those cerebral forces which the needs of dogmatic theology have imposed on mankind.
It is a melancholy experience for a professional mathematician to find him writing about mathematics. The function of a mathematician is to do something, to prove new theorems, to add to mathematics, and not to talk about what he or other mathematicians have done. Statesmen despise publicists, painters despise art-critics, and physiologists, physicists, or mathematicians have usually similar feelings; there is no scorn more profound, or on the whole more justifiable, than that of men who make for the men who explain. Exposition, criticism, appreciation, is work for second-rate minds.
It usually develops that after much laborious and frustrating effort the investigator of environmental physiology succeeds in proving that the animal in question can actually exist where it lives. It is always somewhat discouraging for an investigator to realize that his efforts can be made to appear so trite, but this statement does not belittle the ecological physiologist. If his data assist the understanding of the ways in which an animal manages to live where it does, he makes an important contribution to the study of distribution, for the present is necessarily a key to the past.”
Nervous messages are invariably associated with an electrical change known as the action potential. This potential is generally believed to arise at a membrane which is situated between the axoplasm and the external medium. If this theory is correct, it should be possible to record the action potential between an electrode inside a nerve fibre and the conducting fluid outside it. Most nerve fibres are too small for this to be tested directly, but we have recently succeeded in inserting micro-electrodes into the giant axons of squids (Loligo forbesi).
No physiologist who calmly considers the question in connection with the general truths of his science, can long resist the conviction that different parts of the cerebrum subserve different kinds of mental action. Localization of function is the law of all organization whatever: separateness of duty is universally accompanied with separateness of structure: and it would be marvellous were an exception to exist in the cerebral hemispheres.
Over the years it has become clear that adjustments to the physical environment are behavioral as well as physiological and are inextricably intertwined with ecology and evolution. Consequently, a student of the physiology of adaptation should not only be a technically competent physiologist, but also be familiar with the evolutionary and ecological setting of the phenomenon that he or she is studying.
Psychology is a part of the science of life or biology. … As the physiologist inquires into the way in which the so-called “functions” of the body are performed, so the psychologist studies the so-called “faculties” of the mind.
Some physiologists will have it that the stomach is a mill; others, that it is a fermenting vat; others, again that it is a stew-pan; but in my view of the matter, it is neither a mill, a fermenting vat nor a stew-pan, but a stomach gentlemen, a stomach.
That a free, or at least an unsaturated acid usually exists in the stomachs of animals, and is in some manner connected with the important process of digestion, seems to have been the general opinion of physiologists till the time of SPALLANZANI. This illustrious philosopher concluded, from his numerous experiments, that the gastric fluids, when in a perfectly natural state, are neither acid nor alkaline. Even SPALLANZANI, however, admitted that the contents of the stomach are very generally acid; and this accords not only with my own observation, but with that, I believe, of almost every individual who has made any experiments on the subject. ... The object of the present communication is to show, that the acid in question is the muriatic [hydrochloric] acid, and that the salts usually met with in the stomach, are the alkaline muriates.
The essence of the simplest mineral phenomenon is as completely unknown to chemists and physicists today as is the essence of intellectual phenomenon to physiologists.
The external impressions which are made on the sensorial nerves are very quickly transmitted along the whole length of the nerves, as far as their origin; and having arrived there, they are reflected by a certain law, and pass on to certain and corresponding motor nerves, through which, being again very quickly transmitted to muscles, they excite certain and definite motions. This part, in which, as in a centre, the sensorial nerves, as well as the motor nerves, meet and communicate, and in which the impressions made on the sensorial nerves are reflected on the motor nerves, is designated by a term, now adopted by most physiologists, the sensorium commune.
The invertebrated classes include the most numerous and diversified forms of the Animal Kingdom. At the very beginning of our inquiries into their vital powers and acts we are impressed with their important relations to the maintenance of life and organization on this planet, and their influence in purifying the sea and augmenting and enriching the land—relations of which the physiologist conversant only with the vertebrated animals must have remained ignorant.
The zoologist is delighted by the differences between animals, whereas the physiologist would like all animals to work in fundamentally the same way.
There is no existing ‘standard of protein intake’ that is based on the sure ground of experimental evidence. ... Between the two extremes of a very high and a very low protein intake it is difficult to prove that one level of intake is preferable to another. ... Physiologists, in drawing up dietary standards, are largely influenced by the dietary habits of their time and country.
These hormones still belong to the physiologist and to the clinical investigator as much as, if not more than, to the practicing physician. But as Professor Starling said many years ago, 'The physiology of today is the medicine of tomorrow'.
Unhappily for the physiologist, the subjects of the principal department of his science, that of animal physiology, are sentient beings; and every experiment, every new or unusual situation of such a being, is necessarily attended by pain or suffering of a bodily or mental kind.
We have seen that the cytoplasm of nerve has a fluid consistency. Hence its molecules are free to move. According to the thermodynamic principle known as the Gibbs-Thompson rule, any substance in the interior of a liquid which will reduce the free energy of the surface of the liquid, will be concentrated in the surface. The composition of the surface is, therefore, determined by the composition of the fluid from which it is formed; and as the rule is one having universal application, it must hold also for the cytoplasm of nerve. We must think of the surface membrane, then, as a structure which is in equilibrium with the interior of the axon, or at least as one which deviates from equilibrium only because, for dynamic reasons, equilibrium cannot be attained.
With Joseph Erlanger (1874-1965), American physiologist.
With Joseph Erlanger (1874-1965), American physiologist.
When physiologists revealed the existence and functions of hormones they not only gave increased opportunities for the activities of biochemists but in particular gave a new charter to biochemical thought, and with the discovery of vitamins that charter was extended.