Marianne Fillenz Lecture Series
On Friday 26th January 2018, Associate Professor Kristine Krug hosted the inaugural Marianne Fillenz lecture, entitled Neural network dynamic for attentional selection and given by Professor Sabine Kastner. Click here for more information.
Born to a Viennese mother and Hungarian-Jewish Father in 1924 in Timisoara, Romania, Marianne Fillenz and her family moved to New Zealand in 1939 to avoid the rise of Nazism in Eastern Europe.
It was in New Zealand that Marianne met the most important influence in her life, Jack Eccles, Professor of Physiology at Otago and a previous colleague of Charles Sherrington in Oxford. He inspired her to focus her research on physiology during her pre-clinical medical studies at the University of Otago, and consequentially to move to Oxford to undertake a DPhil in Physiology.
She came to Somerville College in 1950 and remained in Oxford for the rest of her life. Her DPhil with Sybil Cooper and David Whitteridge studied receptors responding to stretch of the eye muscles; her work showed clearly that an eye muscle length signal is indeed supplied to the brain in the cat, a fact later confirmed in humans.
Years later her research interests transgressed from eye muscles to the anatomy and physiology of the autonomic nervous system. Marianne was one of the first people to use and develop the technique of voltammetry to measure catecholamine release deep in the brain and her technique of linear sweep voltammetry to measure dopamine release in the rat striatum in still much in use today.
After her DPhil, Marianne spent nine years as a college lecturer at St Hilda’s and as a University ‘Demonstrator’ in the Department of Physiology, and in 1963 she won a Tutorial Fellowship at St Anne’s College. She was particular keen to encourage her female students not to let personal commitments roadblock scientific endeavor; Marianne herself brought up three children alongside a successful career with help only from her doting husband John Clarke. Marianne met John, a Rhodes Scholar from Western Australia, during her first term at Oxford and they were married a year later.
In her spare time Marianne enjoyed philosophy, playing the piano and regularly attending musical concerts. She was also a keen Member of the Physiological Society and most of her early publications were originally in the form of the Physiological Society.
After her death, she was remembered by John Stein: We will miss her exceptional friendliness, her interest in everything from local gossip to the place of humanity in the universe, her positive outlook and her quizzical responses to incautious remarks.