Departmental Chairs 1872 to the present


Joseph Morley Drake (Institutes of Medicine – Physiology)
Joseph Morley Drake was born in London, England in 1828. He started his academic career studying chemistry at the London Polytechnic Institute and was certified as an analytical chemist at the age of seventeen. He arrived in Canada in 1845 and was first employed as a druggist. Subsequently, he decided to enter the study of medicine and graduated from McGill with highest honours in 1861. Immediately upon graduation he was appointed House Surgeon at the Montreal General Hospital (then located on Dorchester Street – now boul. René Levesque), a position he held for eight years. In 1868 he was appointed Professor of Clinical Medicine at McGill and in 1872 became Professor of the Institutes of Medicine, occupying the Chair of Physiology (Note: Following the Edinburgh tradition, the term “Institutes of Medicine” denoted a medical course of instruction comprising pathology, histology and physiology. This course title was, in turn, derived from “Institutiones Medicae”, a famous work authored in 1706 by the eminent Dutch physician Herman Boerhaave of the influential Leyden School of Medicine.) Drake resigned in 1874 due to ill health and in 1875 was appointed Emeritus Professor in the Faculty of Medicine. He died in Abbotsford, near Montreal, on December 26, 1886. He was remembered, by both colleagues and students, as “a mild mannered, very gentlemanly man, of a very fair complexion, but not much force though he was a man of good ability”.

In 1897, members of the Drake family contributed $ 25,000 toward the endowment, in perpetuity, of the “Joseph Morley Drake Chair of Physiology”. During the following century, a number of eminent physiologists/Departmental Chairmen have been named to this Chair. It is presently occupied by Dr. Michael Mackey, Director of the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics in Physiology and Medicine.
1. Canadian Medical and Surgical Journal, Vol. 15 (1887)
2. The McGill News, Vol. 6, No. 2, 1925


William Osler (Institutes of Medicine – Physiology)
William Osler was born on July 12, 1849 in the small outlying pioneer community of Bond Head, north of the then small town of Toronto. He was the eighth of nine children born to Featherstone Land Osler, erstwhile naval officer, explorer, adventurer and subsequently minister of the Church of England, and his wife Ellen Free née Pickton (Interestingly, it has been reported that Featherstone had at one time received an offer to serve as naturalist on the Beagle before that position went to Darwin). Osler received his early education at Dundas Grammar School, from which he was eventually expelled – at the age of fifteen- for shouting abuse at one of the Masters through a keyhole. In 1866 he proceeded to Trinity College School in Weston, from which he graduated with distinction. While at Trinity, Osler was greatly influenced by the Dean of the College School, one Reverend William Johnson, who – apart from being a clergyman – was also an accomplished microscopist and naturalist, and from whom the young Osler derived his early interest in science and all things biological. In the fall of 1867 Osler transferred to Toronto University’s Trinity College in order to study the classics and divinity, with the intention of following the example of his father by eventually entering the ministry. Early on, however, he made the acquaintance of James Bovell who at the time was Professor at the Toronto School of Medicine. Osler began to attend many of Bovell’s lectures, and decided to become a physician. However, since by 1870 the Toronto School of Medicine was mired in controversy, and the Toronto General Hospital was forced to temporarily close, Osler transferred that year to McGill and graduated in 1872, having been awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery (MD, CM). Having finished medical school, Osler was to obtain his post-graduate education in Europe. He spent some fifteen months at University College in London, England and it was there that he produced his major original scientific contribution to medical literature by studying and describing the platelet as the “third element of blood”. He subsequently proceeded to Berlin to study with Rudolph Virchow, at the time the dean of pathologists, who introduced Osler to clinical and cellular pathology, and the scientific study of disease mechanisms at the cellular level. The last leg of Osler’s post-graduate peregrinations took him to Vienna where he was introduced to the novel concept of clinical specialization. In 1874 Osler returned to Canada and briefly set up medical practice in Dundas and Hamilton. Later that year, he was offered by Dean Palmer-Howard of McGill Medical school “the office of Lecturer upon the Institutes of Medicine” (a course comprising pathology, histology and physiology) to replace the ailing Dr. Drake (see above). Osler readily accepted the offer, moved to Montreal, and by 1875 was appointed to Drake’s vacant Chair as Professor of Institutes of Medicine and Physiology. (Drake eventually died of heart disease, and it is amusing to note that much later in 1908, when shown Drake’s preserved heart in McGill’s Pathological Museum, Osler is reported to have remarked that “if that heart had not petered out when it did, in all probability I would not be where I am now”.) By 1876 Osler became the first Pathologist at the Montreal General Hospital, and also took a position as Attendant in the small-pox ward, where he contracted a mild form of the disease (from which he soon recovered). During his tenure at McGill, Osler reorganized and reinvigorated the teaching of Medicine and Physiology by, on the one hand, emphasizing the importance of bed-side observations on human patients and relating specific clinical symptoms to particular disease entities, and, on the other hand, by complementing- and frequently substituting – the descriptive anatomy/histology based approach to the study of organs and tissues with live demonstrations and “hands-on” laboratory experiments involving student participation, all designed to illustrate the real-time dynamic nature of particular physiological systems. The novel state-of the-art equipment for the student labs was acquired largely from Germany and France, and in part paid for out of his own pocket. By 1884, Osler tried – but failed – to obtain a professorship of Clinical Medicine at McGill, and in the fall of the same year accepted the Chair of Clinical Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In 1889 he moved to Baltimore to the newly established Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where he became Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine and Physician-in-Chief at the University Hospital. While at Johns Hopkins, Osler wrote “The Principles and Practice of Medicine”, a widely used textbook that was first published in 1892 and went through 16 editions until 1947. Also in 1892, he married Grace Linzee Revere Gross, the great-granddaughter of Paul Revere and widow of a Philadelphia surgeon. They had a son, Revere, who in 1917 was killed in action in France. In 1898 Osler was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London (FRS). He became Regius Professor of Physiology at Oxford in 1905, and was made baronet by King George V in 1911. He died on December 29, 1919. During his entire life, William Osler was an avid student of the history and evolution of medicine, and he sought out and collected numerous volumes of classical medical literature. Toward the end of his life he bequeathed his entire collection of some 8000 books and manuscripts to McGill University. This collection became the nucleus of McGill’s Osler Library which was officially opened on May 29, 1929, and was originally housed in the Strathcona Medical Building. It is currently located – with a vastly enlarged collection – on the third floor of the McIntyre Medical Building. (For more details about Osler’s life, interests and the Osler Library, see: Lyons, Christopher and David S. Crawford, Whatever Happened to William Osler’s Library? JCHLA (Winter 2006): 9-13, available on-line at:
1. Bliss, M., William Osler, A Life in Medicine, U. of Toronto Press, 1999.
2. Cushing, H., The Life of Sir William Osler, Oxford U. Press, 1940.
3. Hanaway, J. and Cruess, R., McGill Medicine, Vol. 1, McGill- Queen’s U. Press, 1996.


