© Bodleian LibrariesThis summer, a portrait of one of DPAG's pioneering physiologists, John Scott Haldane, has been displayed in the Sherrington building. It has been generously given on long-term loan from the Bodleian Libraries and can be viewed on the first floor close to the rear entrance of the Blakemore Lecture Theatre.
John Scott Haldane came to Oxford in 1887, joining his uncle, John Burdon-Sanderson, who was Waynflete Professor of Physiology, as a demonstrator. Haldane studied the suffocative gases occurring in coal mines and wells, exposing their dependence on spontaneous oxidation processes that could take place in the coal and soil. Further work shed light on the physiological action of carbon monoxide, and in due course he submitted an important report to the Home Secretary in 1896, showing the causes of death in colliery explosions and underground fires. Haldane’s work formed a basis on which to develop measures to prevent the danger.
In 1901, Haldane was elected a Fellow of New College, Oxford. His paper on the regulation of lung ventilation, developed in collaboration with John Gillies Priestley, was published in the Journal of Physiology in 1905. In his continuing research in pure physiology, Haldane investigated the impacts of oxygen deficiency and muscular exercise on breathing.
From 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.
In 2019, the Department launched a new lecture series in Haldane's honour, and the inaugural lecture was delivered by Nobel Laureate Sir Peter Ratcliffe FRS.
Haldane's portrait was painted by Hungarian artist Philip de László (1869-1937), one of the most celebrated and successful portrait painters of his generation. His many sitters included European royalty, aristocrats and society figures, notably the Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother) in 1925.