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On Monday 17 October 2022, as part of The Physiological Society roadshow at the University of Oxford, Emeritus Professor of Cardiovasular Physiology Denis Noble FRS unveiled a new plaque honouring the Department's first Waynflete Professor of Physiology, Sir John Burdon Sanderson.

L-R: The Physiological Society President Elect Professor David Attwell FRS, Burdon Sanderson Prize Lecturer Professor Richard Tsien, Emeritus Professor Trevor Powell, Emeritus Professor Denis Noble, Head of Department Professor David Paterson, Waynflete Professor of Physiology Professor Gero Miesenböck

The new plaque unveiled this week is part of an ongoing project by The Physiological Society to erect blue plaques across the United Kingdom and Ireland celebrating and recognising institutions where distinguished physiologists have made significant contributions to the discipline. It is the fourth such plaque to be erected and unveiled by The Society on DPAG buildings, which are designed to honour outstanding physiologists who have contributed to the advancement of physiology through their discoveries while leaving a legacy beyond their lifetime.

Sir John Burdon Sanderson is renowned for reporting that Penicillium inhibited the growth of bacteria in 1871. In 1876, Burdon Sanderson was part of the group of scientists responsible for founding The Physiological Society for 'promoting the advancement of physiology and facilitating the intercourse of physiologists'.

In 1882, Burdon Sanderson was appointed to the first Waynflete Professorship at the University of Oxford. In the same year, he was awarded a Royal Medal by the Royal Society in recognition of his research into the electrical phenomena exhibited by plants, the relations of minute organisms to disease, and of his services to pathology and physiology.

In 1883, the Laboratory of Physiology was first established under Burdon Sanderson's direction, and more than a century later Burdon Sanderson was honoured by the establishment of the Burdon Sanderson Cardiac Science Centre in a purpose-built wing of the Sherrington Building in 2005.

This week, the Department's first Burdon Sanderson Professor of Cardiovascular Physiology Denis Noble FRS honoured Burdon Sanderson once more by unveiling The Physiological Society Blue Plaque in his name directly outside the Centre's entrance.

The unveiling was preceded by The Physiological Society Roadshow, where insights into the benefits of being connected to Europe's largest society of physiologists were shared. President Elect Professor David Attwell FRS introduced The Society with 'Why is the Phys Soc important' and CEO Dariel Burdass delivered 'Building Community to ensure Physiology is Flourishing', a talk demonstrating the original and lasting spirit of The Physiological Society long after its founding by Burdon Sanderson and others in the late nineteenth century. These talks were followed by Professor Noble's lecture 'Burdon Sanderson and Charles Darwin, 1872-1882: when physiology nearly rescued evolutionary biology', which included the story of Charles Darwin's election to The Physiological Society in 1876. Darwin, while not a physiologist himself, had collaborated with several leading physiologists, including with Burdon Sanderson on experiments on the Venus fly trap.

Professor Noble's talk was followed by the unveiling of his portrait by Professor Richard W. Tsien, DPAG alumni and Druckenmiller Professor of Neuroscience at NYU. Professor Tsien attended to honour his former mentor who supervised and worked closely with him during his Oxford DPhil studies. Professor Tsien later went on to deliver the Burdon Sanderson Prize Lecture 2022. Both Professors were presented with Burdon Sanderson Prize Medals.

Photographs of the unveilings

Denis Noble and Dick Tsien with Noble portrait

Professors Denis Noble and Richard Tsien with the Burdon Sanderson Prize medals and Denis Noble's portrait.

Unveiling of Denis Noble portrait

L-R: Professor Richard W. Tsien, Emeritus Professor Denis Noble FRS, The Physiological Society President Elect Professor David Attwell FRS, and Head of Department Professor David Paterson

Sir John Burdon Sanderson Blue Plaque

The Physiological Society Sir John Burdon Sanderson Blue Plaque is directly next to the Burdon Sanderson Cardiac Science Centre entrance

Burdon Sanderson unveiling group 1

L-R: John Cripps (Board Trustee at The Physiological Society), Dariel Burdass (CEO of The Physiological Society), Emeritus Professor Denis Noble FRS, Emeritus Professor John Stein, Professor Nicola Smart, and Dr Mary McMenamin

Burdon Sanderson unveiling group 2

L-R: Professor Richard W. Tsien, Emeritus Professor Clive Ellory, Emeritus Professor Denis Noble FRS, and Professor Andrew King