Thomas Wesley Mills (1st Joseph-Morley-Drake Professor – 1897 see above
T.W. Mills was the longest serving Physiology chairman in the history of the Department. He was born in Brockville, Ontario, on February 22, 1847. After having received his early education in his native town, he entered the University of Toronto where he attended lectures in both arts and medicine, and it was in that environment that he met and befriended his future colleague and benefactor William Osler (see above). After obtaining his B.A. in 1871 – to be followed by a M.A. a year later – Mills entered McGill in 1876 to complete his medical education, and he graduated M.D., C.M. in 1878. This was followed by a period of studies abroad, first at University College in London, England, and then on the Continent. Upon returning to Canada in 1881, he joined Osler as demonstrator in the recently established and newly equipped physiology laboratory where students taking the “practical” physiology course were allowed hands-on use (an innovation introduced by Osler) of novel state-of-the-art equipment. It is worth noting that this development – in which Mills was an active participant - initiated the official split at McGill between Physiology as a functional science, and Histology as an anatomical one. Upon Osler’s departure to Philadelphia (see above), Mills was initially appointed lecturer in 1884, and two years later Professor of Physiology and Chairman of the Department, succeeding Osler in that capacity. He furthermore became the first physiologist to occupy the Joseph Morley Drake Chair (endowed in 1897, see above). During his tenure at McGill, Mills’ work covered a broad range of topics. His publications included papers on heart function in cold-blooded animals, the chemistry of oxalic acid, voice physiology, and the physiology of the brain cortex. During one stage of his career he became interested in comparative physiology, in particular certain issues concerning animal intelligence. He studied dogs in various stages of health and disease, and within this context published seminal works including “A Textbook of Animal Physiology”, “A Textbook of Comparative Physiology”, and “On the Nature of Development of Animal Intelligence”. It is worth noting that Mills’ appointment to the Physiology Chair coincided with a substantial expansion of the original medical building, providing more space for Physiology, and - with further enlargements in 1895 - greatly increasing Physiology lab quarters and adding space for a small demonstration theatre. Thus, by the early 1900’s, the Department under Mills had grown to consist of an assistant professor, two lecturers, and one demonstrator, with a broadened curriculum including Physiological Chemistry and courses for dental students. Furthermore, the old “Institutes of Medicine” course, which up to Osler’s time had been a key component of the curriculum, was abandoned and replaced by separate courses for each of its three erstwhile sections, i.e. Pathology, Histology and Physiology. In his personal life, Mills was passionately devoted to music and was reported to have been an accomplished violin player (he left his violin to the McGill Conservatory of Music “for the use of a poor student”). His musical interests, in turn, led him to a study of laryngology and the physiology of singing, and in 1906 he published an important work on “Voice Production in Singing and Speaking”. In later life he devoted much of his time to the study of various aspects of musical education, and he was a well-respected contributor and critic to various musical journals. Nevertheless, in many respects Mills’ was a tragic life: Despite the fact that he was a man of keen intelligence who (as Osler noted in his obituary) “worked hard for the university and built up an excellent department of physiology”, he nevertheless was an earnest and humorless person who remained aloof and unfriendly toward his colleagues and staff. He had few teaching and human skills, was unpopular with students, and - according to Osler - was a man with a “curious lack of capacity for happiness”. Interestingly, Mills himself once confided to Osler that “I have not fared too well at the hands of men during my life”. By 1910 health concerns forced him to resign from the Physiology Chairmanship. The same year he went to reside in England where – during a prolonged period of progressive illness – he penned an autobiographical article which traced his medical history during one year. He died of a myocardial infarction on February 13, 1915.
1. CMAJ, Vol. 5, No. 3, March 1915
2. CMAJ, Vol. 5, No. 4, April 1915
3. Hanaway, J. and Cruess, R., McGill Medicine, Vol. 1, McGill-Queen’s U. Press, 1996.
4. F.C. MacIntosh, Physiology at McGill: Notes for a History, 1983


D.P. Penhallow (Professor of Botany and Physiology)


Nathaniel H. Alcock (Joseph-Morley-Drake Professor)
Nathaniel H. Alcock occupied the Joseph-Morley-Drake Chair of Physiology at McGill for barely two years, yet his influence on the Department – and on physiological science in general – was exceptional. As William Osler wrote in his 1913 obituary “…The death of Dr. Alcock is a great loss to the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. During the short time of his occupation of the Chair his work was chiefly in connexion with the organization of his department…The energy and enthusiasm he displayed, though suffering for nearly three years from medullary leukaemia, were remarkable… He had made an extensive study of his own case, and I do not remember ever to have seen blood charts in the disease so extensive and so elaborate. Against an implacable enemy, he put up a splendid fight, and literally died in harness”. N.H. Alcock was born in 1871 in Ireland. He was educated at Dublin University where he graduated B.A. (gold medalist in natural science) in 1893, and M.D. in 1896. After serving as demonstrator of anatomy at Victoria University in Manchester, and subsequently as assistant to the King’s Professor of the Institutes of Medicine at Trinity College in Dublin, he was appointed demonstrator of physiology in London University, and in 1904 lecturer in physiology at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School at Paddington. In 1906 he became Vice-Dean of the Medical School, and his administrative reforms – especially in restoring the School’s financial viability – became models that were subsequently adopted by several other institutions. In 1909 he was granted the degree of D.Sc. of London University for his research work, in the main concerned with the influence of anaesthetics on the nervous system; and in 1911 he was chosen to succeed Wesley Mills to the Chair of Physiology at McGill University, a post he held till his death in 1913. Alcock’s contributions to the scientific literature were numerous and varied, and included – amongst his early works – a monograph on Irish Bats which contained many unique photographs which at the time were widely reproduced in works of British natural history; and a paper co-authored with Otto Loewi (of “Vagusstoff” fame) on kidney function. The main body of his scientific publications were, however, concerned with the physical, electrical and chemical properties of nerves (especially the Vagus), and the effects of anaesthetics on the nervous system. Within the latter context, he designed and built “a new apparatus for chloroform anaesthesia”, which allowed precise calibration and control of the anaesthetic dosage delivered to a patient. His “Textbook of Experimental Physiology for Students of Medicine” (published in 1909 in conjunction with E.H. Starling) became a classic in the field, while the thoroughness, accuracy and lucidity of presentation of his scientific work earned him the respect and admiration of his peers, who sometimes compared him to the inimitable Helmholtz. As a lecturer, Alcock inaugurated a new era in the Faculty’s teaching program. He was able to establish close rapport with both beginners and advanced students, and in the Old McGill obituary of 1915 he was reported as having “discouraged note-taking altogether, and by encouraging the reading of textbooks, (he) tried to give students a broader outlook on the field of Physiology…” (plus ça change…!). In his private life, Alcock was a keen amateur astronomer who constructed his own telescopes, and – in his younger days - he was a dedicated and indefatigable sportsman and mountain climber. He died, aged forty-two, at his home in Montreal on June 12, 1913.
1. The British Medical Journal, Vol.21 (1913), 1353.
2. C.M.A.J., Vol. 3, No. 7, July 1913, 625.
3. OldMcGill, 1915, p. 96
4. F.C.MacIntosh, Physiology at McGill: Notes for a History, 1983.

