Edgar Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian

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Edgar Adrian, the First Baron Adrian, was an exceptional English electrophysiologist who shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 1932 with Sir Charles Sherrington for his discoveries about the functions of neurons. He was a strong student from an early age, attending Westminster School in London and later Trinity College in Cambridge. Keith Lucas, a pioneer in neurology, influenced him while he was working on his PhD degree at Trinity. During his postgraduate studies, he became interested in the issue and began researching the all-or-none law of physiology. At the age of 24, he was awarded the Trinity College Fellowship for his efforts. Despite this, he completed his studies for a medical degree and spent the war years at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, working with soldiers who had nerve injury or disorders. He returned to Cambridge after the war, devoting his life to teaching and research. He held numerous key roles throughout his life, in addition to making substantial contributions to neuroscience. For his contributions to neurology, he was named a member of the Order of Merit and given the title of First Baron Adrian of Cambridge.

Childhood and Adolescence

Edgar Douglas Adrian was born in Hampstead, London, on November 30, 1889. Alfred Douglas Adrian, his father, was the British Local Government Board’s legal adviser. Flora Lavinia Barton, his mother, was the daughter of renowned mathematician Charles Howard Barton. He was his parents’ third and youngest child.

Edgar enrolled as a King’s Scholar at Westminster School in London in 1903 and graduated in 1908. He then enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a science scholarship. He studied physics, chemistry, physiology, anatomy, and botany for Natural Sciences Tripos at Trinity, where he was influenced by prominent physiologist Keith Lucas.

In 1910, he received a First Class in all five subjects on the part I test. He then studied physiology for his part II exam and got his B.A. degree with a First Class in 1911.

Adrian then went on a study of the all-or-none law of physiology, thanks to Lucas’ encouragement. Despite the fact that the law was first formulated for the contraction of the heart muscle, Lucas demonstrated that it could be applied to nerve fibers as well, although he did not provide any solid evidence.

Working under Lucas’ supervision, Adrian began to explore more into the issue. He produced a series of publications from 1912 to 1914 in which he not only offered a full explanation of the theory but also provided experimental data on nerve impulse conduction under various conditions.

Adrian was awarded a Trinity College Fellowship in 1913 for his work on all-or-none legislation. He subsequently went back to school to pursue his medical degree. He began his clinical training at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge in the summer of 1914, but was quickly transferred to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.
Soldiers suffering neurological disorders and injuries were admitted to Bartholomew when World War I began. Adrian completed his clinical training among them until 1915, when he received his medical degree.

Career of Edgar Adrian

During the war, Edgar Adrian worked at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, treating troops with nerve injury. As a result, he was able to gain firsthand knowledge of nerve-related issues, which improved his grasp of neurological issues.

He returned to Cambridge as a natural science lecturer and demonstrator in the Physiological Laboratory in 1919. He also took over Keith Lucas’s laboratory, which had been destroyed in an air disaster in 1916, and resumed research on the neurological system.

He began his research by looking at how nerve and muscle fibers respond to excitement. He was able to detect and magnify nervous system signals using sensitive devices such as capillary electrometers and cathode ray tubes.
He was soon able to establish a link between the progression of electric charge, refractory times, and acidity levels. Under physical stimulation, he also recorded the electrical discharge of single nerve fibers.

At the same time, he focused on enhancing the recording circuit’s amplification. In 1921, he and his colleagues used a single-stage triode amplifier and the CSI string galvanometer to record sensory nerve impulses. Their findings demonstrated that the all-or-none principle applied to sensory nerves as well.

He developed the amplifier and used it with Lucas’s capillary electrometer to record impulses in frog-leg nerve-muscle preparations by early 1925. He saw oscillations when the muscle was left to hang from the frog’s knee joint while trying to create a stable baseline.

The same preparation, on the other hand, provided a stable baseline when placed on a glass plate. The discovery was a watershed moment in the field of electrophysiology, paving the way for new research directions.

Adrian was able to isolate a single nerve spindle in 1926 and prove that stimuli can only cause electrical impulses. He discovered that the frequency of the impulse indicates the intensity of the experience, and the number of fibers present in the nerve during activity affects the quality of the sense.

He went on to work with other scientists to look into a variety of other physiological truths. For example, he investigated optic nerves alongside Rachel Eckhard Matthews and cooperated with Bryan Matthews on electrical waves in the brain’s sensory cortex.

Adrian discovered the presence of electricity within nerve cells by accident in 1928. In the same year, he discovered that sensory impulses traveling along nerves have a constant strength at first, but their frequency decreases over time, causing the sensation in the brain to lessen.

Adrian then began to examine pain, and his findings led to the discovery of the homunculus, a sensory map in the somatosensory system. Later, he used an electroencephalogram to study the electrical activity of the brain in humans. He worked on the sense of smell over the last few years of his career.

When water leaked into his laboratory and damaged all of his equipment in 1958, his research career came to an abrupt halt. He couldn’t start over with new equipment at that age. As a result, he stopped conducting research but continued to lecture and publish papers on a variety of topics, including neurophysiology, scientific education and policy, and science biography.

Adrian has numerous major jobs throughout his career. From 1929 until 1937, he was the Foulerton Research Professor. From 1937 to 1951, he was a Professor of Physiology at the University of Cambridge, and from 1951 to 1965, he was a Master of Trinity College.

He was named Chancellor of the University of Cambridge in 1967 and served in that capacity until 1975. From 1957 until 1971, he was also the Chancellor of the University of Leicester.

In addition, he was chosen as President of the Royal Society, which he held from 1950 to 1955. In addition, from 1960 to 1962, he served as President of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Major Projects of Edgar Adrian

Adrian is most known for his research on the all-or-nothing law of nerves. It was first discovered in the instance of heart muscle, but his professor, Keith Lucas, eventually expanded it to nerves. Adrian, in the end, was the one who presented experimental evidence for such a law and opened the door to more nervous system experiments.

Achievements & Awards

“For their discoveries about the functions of neurons,” Edgar Douglas Adrian and Sir Charles Sherrington shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1932 “.
Adrian was awarded the Royal Medal by the Royal Society in 1934 “for his work on nerve physiology and its application to sensation problems.”

The Royal Society awarded him the Copley Medal in 1946 “for his excellent researches on the underlying nature of neural activity, and more recently on the localization of specific neurological functions.” “..

The Royal Society of Art awarded him the Albert Medal in 1953 “for his exceptional contribution to neuro-physiology.”
Adrian was inducted into the Order of Merit on June 11, 1942.
He was appointed First Baron Adrian of Cambridge in the County of Cambridge on January 27, 1955.

Personal History and Legacy

On June 14, 1923, Edgar Adrian married Hester Agnes Pinsent, a well-known mental health worker. They had three children together. Anne Pinsent Adrian, the eldest child, was a daughter. In 1927, they produced mixed twins: Richard Hume Adrian, a son, and Jennet Adrian, a daughter.

Richard went on to become a famous physiologist. He inherited his father’s title and became Second Baron Adrian after his father died in 1977. Because he had no children, his title became extinct after his death.
Edgar Adrian spent the last years of his life in Nevile Court, Cambridge, in a pair of corner rooms. His health began to decline in 1975. On August 4, 1977, he passed away at Cambridge’s Evelyn Nursing Home.

Estimated net worth

The estimated net worth of Edgar Adrian is unknown.