Archibald Hill

Archibald Vivian Hill CH OBE FRS[1] (26 September 1886 – 3 June 1977), known as A. V. Hill, was an English physiologist, one of the founders of the diverse disciplines of biophysics and operations research. He shared the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his elucidation of the production of heat and mechanical work in muscles.[2][3]

Archibald Vivian Hill
Archibald Vivian Hill
Born26 September 1886
Bristol, England
Died3 June 1977 (aged 90)
Cambridge, England
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge
Known forMechanical work in muscles
Muscle contraction model
Founding biophysics
Hill equation (biochemistry)
AwardsNobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1922)
Royal Medal (1926)
Copley Medal (1948)
Scientific career
FieldsPhysiology and biophysics
InstitutionsCambridge University
University of Manchester
University College, London
Academic advisorsWalter Morley Fletcher
Notable studentsBernard C. Abbott
Te-Pei Feng
Ralph H. Fowler
Bernard Katz
He is notably the father of Polly Hill, David Keynes Hill, Maurice Hill, and the grandfather of Nicholas Humphrey.


Born in Bristol, he was educated at Blundell's School and graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge as third wrangler in the mathematics tripos before turning to physiology. While still an undergraduate at Trinity College, he derived in 1909[4] what came to be known as the Langmuir equation.[5] This is closely related to Michaelis-Menten kinetics. In this paper, Hill's first publication, he derived both the equilibrium form of the Langmuir equation, and also the exponential approach to equilibrium. The paper, written under the supervision of John Newport Langley, is a landmark in the history of receptor theory, because the context for the derivation was the binding of nicotine and curare to the "receptive substance" at the neuromuscular junction.

Hill made many exacting measurements of the heat released when skeletal muscles contract and relax. A key finding was that heat is produced during contraction, which requires investment of chemical energy, but not during relaxation, which is passive.[6] His earliest measurements used equipment left behind by the Swedish physiologist Magnus Blix, Hill measured a temperature rise of only 0.003 °C. After publication he learned that German physiologists had already reported on heat and muscle contraction and he went to Germany to learn more about their work. He continually improved his apparatus to make it more sensitive and to reduce the time lag between the heat released by the preparation and its recording by his thermocouple.

Hill is regarded, along with Hermann Helmholtz, as one of the founders of biophysics.

While a student he had enrolled in the Officers Training Course; he was a crack shot. In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, Hill because the musketry officer of the Cambridgeshire Regiment. The British made no effort to make use of their scientists.[7][8] At the end of 1915, while home on leave he was asked by Horace Darwin from the Ministry of Munitions to come for a day to advise them on how to train anti-aircraft gunners. On site, Hill immediately proposed a simple two mirror method to determine airplane's heights. Transferred to Munitions, he realized that the mirrors could measure where smoke shells burst and if he fit this data with the equations describing a shell's flight they could provide accurate range tables for anti-aircraft guns. To measure and compute he assembled a team of men too old for conscription, Ralph H. Fowler (a wounded officer), and lads too young for service including Douglas Hartree and Arthur Milne. Someone dubbed his motley group "Hill's Brigands", which they proudly adopted. Later in the war they also worked on locating enemy planes from their sound. He sped between their working sites on his beloved motorcycle. At the end of the war Major Hill issued certificates to more than one hundred Brigands. He was awarded an OBE.

Hill returned briefly to Cambridge in 1919 before taking the chair in physiology at the Victoria University of Manchester in 1920 in succession to William Stirling. Using himself as the subject —he ran every morning from 7:15 to 10:30 — he showed that running a dash relies on energy stores which afterwards are replenished by increased oxygen consumption. Paralleling the work of German Otto Fritz Meyerhof, Hill elucidated the processes whereby mechanical work is produced in muscles. The two shared the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for this work.[9] Hill introduced the concepts of maximal oxygen uptake and oxygen debt in 1922.[10][11]

In 1923 he succeeded Ernest Starling as professor of physiology at University College London, a few years later becoming a Royal Society Research professor there, where he remained until retirement in 1951. In 1933, he became with Lord Beveridge and Lord Rutherford a founder member and vice-president of the Academic Assistance Council (which in 1936 became the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning). By the start of the Second World War, the organisation had saved 900 academics (18 of whom went on to win Nobel Prizes) from Nazi persecution. He prominently displayed in his laboratory a toy figure of Adolf Hitler with saluting arm upraised, which he explained was in gratitude for all the scientists Germany had expelled, some of whom were now working with him.[12] Hill believed that "Laughter is the best detergent for nonsense".[13]