(3 months)

George Mines (Joseph-Morley-Drake Professor)
George Ralph Mines was born in 1886 in England, and was educated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he was later elected to a Fellowship in 1909. Mines taught at Newnham College, Cambridge, and conducted his research at the Physiological Laboratory in Cambridge (where he was appointed Assistant Demonstrator) as well as at other locations in England, France, and Italy. He was elected a member of the Physiological Society in 1910 at the unusually young age of 24. By 1914, Mines was at the University of Toronto, and later that same year was appointed Professor and Chair of the Department of Physiology at McGill. A few months following his appointment, on the evening of Saturday November 7, 1914, he was found unconscious in his lab, connected up to some physiologic equipment, dying later that same night at the Royal Victoria Hospital. There has been much speculation as to the cause of his death (see, e.g., Acierno & Worrell, 2001). Mines is best known today for his work on cardiac arrhythmias. In particular he conducted seminal work on circus-movement reentry, which has been cited many hundreds of times in the literature. Mines also discovered the vulnerability period, a very specific period of time within the cardiac cycle during which an electrical stimulus can throw the heart into fibrillation. There has been recently a resurgence of interest in a cardiac arrhythmia called alternans on which Mines had carried out pioneering experimental work. Mines was an accomplished pianist who had seriously considered a career as a musician. This musical talent was passed to at least one of his three children, his daughter Anatole, who was born after his death, and who became a professional violist.
1. G.R. Mines (1913). "On dynamic equilibrium in the heart." J. Physiol. (Lond.) 46:349–83.
2. G.R. Mines (1914). "On circulating excitations in heart muscle and their possible relation to tachycardia and fibrillation." Trans. Roy. Soc. Can. 8:43–52.
3. R.A. DeSilva (1997). "George Ralph Mines, ventricular fibrillation and the discovery of the vulnerable period." J. Am. Coll. Cardiol. 29:1397–1402.
4. L. J. Acierno, L. T. Worrell (2001). "George Ralph Mines: victim of self-experimentation?" Clin. Cardiol. 24, 571–572.
5. B. Lüderitz (2005). "George Ralph Mines (1886–1914)." J. Intervent. Card. Electrophysiol. 12, 163–164.
 1915-1918 No Chair


John Tait (Joseph-Morley-Drake Professor)
The four year leaderless interregnum ended in 1919 with the appointment of 41 year old John Tait as Joseph Morley Drake Professor and Chairman of the McGill Physiology Department. A native of the Orkney Islands, Tait was the 1906 gold medalist in medicine at Edinburgh where he earned his M.D. degree, and where a year later he obtained the prestigious degree of Doctor of Science. Following a period of post-graduate studies at the famous German research centers of Goettingen and Berlin, he returned in 1910 to Edinburgh as lecturer in experimental physiology. During the war of 1914-18 he saw service with the Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C.) in Macedonia and Italy, and was chosen to investigate front-line problems of surgical shock. After arriving at McGill, Tait’s first task was to assist with the planning of the new Biology Building (now the F.Cyril James Building) which was to be attached to the surviving wing of the old previously torched Medical Building. It was officially opened in 1922 - with the inaugural address given by Sir Charles Sherrington – and the Physiology Department was assigned extensive new quarters on the fourth floor. In this new environment, Taits initial main research interests included mechanisms of blood coagulation with special emphasis on the haemostatic function and turnover of blood platelets, blood flow and particle sequestration in the spleen, and the spleen’s innervation. However, his most productive collaboration – and one which brought him international recognition – was with the young otolaryngologist William James McNally. Their papers on the frog’s vestibular apparatus and its influence on posture became classics in the field, and in many ways foreshadowed similar initiatives started some forty years later in Physiology’s Aviation (now Aerospace) Medical Research Unit. By the late 1920’s, forty-five papers by some twenty different workers had been published from the new department, with ten M.Sc. degrees and about half a dozen Ph.D. degrees granted during that same period. In 1928, the Department’s research activities were further expanded by the arrival of Boris Babkin who – somewhat to Tait’s chagrin – was appointed Research Professor of Physiology, and who surrounded himself with a lively and highly productive group of collaborators (see below). Departmental teaching activities were also greatly expanded: In addition to first and second year courses – largely concerned with the physiology of cold-blooded animals – a third year mammalian physiology course was introduced using Sherrington’s textbook “Mammalian Physiology”. In addition, hospital clinics offering clinical/physiological correlations became part of the new curriculum. Tait’s internationally acclaimed work brought him many honors: He was named Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which awarded him the Neill gold medal in Natural History; and Fellow of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of Edinburgh and London. In addition, he gained the distinction of being made a life member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science - an honor accorded to very few. He also was made a member of the International Collegium, a world wide body for the promotion of scientific learning and advancement. Unfortunately, in 1938 Tait suffered a serious heart attack, which in 1940 forced his early retirement from the Chairmanship. He was named Emeritus Professor of Physiology in 1943, and went back to Scotland for a brief period before permanently retiring to his home in Montreal. He died there on October 21, 1944.
1. CMAJ, Vol. 51, No. 6, Dec. 1944
2. McGill News, Vol. 26, No2, Winter 1944
3. Hanaway/Cruess/Darragh, McGill Medicine, Vol. 2, McGill-Queen’s U. Press, 2006.
4. F.C. MacIntosh, Physiology at McGill: Notes for a History, 1983.


