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The annual lecture, in honour of the pioneering physiologist and clinical pathologist renowned for her work on the physiology of respiration, Mabel Purefoy FitzGerald, will be held on Monday 24 February 2020.

Black and white photograph of Mabel Purefoy FitzGerald examining a scientific sample in a pipette.

The Mabel FitzGerald Lecture 2020 is to take place on Monday 24 February 2020 at 1.15pm in the Large Lecture Theatre, Sherrington Building.

Decorative FitzGerald lecture 2010 - Sherrington Large lecture theatre, Monday 24 February, 1.15pm.Mabel FitzGerald has been all but forgotten in the study of human acclimatisation to high altitude. Her great scientific accomplishment was to demonstrate, over the long term, that it is oxygen, and not carbon dioxide, that determines how hard we breathe and sets the haemoglobin concentration in our blood. This she did by travelling around Colorado, USA in 1911 making detailed physiological measurements of the populations living at different altitudes throughout the state. She was part of the Laboratory of Physiology's landmark Pike's Peak expedition led by John Scott Haldane and C. G. Douglas. Based on her pioneering work in Colorado, she became only the second female member of the American Physiological Society in 1913.

The University of Oxford permitted FitzGerald to attend Physiology classes informally from 1896-1899. She gained top marks in the examinations, but these could not count towards a degree because women could not be officially enrolled. After her studies, she became Laboratory Technician to John Scott Haldane in the Laboratory of Physiology and by 1905 was named on one of his papers. She was recommended her for a Rockerfeller research, which took her to the USA where she conducted her pioneering research that helped revolutionise current ideas about respirationShe was “rediscovered” by accident in the 1960s: with the help of the then Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Richard Doll, the University finally bestowed an honorary Master of Arts degree on her in 1972 – the first centenarian to receive one. In 1973, she was made an honorary member of the British Physiological Society.

The talk held in her honour, entitled Differential Resilience to Perturbation of Circuits with Similar Performance, is due to be given by Professor Eve Marder from Brandeis University, USA.

Eve Marder is the Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Neuroscience and University Professor. Marder was President of the Society for Neuroscience in 2008, and served on the NINDS Council, numerous Study Sections, and a variety of Advisory Boards for institutions in the USA and abroad. Marder is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the Biophysical Society, a Fellow of the American Physiological Society, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She received the Miriam Salpeter Memorial Award for Women in Neuroscience, the W.F. Gerard Prize from the Society for Neuroscience, the George A. Miller Award from the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, the Karl Spencer Lashley Prize from the American Philosophical Society, Honorary Doctorates from Bowdoin College and Tel Aviv University, the Gruber Award in Neuroscience, the Education Award from the Society for Neuroscience, shared the 2016 Kavli Award in Neuroscience, and received the 2019 Neuroscience Award from the National Academy of Sciences. Marder served on the NIH working group for the BRAIN Initiative. Marder presently serves on the Council of the National Academy of Sciences.

Marder studies the dynamics of small neuronal networks, and her work was instrumental in demonstrating that neuronal circuits are not “hard-wired” but can be reconfigured by neuromodulatory neurons and substances to produce a variety of outputs. For the past 25 years Marder’s lab has combined experimental work with insights from modeling and theoretical studies. Together with Larry Abbott, her lab developed the programmable dynamic clamp, now used widely in laboratories around the world. Her lab pioneered studies of homeostatic regulation of intrinsic membrane properties, and stimulated work on the mechanisms by which brains remain stable while allowing for change during development and learning. Marder now studies the extent to which similar network performance can arise from different sets of underlying network parameters. This opens up rigorous studies of the variations in the individual brains of normal healthy animals, and is part of understanding differential resilience to environmental perturbations.

All members of the University are welcome!