In 1935 he served with Patrick Blackett and Sir Henry Tizard on the committee that gave birth to radar. He was also biological secretary of the Royal Society; William Henry Bragg was president. Both had been frustrated by the delay in putting scientists to work in the previous war. The Royal Society collated a list of scientists and Hill represented the Society at the Ministry of Labor. When the war came Hill led a campaign to liberate refugee scientists who had been interned. He served as an independent Member of Parliament (MP) for Cambridge University from 1940 to 1945. In 1940 he was posted to the British Embassy in Washington to promote war research in the still neutral United States. He was authorized to swap secrets with the Americans, but this could not work: how do you place a value on another's secret? Hill saw the answer and persuaded the British to show the Americans everything they were working on (except for the atomic bomb). The mobilization of Allied scientist was one of the major successes in the war.[14]

After the war he rebuilt his laboratory at University College and vigorously carried on research.[15] In 1951 his advocacy was rewarded by the establishment of a Biophysics Department under his leadership. In 1952 he became head of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and Secretary General of the International Union of Scientific Organizations. He was President of the Marine Biological Association from 1955 to 1960. In 1967 he retired to Cambridge where he gradually lost the use of his legs. He died "held in the greatest affection by more than a hundred scientific descendants all over the world".[16]

Personal life

In 1913 he married Margaret Keynes (1885-1974), daughter of the economist John Neville Keynes, and sister of the economist John Maynard Keynes and the surgeon Geoffrey Keynes. They had two sons and two daughters:

  • Polly Hill (1914–2005), economist, married K.A.C. Humphreys, registrar of the West African Examinations Council.
  • David Keynes Hill (1915–2002), physiologist, married Stella Mary Humphrey
  • Maurice Hill (1919–1966), oceanographer, married Philippa Pass
  • Janet Hill (1918–2000) child psychiatrist, married the immunologist John Herbert Humphrey.

Honours and awards

Blue plaque

A. V. HILL 1886–1977 Physiologist lived here 1923 – 1967
Blue plaque at 16 Bishopswood Road, Highgate.

On 9 September 2015 an English Heritage Blue plaque was erected at Hill's former home, 16 Bishopswood Road, Highgate, where he had lived from 1923-1967. Since then the house had been divided into flats and owned by Highgate School, where Hill was a Governor from 1929-1960. It has now been sold, redeveloped and renamed as Hurstbourne. In Hill's time, according to his grandson Nicholas Humphrey, regular guests at the house included 18 exiled Nobel laureates, his brother-in-law, the economist John Maynard Keynes, and friends Stephen Hawking and Sigmund Freud. After-dinner conversations in the drawing room would inevitably involve passionate debates about science or politics. “Every Sunday we would have to attend a tea party at grandpa’s house and apart from entertaining some extraordinary guests, he would devise some great games for us, such as frog racing in the garden or looking through the lens of a (dissected) sheep’s eye.” Sir Ralph Kohn FRS who proposed the Blue plaque, said: “The Nobel Prize winner A. V. Hill contributed vastly to our understanding of muscle physiology. His work has resulted in wide-ranging application in sports medicine. As an outstanding Humanitarian and Parliamentarian, he was uncompromising in his condemnation of the Nazi regime for its persecution of scientists and others. A. V. Hill played a crucial role in assisting and rescuing many refugees to continue their work in this country.”[18][19][20]


By Hill:

  • Gray, C. H. (1947). "The significance of the van den Bergh reaction". The Quarterly Journal of Medicine. 16 (63): 135–142. PMID 20263725.
  • Hill, A. V.; Long, C. N. H.; Lupton, H. (1924). "Muscular Exercise, Lactic Acid, and the Supply and Utilisation of Oxygen". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 96 (679): 438–475. doi:10.1098/rspb.1924.0037.
  • Hill, A.V. (1924–25). Textbook of Anti-Aircraft Gunnery, 2 vols
  • - (1926). "The scientific study of athletics". Scientific American. 224 (April).
  • - (1926a). Muscular Activity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-5494-6.
  • - (1926b). Muscular Activity: Herter Lectures – Sixteenth Course. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Company.
  • - (1927a). Muscular Movement in Man
  • - (1927b). Living Machinery
  • Hill, A. V. (1928). "Myothermic apparatus". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 103 (723): 117–137. doi:10.1098/rspb.1928.0029.
  • - (1931). Adventures in Biophysics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • - (1932) Chemical Wave Transmission in Nerve
  • - (1960). The Ethical Dilemma of Science, and Other Writings. New York: Rockefeller Institute Press.
  • - (1965). Trails and Trials in Physiology: A Bibliography, 1909–1964; with reviews of certain topics and methods and a reconnaissance for further research. London: Arnold.