Boris Babkin
Boris Petrovitch Babkin was born in Russia in1877, and early in life contemplated a career in music. However, he eventually decided on a medical career, and received his M.D. from the Military-Medical Academy in St. Petersburg in 1904. It was there that he met the pioneering physiologist Ivan Pavlov who convinced him to become an experimental physiologist, and he worked for a number of years as Pavlov’s assistant in the latter’s St. Petersburg lab. From 1912 until 1922, Babkin taught physiology and held Chairs at various Russian Institutes (including Novo-Alexandria and Odessa), but in 1922 political considerations forced him into exile first in London, England, and subsequently in Canada. After a short period as professor of Physiology at Dalhousie University, he was recruited in 1928 by McGill as Research Professor of Physiology. His appointment at McGill was “somewhat roughly” imposed on the then Professor and Chairman of Physiology John Tait (see above). The relation between the two men was reported as having remained “polite but cool”, since Tait had to surrender part of his space to Babkin, while having no control over the latter’s research budget. Babkin at the time was already a widely known and respected authority on the physiology of the digestive glands and their autonomic innervation, and he soon became surrounded at McGill by an enthusiastic group of graduate students, associates and visitors. One of these graduate students was Simon A. Komarov, a trained biochemist and political exile from Riga, who in 1936 under Babkin’s supervision isolated and characterized the then still hypothetical hormone “gastrin” – a significant milestone in gastric physiology and endocrinology. Another graduate student in this group was F.C. MacIntosh (see below) who in 1937 earned his Ph.D. in Physiology with Babkin. In addition to focusing on digestive gland physiology, Babkin’s research by 1932 began to branch out into entirely new areas. On the one hand, he co-authored a number of papers on “humoral” transmission in the secretory innervation of the salivary gland, and thus became one of the first investigators to supply firm evidence for chemical transmission in mammals; and on the other hand he embarked, with the help of a visitor from the Soviet Union by the name of L.A. Andreyev, on a systematic experimental study of auditory conditioned reflexes. Babkin himself succeeded John Tait as Professor and Chairman of Physiology at McGill in 1940, but soon after had to retire from the Chair on reaching the age limit. Nevertheless, he remained in the Department as Professor (Post-Retirement) for several years, and subsequently relocated to a small lab at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI). During that period, he wrote a major monograph on “The Secretory Mechanisms of the Digestive Glands”, completed an authoritative biography of Pavlov, and spent some of his extra-curricular time attending to Montreal’s White Russian exile community. He died in 1950 at the age of 73.
1. A Guide to Archival Resources at McGill (M.G.2024)
2. F.C. MacIntosh, Physiology at McGill: Notes for a History, 1983.
3. F.C .MacIntosh, The McGill Department of Physiology, 1950-1970 (Informal Notes for S.B. Frost).
4. The McGill News, Vol. 12, No. 2, March 1931
5. Departmental Correspondence


Hebbel E. Hoff (Joseph-Morley-Drake Professor)
Hebbel Edward Hoff was born on December 2, 1907 in Urbana, Illinois. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Washington in 1928, his B.A. (Rhodes Scholar), M.A. and D. Phil. Degrees from Oxford University in the early 1930s, and his M.D. degree from Harvard in 1936. Hoff was a true renaissance man whose fifty year long career spanned a wide range of interests. His very first paper published in 1929 with his brother E.C. Hoff described a new type of parasitic tapeworm found in the stickleback. This was followed during 1931-34 by investigations, in collaboration with J.C. Eccles, aimed at elucidating some of the rhythmic properties of both spinal motoneurons and cardiac muscle; and while at Yale University during the late 1930s, he published a number of influential papers (with L.H. Nahum) concerning some of the electrophysiological properties of the heart and their relation to specific phases of the electrocardiogram. Furthermore, his research into the organization of the respiratory system, and the identification of putative respiratory centers in the medulla, did much to further the understanding of respiratory control in mammals. Later in his career Hoff devoted much time to the study of the history of physiology, and to aspects of physiological principles as related to bioengineering. He revived and demonstrated some important classical experiments from the past, such as those of Stephen Hales on blood pressure, Sherrington on the actions of decorticate-decerebrate animals, and Chauveau-Marey on cardiac catheterization. In 1943 Hoff was appointed Joseph Morley Drake Professor and Chairman of Physiology at McGill. He immediately started – with considerable success – to build up an active research program, despite a (war-related) shortage of funds, a heavy teaching load, and a critical shortage of staff. To deal with the latter problems – which were aggravated initially by a large influx of science students, and later in his term by the influx of WW II veterans – he managed to recruit new staff including Kathleen Terroux, then an assistant professor of Zoology, who was placed in charge of the introductory B.Sc. class with its hundreds of students, and whose connection with the Physiology Department was to remain unbroken for forty years. Hoff’s own research during his McGill years was largely concerned with specific aspects of normal and abnormal electrical activity of the heart as revealed by the EKG; the influence of hormones (especially thyroxine), changes in temperature, and changes in pH on cardiac function; and the development of ventricular catheterization as a viable clinical method for determining cardiac output in children with congenital heart abnormalities. Within the latter context, he began fruitful collaborations with a number of research-minded clinicians, including Arnold L. Johnson, a cardiologist and clinical investigator at the Montreal Childrens Hospital; and with refugee engineer Paul Sekelj, who pioneered the development of complex instrumentation (including the first clinically useful whole-blood oxymeter) designed for on-line monitoring of vital functions and cardinal signs during open heart surgery (Sekelj later became the first director of the Montreal Childrens Hospital Department of Biophysics, and maintained his connection with the McGill Physiology Department until his untimely death in 1982). Hoff himself also contributed significantly to the (WW II) war effort by providing training courses to members of the medical services of the armed forces; and by helping to elucidate – under the auspices of the Associate Committee on Army Medical Research – some of the physiological aspects of what was then referred to as the “Effort Syndrome”, i.e. a condition identified as potentially leading to psycho-physiological breakdown in soldiers exposed to elevated physical and/or mental stress. In addition, Hoff contributed substantially to curriculum renewal. He was highly critical of McGill’s medical education, voicing strong objections to the largely fact-based and compartmentalized method of teaching prevalent at the time. He noted the sparse use students were making of the library, and was reported to have observed that “students are suspicious of any interesting lecture if they cannot record it in some tabular form” (plus ça change…). He was adamant that medical education should be conceived as a preparation for lifelong training and learning, rather than as a method for the temporary acquisition of a host of isolated facts. He therefore proposed – and partly achieved – a wide ranging reform of the curriculum, including a reduction in the time spent in class with concomitant increase in available free time; simplified examination procedures; closer correlation between Physiology, Anatomy and Biochemistry offerings; introduction of live demonstrations on the clinical applications of physiological and biochemical principles; lectures and clinical demonstrations on the history of medicine and therapeutics; and special courses for Dental students. Last but not least, having been appointed Director of animal facilities, Hoff re-organized and streamlined the acquisition and care of animals for experimental use, and in this capacity he had a decisive hand in successfully combating the then nascent anti-vivisectionist movement. In 1948 Hoff left McGill (accompanied by a number of the Department’s academic and technical staff) to become Benjamin F. Hambleton Professor and Chairman of Physiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and subsequently in 1974 Dean of Faculty Affairs. He retired in 1977, but remained Professor in Residence at Baylor College until his death in 1987.  
Sources:  Biographical material and portrait: Courtesy of the John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center, Houston Academy of Medicine, Texas Medical Center Library, Houston, Texas. F.C. MacIntosh, Physiology at McGill: Notes for a History, 1983.


