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The inaugural John Scott Haldane Lecture marks a new series in honour of the British physiologist and father of oxygen therapy. It will be held on Thursday 21 November 2019.

Sepia photograph of John Scott Haldane at his home.

The inaugural John Scott Haldane Lecture 2019 is to take place on Thursday 21 November at 4pm in the Large Lecture Theatre, Sherrington Building.

Decorative poster for inaugural Haldane lecture 2019 - Sherrington Large Lecture Theatre, Thursday 21 November, 4pm, followed by a drinks receptionFrom 1907 to 1913, Haldane was Reader in Physiology at Oxford. In 1911, along with C. G Douglas, with whom he worked in the Oxford Laboratory of Physiology, led an expedition to Pike’s Peak, Colorado, to examine the effects of low atmospheric pressure on respiration. They stayed at the summit house of Pike’s Peak (14,110 feet above sea level), in which they built a laboratory and investigated the process of acclimatisation of breathing to high altitude oxygen levels. Pioneering Scientist Mabel Fitzgerald was also a member of this expedition. Their discoveries revolutionised current ideas about respiration.

The talk held in his honour, entitled A hundred years on: 21st Century Insights into Human Oxygen Homeostasis is due to be given by Peter J Ratcliffe FRS, Professor of Medicine, University of Oxford and Director of Clinical Research, Francis Crick Institute, London.

Sir Peter Ratcliffe won an open scholarship to study medicine at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He undertook clinical training at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, and after series of posts at the London postgraduate hospitals, moved to Oxford to train in nephrology. In 1990, he obtained a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowship to work on cellular responses to hypoxia, retrained in molecular biology and founded a new laboratory working on hypoxia biology in cancer and circulatory diseases.  He was appointed Nuffield Professor and Head of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine in 2003, a position he held until 2016. He is currently Director of the Target Discovery Institute, and a Member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences and is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In the 2014 New Year’s Honours List, he was knighted for services to clinical medicine.

Professor Ratcliffe has led the hypoxia biology laboratory at Oxford for more than 20 years. The laboratory discovered the widespread operation of a system of direct oxygen sensing that is conserved throughout the animal kingdom and operates through a novel form of cell signalling involving post-translational hydroxylation of specific amino acids. Catalysis of these hydroxylations requires molecular oxygen and this generates the oxygen-sensitive signal. The laboratory now works extensively with Professor Chris Schofield in Chemistry to define the extent of biological operation and the therapeutic tractability of drug-based manipulation of the system in human disease.


In October 2019, Professor Ratcliffe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, alongside William Kaelin Jr at Harvard University and Gregg Semenza at Johns Hopkins University. They have won for “how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability,” according to the Nobel committee. Click here for more information.


Following the lecture, there will be a drinks reception in the Sherrington reception foyer at 5pm.

All members of the University are welcome!