  1. ^ Katz, B. (1978). "Archibald Vivian Hill. 26 September 1886-3 June 1977". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 24: 71–149. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1978.0005. JSTOR 769758. PMID 11615743.
  2. ^ Bassett, DR Jr (2002). "Scientific contributions of A. V. Hill: exercise physiology pioneer". Journal of Applied Physiology. 93 (5): 1567–1582. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01246.2001. PMID 12381740. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  3. ^ "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31230.
  4. ^ Hill, A. V. (1909). "The mode of action of nicotine and curari, determined by the form of the contraction curve and the method of temperature coefficients". The Journal of Physiology. 39 (5): 361–373. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.1909.sp001344. PMC 1533665. PMID 16992989.
  5. ^ Langmuir, Irving (June 1918). "The Adsorption of Gases on Plane Surface of Glass, Mica and Platinum". The Research Laboratory of the General Electric Company. 40 (9): 1361–1402. doi:10.1021/ja02242a004.
  6. ^ Katz, Bernard (1978). "Archibald Vivian Hill". Bio. Mem. Fel. Roy. Soc. 24: 71–149.
  7. ^ Van der Kloot, William (2011). "Mirrors and Smoke: A. V. HILL, His Brigands, and the Science of Anti-Aircraft Gunnery in World War I". Notes Rec. R. Soc. Lond. 25: 393–410.
  8. ^ Van der Kloot, William (2014). Great Scientists wage the Great War. Stroud: Fonthill. pp. 191–214.
  9. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1922".
  10. ^ Hale, Tudor (15 February 2008). "History of developments in sport and exercise physiology: A. V. Hill, maximal oxygen uptake, and oxygen debt". Journal of Sports Sciences. 26 (4): 365–400. doi:10.1080/02640410701701016. ISSN 0264-0414. PMID 18228167.
  11. ^ Bassett, D. R.; Howley, E. T. (1997). "Maximal oxygen uptake: "classical" versus "contemporary" viewpoints". Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 29 (5): 591–603. doi:10.1097/00005768-199705000-00002. ISSN 0195-9131. PMID 9140894.
  12. ^ Jean Medawar; David Pyke (2001). Hitler's gift: scientists who fled Nazi Germany. London: Piatkus. p. 122.
  13. ^ Van der Kloot 2014, p. 202.
  14. ^ Hastings, Max (2011). All Hell let loose: the World at War 1939-45. London: Harper. p. 81.
  15. ^ Hill, A. V. (1965). Trails and Trials in Physiology. London: Edward Arnold.
  16. ^ Katz 1978. p. 133.
  17. ^ Presidential Address to the British Association Meeting, held at Belfast in 1952
  18. ^ "A.V.Hill, Nobel Prize Winner and Sports Medicine Pioneer, receives English Heritage Blue Plaque". Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  19. ^ Rowlinson, Liz (18 September 2015). "Houses stamped with a mark of prestige". Times online. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  20. ^ "Hurstbourne, Highgate" (PDF). Retrieved 8 October 2015.


  • Lusk, G. (1925). Lectures on nutrition: 1924–1925. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company.
  • Medawar, Jean: Pyke, David (2012). Hitler's Gift: The True Story of the Scientists Expelled by the Nazi Regime (Paperback). New York: Arcade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61145-709-4.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Stevenson, L.G. (1953). Nobel Prize Winners in Medicine and Physiology: 1901–1950. New York: Henry Schuman.
  • Nobel biography

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Kenneth Pickthorn, Bt.
Sir John James Withers
Member of Parliament for Cambridge University
1940 – 1945
With: Sir Kenneth Pickthorn, Bt.
Succeeded by
Sir Kenneth Pickthorn, Bt.
Wilson Harris


was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar, the 1886th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 886th year of the 2nd millennium, the 86th year of the 19th century, and the 7th year of the 1880s decade. As of the start of 1886, the Gregorian calendar was

12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

1886 in science

The year 1886 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

1903 Chicago Maroons football team

The 1903 Chicago Maroons football team was an American football team that represented the University of Chicago during the 1903 college football season. In their 12th season under head coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, the Maroons compiled a 12–2–1 record, finished in fourth place in the Western Conference with a 4–1–1 record against conference opponents, and outscored all opponents by a combined total of 413 to 61.