Frank Campbell MacIntosh (Joseph-Morley-Drake Professor)
‘Hank’ MacIntosh was born in Baddeck, Cape Breton Island (NS), on December 24, 1909. He completed his studies for both BA (1930) and MA (1932) at Dalhousie University; and then, in 1933, he joined the laboratory of Boris P. Babkin (see above) at the Department of Physiology of McGill University. After receiving his McGill Ph.D. in 1937, he obtained a Royal Society of Canada travelling fellowship and went to London to work under Sir Henry Dale at the National Institute of Medical Research. He was appointed to the Institute staff in 1938 and remained there until 1949, when he returned to Canada to become Joseph Morley Drake Professor and Head of the Department of Physiology. Under his leadership, the somewhat moribund department gained a new lease on life, growing rapidly in staff, teaching and research, and quality of labs, the growth of space culminating with the move in 1965 from the old Biology Building on the main campus to the brand new McIntyre Centre on the lower slopes of Mt.Royal (in the planning and design of which he played an important part). He broadened the scope of departmental activities by providing new courses for increasing numbers of students in the Faculty of Science and in McGill’s new degree programs in Nursing, Physical and Occupational Therapy, and Physical Education. More advanced teaching was strengthened by the introduction of new Honours Programs and joint teaching programs with Immunology, Physics and Psychology. A good judge of individual promise, MacIntosh brought from Britain some outstanding scientists, notably A. Burgen and G. Melvill Jones; and he encouraged the endeavours of more applied and clinically-oriented researchers such as T.M.S Chang, P. Gold and M. Levy, ultimately leading to the founding of strong and productive centers focused on Artificial Cells and Cancer. Together with some earlier formed, closely related groups (Anaesthesia Research, Aviation Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, and the hospital-based Research Institutes), the Physiology department thus became a strong nexus for the production and transfer of information between basic and medical areas – which made McGill internationally pre-eminent in this regard. Hank’s own research activities covered a number of areas. His early work centered on humoral and hormonal mechanisms controlling the activity of digestive glands, resulting in important observations regarding the physiological action of histamine - the latter work contributing significantly to the subsequent development of histamine receptor (H2) blocking agents now widely used in the therapeutic control of gastric acid secretion. During and immediately after WW II he participated in war-related work concerned with problems of diving and respiratory exchange under adverse conditions, especially as related to oxygen poisoning, and the narcotic properties of CO2 under elevated pressure in flooded submarine compartments. He was an official observer at the 1946 atomic bomb trials at Bikini Atoll. Through his life-long pursuit of research on acetylcholine synthesis, storage and release as synaptic transmitter, he became widely recognized as the world expert on acetylcholine metabolism and secretion. In this context, he perfected the technique of perfusion of the superior cervical ganglion of the cat and bioassay of acetylcholine. Other research efforts in the Department at the time included work on the electrophysiology of the cerebral cortex, cellular secretory mechanisms, tissue transplantation, erythrocyte development, and oxymetry – activities which increasingly attracted international attention. Under Hank’s leadership, the Department was much involved in the planning and organization of the XIX International Physiological Congress in 1953 which brought some 3000 physiologists to Montreal, and was the first major scientific congress to be held in Canada. For all this, and many other achievements, he was awarded Fellowships of both the Royal Society (London) and the Royal Society of Canada, as well as several Honorary Degrees from Canadian Universities. He was for several years a member of the Science Council of Canada, and he was chosen to deliver the 3rd Sarrazin lecture at the 1979 CPS winter meeting at Orford, Quebec. In conclusion , it should be noted that social cohesion of the department was much enhanced by annual oyster parties in Hank’s home in Montreal West; as well as Hank’s enthusiastic promotion and personal participation in the interdepartmental curling competition at the CPS annual winter meetings. He retired in 1978, but stayed on as Professor Emeritus until 1989. He died on September 11, 1993.
Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol. 40 (1994), 255.
Third Sarrazin Lecture, Physiology Canada, Vol. 10 (2), April 1979, 62-75.


