December 22, 2014

Sir Andrew Huxley

Sir Andrew Huxley, a pioneering figure in neurophysiology and a former MBL researcher, died on May 30 at aged 94. Dr. Huxley shared the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sir Alan Hodgkin and Sir John Eccles for explaining how nerve cells transmit electrical signals, which allow all bodily sensations and coordinated movement.

In 1939, while working at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England, Huxley and Hodgkin were the first to directly record electrical impulses traveling along the length of the squid giant axon (nerve fiber). Their findings led to mathematical models that predicted the existence of ion channels (proteins integral to the conduction of the nerve impulse), which were isolated only decades later. Huxley’s work with Sir John Eccles in the 1950s led to our understanding of how nerve impulses move from one nerve cell to another by chemical synapses. The Hodgkin-Huxley model of nerve conductance became the foundation for all subsequent research in animal nervous systems, including the intense studies at the MBL using the squid giant axon.

Huxley was an MBL Lalor Scholar in 1953 and later returned as an investigator in 1966. Read the obituaries from the New York Times and The Telegraph (UK).