Sir Charles Sherrington  Portrait 1 2
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1932
Charles Scott Sherrington was born on November 27¡B1857¡Bat Islington¡BLondon. He was the son of James Norton Sherrington¡Bof Caister¡BGreat Yarmouth¡Bwho died when Sherrington was a young child. Sherrington's mother later married Dr. Caleb Rose of Ipswich¡Ba good classical scholar and a noted archaeologist¡Bwhose interest in the English artists of the Norwich School no doubt gave Sherrington the interest in art that he retained throughout his life.

In 1876 Sherrington began medical studies at St. Thomas's Hospital and in 1878 passed the primary examination of the Royal College of Surgeons¡Band a year later the primary examination for the Fellowship of that College. After a short stay at Edinburgh he went¡Bin 1879¡Bto Cambridge as a noncollegiate student studying physiology under Michael Foster¡Band in 1880 entered Gonville and Caius College there.

In 1881 he attended a medical congress in London at which Sir Michael Foster discussed the work of Sir Charles Bell and others on the experimental study of the functions of nerves that was then being done in England and elsewhere in Europe. At this congress controversy arose about the effects of excisions of parts of the cortex of the brains of dogs and monkeys done by Ferrier and Goltz of Strasbourg. Subsequently¡BSherrington worked on this problem in Cambridge with Langley¡Band with him published¡Bin 1884¡Ba paper on it. In this manner Sherrington was introduced to the neurological work to which he afterwards devoted his life.

In 1883 Sherrington became Demonstrator of Anatomy at Cambridge under Professor Sir George Humphrey¡Band during the winter session of 1883-1884 at St. Thomas's Hospital he demonstrated histology.

The years 1884 and 1885 were eventful ones for Sherrington¡Bfor during the winter of 1884-1885 he worked with Goltz at Strasbourg¡Bin 1884 he obtained his M.R.C.S.¡Band in 1885 a First Class in the Natural Sciences Tripos at Cambridge with distinction. During this year he published a paper of his own on the subject of Goltz's dogs. In 1885 he also took his M.B. degree at Cambridge and in 1886 his L.R.C.P.

In 1885 Sherrington went¡Bas a member of a Committee of the Association for Research in Medicine¡Bto Spain to study an outbreak of cholera¡Band in 1886 he visited the Venice district also to investigate the same disease¡Bthe material then obtained being examined in Berlin under the supervision of Virchow¡Bwho later sent Sherrington to Robert Koch for a six weeks' course in technique. Sherrington stayed with Koch to do research in bacteriology for a year¡Band in 1887 he was appointed Lecturer in Systematic Physiology at St. Thomas's Hospital¡BLondon¡Band also was elected a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College¡BCambridge. In 1891 he was appointed in succession to Sir Victor Horsley¡BProfessor and Superintendent of the Brown Institute for Advanced Physiological and Pathological Research in London. In 1895 he became Professor of Physiology at the University of Liverpool.

During his earlier years in Cambridge¡BSherrington¡Binfluenced by W. H. Gaskell and by the Spanish neurologist¡BRamon y Cajal¡Bwhom he had met during his visit to Spain¡Btook up the study of the spinal cord. By 1891 his mind had turned to the problems of spinal reflexes¡Bwhich were being much discussed at that time¡Band Sherrington published several papers on this subject and¡Bduring 1892-1894¡Bothers on the efferent nerve supply of muscles. Later¡Bfrom 1893-1897¡Bhe studied the distribution of the segmented skin fields¡Band made the important discovery that about one-third of the nerve fibres in a nerve supplying a muscle are efferent¡Bthe remainder being motor.

At Liverpool he returned to his earlier study of the problem of the innervation of antagonistic muscles and showed that reflex inhibition played an important part in this. In addition to this¡Bhowever¡Bhe was studying the connection between the brain and the spinal cord by way of the pyramidal tract¡Band he was at this time visited by the American surgeon Harvey Cushing¡Bthen a young man¡Bwho stayed with him for eight months.

In 1906 he published his well-known book: The Integrative Action of the Nervous System¡Bbeing his Silliman Lectures held at Yale University the previous year¡Band in 1913 he was invited to become Waynfleet Professor of Physiology at Oxford¡Ba post for which he had unsuccessfully applied in 1895¡Band here he remained until his retirement in 1936. Here he wrote¡Band published in 1919¡Bhis classic book entitled Mammalian Physiology: a Course of Practical Exercises¡Band here he regularly taught the students for whom this book was written.

In physique Sherrington was a well-built¡Bbut not very tall man with a strong constitution which enabled him to carry out prolonged researches.

During the First World War¡Bas Chairman of the Industrial Fatigue Board¡Bhe worked for a time in a shell factory at Birmingham¡Band the daily shift of 13 hours¡Bwith a Sunday shift of 9 hours¡Bdid not¡Bat the age of 57¡Btire him. From his early years he was short-sighted¡Bbut he often worked without spectacles.

The predominant notes of his character as a man were his humility and friendliness and the generosity with which he gave to others his advice and valuable time. An interesting feature of him is that he published¡Bin 1925¡Ba book of verse entitled The Assaying of Brabantius and other Verse¡Bwhich caused one reviewer to hope that «Miss Sherrington» would publish more verse. He was also sensitive to the music of prose¡Band this and the poet in him¡Bbut also the biologist and philosopher¡Bwere evident in his Rede Lecture at Cambridge in 1933 on The Brain and its Mechanism¡Bin which he denied our scientific right to join mental with physiological experience.

The philosopher in him ultimately found expression in his great book¡BMan on his Nature¡Bwhich was the published title of the Gifford Lectures for 1937-1938¡Bwhich Sherrington gave. As is well known¡Bthis book¡Bpublished in 1940¡Bcentres round the life and views of the 16th century French physician Jean Fernel and round Sherrington's own views. In 1946 Sherrington published another volume entitled The Endeavour of Jean Fernel.

Sherrington was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1893¡Bwhere he gave the Croonian Lecture in 1897¡Band was awarded the Royal Medal in 1905 and the Copley Medal in 1927. In 1922 the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire and in 1924 the Order of Merit were conferred upon him. He held honorary doctorates of the Universities of Oxford¡BLondon¡BSheffield¡BBirmingham¡BManchester¡BLiverpool¡BWales¡BEdinburgh¡BGlasgow¡BParis¡BStrasbourg¡BLouvain¡BUppsala¡BLyons¡BBudapest¡BAthens¡BBrussels¡BBerne¡BToronto¡BMontreal¡Band Harvard.

As a boy and a young man Sherrington was a notable athlete both at Queen Elizabeth's School¡BIpswich¡Bwhere he went in 1871¡Band later at Gonville and Caius College¡BCambridge¡Bfor which College he rowed and played rugby football; he was also a pioneer of winter sports at Grindelwald.

In 1892 Sherrington married Ethel Mary¡Bdaughter of John Ely Wright¡Bof Preston Manor¡BSuffolk. After some years of frail health¡Bduring which¡Bhowever¡Bhe remained mentally very alert¡Bhe died suddenly of heart failure at Eastbourne in 1952.
From Nobel Lectures¡BPhysiology or Medicine 1922-1941¡BElsevier Publishing Company¡BAmsterdam¡B1965
This autobiography/biography was first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document¡Balways state the source as shown above.

Sir Charles Sherrington died on March 4¡B1952.