B. Delisle Burns
Benedict Delisle Burns, born in London in 1915, attended Cambridge University and graduated in 1939 from the University College Hospital medical school. His forbears were land-owners in the island of St. Kitts, and the family produced a number of interesting men, including Ben Burns’ father – a catholic priest who lost his faith, married and became a distinguished historian; an uncle in the British colonial service who was knighted for his achievements; and another uncle who was the long-time Secretary of the British Communist Party. As a scientist, Ben Burns was imaginative and somewhat unconventional. After World War II operational research in North Africa, he joined Sir Lindor Brown’s group at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, where he participated in research on neuromuscular transmission and in the process familiarized himself with a range of electrophysiological techniques. In 1950 he joined McGill’s Physiology Department, where he spent sixteen productive years investigating discharge patterns and neuronal relationships in the mammalian cerebral cortex and brainstem respiratory centers. Furthermore, he initiated a number of highly original cross-disciplinary studies with, on the one hand, members of D.O. Hebb’s research group at McGill’s Psychology Department; and, on the other hand, with Albert Uttley’s group at the Autonomics Division of the National Physical Laboratories in London, England, with a view of elucidating the neural mechanisms of learning, and the physiological bases of memory and attention. In this, he was much influenced by hypotheses regarding the probabilistic nature of neuroelectric activity, and the consequent necessity for statistical methods of data analysis and quantification – seminal ideas developed in the 1950’s by MIT’s Communications Biophysics Group; and by some of the then current theories of synaptic plasticity based on the computation of conditional probabilities by neuronal networks. Within this context, he enjoyed and promoted the design and construction of (at the time) novel electronic instrumentation for the collection, analysis and display of experimental neuroelectric data. He was a stimulating and popular teacher, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and during his stay at McGill was surrounded by a lively group of graduate students, including - amongst others - T.V.P. Bliss (of subsequent LTP fame), Bernice Grafstein (who much later made fundamental contributions toward the elucidation of axonal transport mechanisms, and served a term as President of the Society for Neuroscience), and George Mandl (see below). During his last year at McGill, Ben Burns served as Chairman of the Physiology Department. He subsequently in 1966 returned to the National Institute for Medical Research in the U.K. to succeed W. Feldberg as Head of its Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, and later (1976) was director of a research group at the University of Bristol. He retired formally in 1980, but remained for several years an active investigator at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1968, he published a monograph (The Uncertain Nervous System) in which he tried to spell out his ideas regarding “the interdisciplinary nature of central neurophysiology, a subject in which progress has come to depend upon some knowledge of classical physiology, experimental psychology, applied mathematics, and electronic engineering”. The same year, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London (FRS). He died on September 6, 2001.
1. F.C. MacIntosh, The McGill Department of Physiology, 1950-1970 (Informal Notes for S.B. Frost).
2. B.D. Burns, The Uncertain Nervous System, E. Arnold, London, 1968
3. G. Mandl, personal recollections.

University of British Columbia Archives, [UBC 41.1/1946]
David V. Bates
It was the worst of times; it was the best of times. The decade 1960-70 was a period of political and social upheaval, resulting – amongst other dislocations - in sometimes severe disruptions of university life. On campus, it was characterized by student protests, sit-ins, and occupations of administrative offices. The growing unrest, fuelled by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, engendered radical student demands for a university that would sever its purported alliance with big business and the industrial-military complex, abandon its “ivory tower” “elitist” existence, and save its soul by becoming a “critical university” primarily involved in solving society’s problems with a focus on “educating revolutionary labor leaders”; and in a wider context, the disruption of university life was seen by many as a first step toward much wider political action. In Montreal, it was the time of the (in)famous “McGill français!” public demonstration which, on March 28, 1969, laid siege to the McGill lower campus late into the night, and had to be broken up by police. At the same time, it was also the period of Quebec’s quiet revolution which – among other far-reaching social, political and linguistic dislocations - initiated fundamental reforms of the Province’s education system, which in turn had a profound effect on McGill’s curriculum structure, the composition of its student body, and its position vis-à-vis Quebec society. It was a time when established norms were being broken, and – in the minds of some - everything seemed possible. Paradoxically, at McGill – despite the disruptive upheavals and political tensions, and despite stringent budgetary limitations - the 1960s were a decade of expansion, which saw a quadrupling of the University’s physical facilities, and a substantial increase in the numbers of students and academic staff. And it was during this turbulent era that David Bates assumed the chairmanship of the Physiology Department. He was born in West Malling, UK, on May 20, 1922, and graduated MB MCh in 1945 and MD (CANTAB) in 1954. He spent a post-graduate year with Julius Comroe in Philadelphia, and in 1952 joined St. Bartholomew Hospital and the University of London where he served as Senior Lecturer from 1953-56. It was there that he experienced the1952 London Smog Disaster which, within the course of a few days, claimed some 12000 lives; and it was that experience which sparked his interest in respiratory physiology. In 1956 – convinced that academic medicine in Britain was stagnating – he decided to leave UK (carrying in his baggage an oscilloscope and a camera) and follow his mentor Ronald Christie to McGill University where he was appointed Professor of Medicine, with his research based at the Royal Victoria Hospital. During the following years, Bates and his group at the RVH Cardio-Respiratory Center developed many new techniques for the study of pulmonary function, providing – among other developments – the first detailed analysis of the toxic effects of atmospheric ozone on humans (In 1972 the RVH Respiratory Group – the first such in Canada - expanded to become the Meakins-Christie Laboratories for Respiratory Research, which maintains its activities to this day). In 1967, David Bates was appointed Chairman of Physiology, and during his five-year term the Department’s research mission and teaching commitments were fundamentally redefined. On the one hand, collaborative links with the clinical sciences were substantially increased in order to promote cross-fertilization between physiology and medicine; and, on the other hand, a number of younger scientists with expertise in cellular, biophysical, chemical and mathematical disciplines were brought in, thus emphasizing the emerging importance of the basic physical sciences as underpinnings for an understanding of “classical” physiological processes. As for teaching, members of the Department fully participated in a recently established integrated Core Biology Program concerned with the structure, biochemistry and physiology of the cell, and largely designed to accommodate the many first year students arriving from the recently established CEGEP colleges (CEGEP: Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel; introduced by the Quebec Government during the mid-1960s to replace the old classical colleges as part of the “Quiet Revolution” educational reforms). As perhaps another manifestation of the Zeitgeist, the Department’s (elitist?) Honours Programs were abolished, and a number of short graduate courses, in conjunction with the Dept. of Experimental Medicine and the Faculty of Education, were introduced. Furthermore – and this at student request and with the financial support of the Quebec Medical Research Council – an experimental modular teaching program was introduced: Two sections of the first-year Physiology course (211) were presented in self-teaching format, where students were handed the course material in the form of audio-visual ”modules” which they could study individually, and at their own pace, in special library cubicles equipped with audio and video play-back facilities, without attending any lectures. It was thus not surprising that, by the early 1970s, the ever increasing teaching commitments serving some 600 undergraduate and 46 graduate students were beginning to place an increasing strain on the Department’s 19 full-time and 9 associate academic staff members, their – still highly productive and diversified – research activities, and the Departmental base budget of some $350,000 and research budget of $521,000. In fact, budgetary limitations (and student anti-vivisection sentiment) necessitated at the time a drastic curtailment of laboratory teaching (which lasted well into the late 1980s). By 1972, Bates’ five-year term drew to a close, and he left McGill to become Dean of Medicine (1972-77) and Head of Respiratory Medicine (1972-87) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. During this period, he devoted much of his time to clinical bedside teaching, and began to develop a research program in Environmental Epidemiology which for the first time showed a clear association between hospital admissions for acute respiratory disease and daily levels of air pollutants. Being by temperament a social activist, he spent a good part of his later years combining academic science with social service by acting as consultant in occupational and environmental medicine and adviser to local and international communities on matters related to the effects of air pollution on human health. He published a total of some 200 research papers and five books. His environmental classic, A Citizen’s Guide to Air Pollution, went through several editions and was also endorsed by the David Suzuki Foundation. He was a member of the Canadian and American Physiological Societies, the Physiological Society of London, the Canadian and American Thoracic Societies, the American College of Physicians, the British Medical Association, the Royal Society of Medicine, the Royal College of Physicians (London), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academy of Sciences (Wash.). He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1968, and inducted into the Order of Canada in 2003. He received numerous awards including the Trudeau Gold Medal of the American Thoracic Society, the C.J. Cody Medal of the BC Medical Association, the Robert Cooke Medal of the American Academy of Allergy, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, and the Canadian Geographic People’s Choice Silver Award for Environmental Health. He retired in 1987, but remained active as Emeritus Professor at the University of British Columbia until his death on November 21, 2006.
1. ATS Centennial Vignettes (“I remember...”), Am. Thoracic Soc., 2004.
2. CMAJ, 98 (1968), 665-69.
3. D.V. Bates, Curriculum Vitae (courtesy Bates family)
4. F.C. MacIntosh, Physiology at McGill: Notes for a History, 1983.
5. McGill News, 52, 1971.
6. Obituary, Vancouver Sun, December 12, 2006.
7. Obituary, The Lancet, 369, Issue 9557, Jan. 20, 2007, p. 184 (courtesy Bates family)
8. Obituary, Health and Clean Air Newsletter, Fall-Winter 2006.
9. Physiology Annual Reports 1968-72, McGill Archives.
10. S.B. Frost, McGill University-1895-1971, McGill-Queen’s U. Press, 1984.
11. The Physiologist, 45 (4), Aug. 2002, p. 230.