1904 Chicago Maroons football team

The 1904 Chicago Maroons football team was an American football team that represented the University of Chicago during the 1904 Western Conference football season. In their 13th season under head coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, the Maroons compiled a 10–1–1 record, finished in third place in the Western Conference with a 5–1–1 record against conference opponents, and outscored all opponents by a combined total of 410 to 44.

1905 Chicago Maroons football team

The 1905 Chicago Maroons football team represented the University of Chicago during the 1905 Western Conference football season. In coach Amos Alonzo Stagg's 14th year as head coach, the Maroons finished with an 11–0 record (7–0 Western) and outscored opponents 271 to 5. The Maroons were retroactively named national champions by the Billingsley Report, the Helms Athletic Foundation, the National Championship Foundation, and the Houlgate System.

1926 Alabama gubernatorial election

The 1926 Alabama gubernatorial election took place on November 2, 1926, in order to elect the Governor of Alabama. Democratic incumbent William W. Brandon was term-limited, and could not seek a second consecutive term.

1940 Cambridge University by-election

The Cambridge University by-election, 1940 was a parliamentary by-election for the British House of Commons constituency of Cambridge University on 23 February 1940. Cambridge University was a two-member constituency.

Archibald Hill Carmichael

Archibald Hill Carmichael (June 17, 1864 – July 15, 1947) was an American Democratic politician who represented Alabama's 8th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from November 1933 to January 1937.

Bernard Katz

Sir Bernard Katz, FRS (26 March 1911 – 20 April 2003) was a German-born Australian physician and biophysicist, noted for his work on nerve physiology. He shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1970 with Julius Axelrod and Ulf von Euler. He was knighted in 1969.

Central governor

The central governor is a proposed process in the brain that regulates exercise in regard to a neurally calculated safe exertion by the body. In particular, physical activity is controlled so that its intensity cannot threaten the body’s homeostasis by causing anoxic damage to the heart muscle. The central governor limits exercise by reducing the neural recruitment of muscle fibers. This reduced recruitment causes the sensation of fatigue. The existence of a central governor was suggested to explain fatigue after prolonged strenuous exercise in long-distance running and other endurance sports, but its ideas could also apply to other causes of exertion-induced fatigue.

The existence of a central governor was proposed by Tim Noakes in 1997, but a similar idea was suggested in 1924 by Archibald Hill.

In contrast to this idea is the one that fatigue is due to peripheral ‘limitation’ or ‘catastrophe’. In this view, regulation by fatigue occurs as a consequence of a failure of homeostasis directly in muscles.

Edward B. Almon

Edward Berton Almon (April 18, 1860 – June 22, 1933) was an American, and a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives who represented northwest Alabama's 8th congressional district.

Hill equation (biochemistry)

In biochemistry and pharmacology, the Hill equation refers to two closely related equations that reflect ligands binding to macromolecule. The distinction between the two equations is whether they measure occupancy (the fraction of a macromolecule saturated by ligand) or response (the physiological output of the system, such as muscle contraction). Both equations are a function of the ligand concentration. As the Hill equation is formally equivalent to the Langmuir isotherm, it is sometimes referred to as the Hill-Langmuir equation. The International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR) has proposed to cement this subtle distinction and define separately the Hill-Langmuir equation, which reflects occupancy of receptors by ligands, and the Hill equation, which reflects (cellular or tissue) response to the ligand. This article will use the IUPHAR convention, to allow more clarity. A slight, yet subtle, distinction is made between the Hill-Langmuir equation, which reflects occupancy of receptors by ligands, and the Hill equation, which reflects (cellular or tissue) response to the ligand.

The Hill-Langmuir equation was originally formulated by Archibald Hill in 1910 to describe the sigmoidal O2 binding curve of haemoglobin.The binding of a ligand to a macromolecule is often enhanced if there are already other ligands present on the same macromolecule (this is known as cooperative binding). The Hill-Langmuir equation is useful for determining the degree of cooperativity of the ligand(s) binding to the enzyme or receptor. The Hill coefficient provides a way to quantify the degree of interaction between ligand binding sites.The Hill equation (for response) is important in the construction of dose-response curves.

Ijaw languages

The Ijaw languages (), also spelt Ịjọ, are the languages spoken by the Ijo people in southern Nigeria.