Joseph Milic-Emili
It was the time of the world-wide oil crisis, 18% interest rates, and the emergence of OPEC as a key player in world affairs. By the mid 1970s, campus life began to return to near-normal, with the revolutionary fervor of the 1960s gradually dissipating, and even the McGill Daily (reportedly reduced to publishing nothing but “recycled radical causes”) ceasing to be a serious irritant. Compared to the previous decade, the number of undergraduates in Physiology’s Departmental programs had more than doubled, academic staff had increased by some 50%, but the Department’s base budget had increased by a mere 30% - all with predictable results: enormous classes, the end of laboratory teaching, and cut-backs in everything from pencils to paperclips. Fortunately, associate Departmental membership, introduced in 1970, began to supplement staff available for much expanded teaching duties and simultaneously increased and enhanced a pool of resident expertise. The Department now had well established programs in renal, respiratory, muscle, motor and neurotransmitter physiology, transplant immunology, and the physiology of special senses, with cardiovascular and endocrine programs being gradually expanded. Nevertheless, the intellectual climate of the day continued to frown upon the more eclectic, descriptive, “holistic” organ-centeredness of some traditional biomedical disciplines, and to favour more rigorous reductionist approaches that tended to transcend and to blur older established categories, boundaries and ways of “doing things”. During the seventies, these trends were reflected in the evolving Departmental policy to emphasize the introduction of new basic science capabilities into both research and teaching: the Artificial Cells and Organs Center sprang into being in 1975, and new staff appointments were aimed at providing expertise in the chemistry and molecular properties of blood constituents, biophysics of the cell membrane, and chaos theory and mathematical models as applied to biological systems; while at the same time the foundations were being laid for the Department’s Biomathematics Group (which in 1989 became the McGill Center for Non-Linear Dynamics in Biology and Medicine). Thus, despite budgetary restrictions and heavy teaching commitments, the 34 Departmental staff members produced some 130 journal publications during 1978. Nevertheless, the Chairman’s overall decision-making powers were being at the time subtly eroded, with many aspects of the Department’s administrative machinery gradually drifting into the hands of various “advisory” committees – most of them with student representation, i.e. the Departmental Policy Committee (DPC – the main thorn in the Chairman’s side), the Appointments and Promotions Committee, the Graduate Students Selection Committee, etc., etc. And it was during this era of academic expansion, fiscal turbulence, and diluted administrative authority, that Joseph Milic-Emili assumed the Chairmanship of the Physiology Department. During his term, the work of the RVH respiratory group became closely integrated with Physiology, and the Department won recognition as a center for research in that field. Milic was born in Sesana, a small town in Italy (now Sezana in Slovenia), some 20 km north-west of Trieste. After receiving his MD at the University of Milan in 1955, he first became assistant professor in the Department of Physiology in that same institution (1956-60); and it was there that he was first introduced to research in respiratory mechanics by Prof. Rodolfo Margaria who was a pioneer in graphical and mathematical data analysis. Subsequently (1958-60) – while still collaborating with Margaria at Milan - he was also appointed assistant professor in the Department of Physiology at the University of Liège in Belgium where he was introduced to extensive experimental studies by Dr. J.-M. Petit. With the latter, Milic developed the technique of measuring the electrical activity of the diaphragm via oesophagial electrodes, while at the same time refining the measurement of pleural pressure using oesophagial balloons. From 1960-63 he was a Research Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, working with Dr. J. Mead and gaining additional knowledge of respiratory mechanics. In 1963 Milic joined Dr. D.V. Bates (see above) at McGill’s Cardio-Pulmonary Labs in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. He became Chairman of the Department of Physiology (1973-78), and subsequently (1978-95) succeeded Dr. Peter Macklem as Director of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories for Respiratory Research. Under the gentle guidance of Dr. Bates, and with the help from many Fellows and colleagues, Milic during his career produced a series of landmark papers dealing with regional distribution of gas and blood within the lungs; closing volume and mouth occlusion pressure (Po.1); chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and (with David Bates) the toxic action of atmospheric ozone on human lungs. One of his papers on regional distribution of gas was among the 100 most-cited papers in clinical research during 1965-78; and during this period he was one of the 1000 most-cited contemporary scientists. More recently he has been involved in studies dealing with respiratory mechanics in mechanically ventilated patients, and this latter work has led to a new approach, in the form of the so called negative expiratory pressure technique, to assessing expiratory flow limitation. Over the years, Milic has received many honors and distinctions: He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1980); inducted into the Order of Canada (1990); and granted the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa by the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium(1987); University of Kunming, China (1988); Université de Montpellier, France (1994; University of Athens, Greece, (1999); and University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (1999). He has been married to Anne since 1957, has four children, and has been Professor Emeritus in McGill’s Departments of Physiology and Medicine since 1998. He presently makes his home in Montreal.
1. Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med., 167 (2003): 1167-68.
2. J. Milic-Emili, Curriculum Vitae.
3. G.M., personal reminiscences.
4. F.C. MacIntosh, The McGill Department of Physiology: Informal Notes