John Sparkman

John Jackson Sparkman (December 20, 1899 – November 16, 1985) was an American jurist and politician from the state of Alabama. A Southern Democrat, Sparkman served in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate from 1937 until 1979. He was also the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice President in the 1952 presidential election.

Born in Morgan County, Alabama, Sparkman established a legal practice in Huntsville, Alabama after graduating from the University of Alabama School of Law. He won election to the House in 1936 and served as House Majority Whip in 1946. He left the House in 1946 after winning a special election to succeed Senator John H. Bankhead II. While in the Senate, he helped establish Marshall Space Flight Center and served as the chairman of several committees.

Sparkman served as Adlai Stevenson II's the running mate in the 1952 presidential election, but they were defeated by the Republican ticket of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.

Known as a segregationist proponent during the Civil Rights era, Sparkman was a regular voter against civil rights legislation and condemned the "judicial usurpation" of the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education, Sparkman signed the 1956 Southern Manifesto, which pledged opposition to racial integration and promised to use "all lawful means" to fight the ruling that put court power behind the integration of public institutions.

He became the longest-serving Senator from Alabama in 1977. Sparkman chose not to seek re-election in 1978 and retired from public office the following year.

Keynes family

The Keynes family ( KAYNZ) is an English family that has included several notable economists, writers, and actors, perhaps the most famous of which was the economist John Maynard Keynes.

List of Nobel laureates affiliated with University College London

University College London (UCL) is one of the two founding colleges of the University of London. There have been 33 Nobel Prize laureates amongst UCL’s alumni and current and former staff. UCL has the most Nobel affiliations among colleges and schools of the University of London, which has produced as many as 72 Nobelists till 2010.

List of Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (Swedish: Nobelpriset i fysiologi eller medicin) is awarded annually by the Swedish Karolinska Institute to scientists and doctors in the various fields of physiology or medicine. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the 1895 will of Alfred Nobel (who died in 1896), awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine. As dictated by Nobel's will, the award is administered by the Nobel Foundation and awarded by a committee that consists of five members and an executive secretary elected by the Karolinska Institute. While commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Medicine, Nobel specifically stated that the prize be awarded for "physiology or medicine" in his will. Because of this, the prize can be awarded in a broader range of fields. The first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded in 1901 to Emil Adolf von Behring, of Germany. Each recipient receives a medal, a diploma and a monetary award that has varied throughout the years. In 1901, von Behring received 150,782 SEK, which was equal to 7,731,004 SEK in December 2008. The award is presented in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on 10 December, the anniversary of Nobel's death.Laureates have won the Nobel Prize in a wide range of fields that relate to physiology or medicine. As of 2009, 8 Prizes have been awarded for contributions in the field of signal transduction by G proteins and second messengers, 13 have been awarded for contributions in the field of neurobiology and 13 have been awarded for contributions in intermediary metabolism. In 1939 Gerhard Domagk, a German, was not allowed by his government to accept the prize. He later received a medal and diploma, but not the money. As of 2018, the prize has been awarded to 216 individuals, twelve of them were women: Gerty Cori (1947), Rosalyn Yalow (1977), Barbara McClintock (1983), Rita Levi-Montalcini (1986), Gertrude B. Elion (1988), Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (1995), Linda B. Buck (2004), Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (2008), Elizabeth H. Blackburn (2009), Carol W. Greider (2009), May-Britt Moser (2014) and Tu Youyou (2015).

There have been nine years in which the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was not awarded (1915–1918, 1921, 1925, 1940–1942). There were also five years for which the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was delayed for one year. The Prize was not awarded in 1914, as the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine decided that none of that year's nominations met the necessary criteria, but was awarded to Robert Bárány in 1915 and counted as the 1914 prize. This precedent was followed for the 1922 prize awarded to Archibald Hill and Otto Fritz Meyerhof in 1923,, the 1926 prize awarded to Johannes Fibiger in 1927, the 1938 prize awarded to Corneille Heymans in 1939,, and the 1943 prize awarded to Henrik Dam and Edward Adelbert Doisy in 1944.

Walter Morley Fletcher

Sir Walter Morley Fletcher, (21 July 1873 – 7 June 1933) was a British physiologist and administrator. Fletcher graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge and was most significant in his administration of the Medical Research Council (MRC) during the interwar years. Under his guidance, the MRC focused its funding on basic scientific research at the expense of clinical research but he made Britain a leader in biomedical research in the period.

Recipients of the Copley Medal (1901–1950)

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