Krešimir Krnjević
(Joseph-Morley-Drake Professor; on Sabbatical leave 1986-1987)
Born in Zagreb, had a peripatetic schooling in Geneva, Zagreb and Capetown, before enrolling in medical school in Edinburgh. After graduating MB ChB in 1949, went on to a PhD in Physiology in 1953, also at University of Edinburgh. Two post-doctoral years at University of Washington (Seattle) - spent mostly exploring the Pacific Northwest – were followed by two much more productive years (two sons and lots of papers) in Canberra with John Eccles; before return to UK at end of 1958 to take up a position at the Babraham Institute, then headed by John Gaddum. Would probably still be there but for the proposal (by B Delisle Burns) that he come to Montreal as Visiting Professor for a year (1964-1965) during his own sabbatical in England. Greatly enjoying the very lively ambiance of pre-EXPO 67 Montreal, he decided to remain at McGill as head of the Anaesthesia Research Department. In recognition of his contributions to studies of synaptic transmitters in the brain, he was elected to the Royal Society of Canada and to the Council of the International Union of Physiological Sciences, became an Officer of the Order of Canada, and received a Gairdner Foundation International Award as well as a Wilder Penfield Prize (Quebec). By the time he took up the Physiology Chair in 1978, the ambiance in Montreal was vastly different: as a result of the new political situation and a major migration from Montreal, many departments at McGill were becoming seriously depleted. Fortunately, Physiology managed to resist this general trend; but life became progressively more difficult after the departure of Dean Freedman, when regular budget cuts severely undermined administrative and technical services – including the invaluable mechanical and electronic workshops. General morale was not helped by the dearth of funds for research. On a more positive note, in spite of the general budgetary freeze, some outstanding new members were hired; including A. Shrier, E. Cooper and J. Hanrahan. Also highly rewarding was the sponsorship of a Vietnamese ‘boat people’ family, which required much trouble and effort in finding adequate clothing, housing and employment for two adults and four young children, quite unused to Canadian winter: perhaps the Department’s most successful and gratifying joint endeavour of the 1980’s.


George Mandl (Acting)
Born in Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) in 1929, George Mandl arrived in Canada in 1951. He earned his undergraduate degree from Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) in Montreal in 1961, and his Ph.D. in Physiology from McGill University in 1966. After spending two post-doctoral years at the National Institutes for Medical Research at Mill Hill, London, U.K., he joined McGill’s Aviation (now Aerospace) Medical Research Unit in 1968, initially as Assistant and subsequently as Associate director. His research interests focused on the neural basis of visual perception, with special emphasis on the neural encoding of visual motion and the influence of vision on vestibulo-ocular function. He was appointed Professor of Physiology in 1978, and served as Acting Physiology Chairman between 1986-88. It is to be noted that one of the truly remarkable accomplishments of this intermediate Chairmanship was the relocation of the annual Christmas party, from the historic premises of the Physiology Department to Thomson House (with its in-house bar), which – so the story goes – had an extraordinarily beneficial influence on staff morale and was greatly appreciated by all. Dr. Mandl retired from full-time active duties in 1994 and has since been Professor (post-retirement) in the Physiology Department.


David Goltzman (Hosmer Professor of Applied Physiology) *
David Goltzman is Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Physiology of McGill University, Director of the McGill Centre for Bone and Periodontal Research, and Senior Physician in the Endocrine Division of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). Born in Montreal, Dr. Goltzman received his BSc and MD degrees at McGill University and did his internal medicine residency at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Centre in New York. He subsequently pursued his clinical subspecialization in endocrinology and his research training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He returned to McGill in 1975 and became Director of the Calcium Research Laboratory at the Royal Victoria Hospital. From 1988-1993, he served as Professor and Chair of the Department of Physiology at McGill. From 1994-2004 he was Chairman of the Department of Medicine. Dr. Goltzman’s research has focused on the hormonal regulation of calcium and skeletal homeostasis and he has made many important and original contributions to our knowledge of the biology of the hormones, parathyroid hormone related peptide (PTHRP), parathyroid hormone (PTH), calcitonin and vitamin D. These contributions have had major impact on our understanding of the interaction of cancer with the skeleton, on identification of novel tumour markers and on mechanisms of development and treatment of osteoporosis and other diseases of excess bone resorption. In recognition of his excellent research he has received various honours and awards including the Prix André Lichtwitz of the Institut national en santé et recherche medicale, election to the American Association of Physicians, election to Fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada and an Honorary Professorship at Nanjing Medical University. In 2000, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. Dr. Goltzman has extensively contributed to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the National Cancer Institute of Canada and the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. in various capacities both on grants and awards committees and on policy making bodies. He has further served his academic community through editorships on various journals (including the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, Endocrinology, Bone) and by providing leadership to a number of scientific organizations (e.g. as President of the Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism, President of the Canadian Society for Clinical Investigation and President of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research). He has also consulted to industry, academia and lay organizations in his capacity as a clinician scientist and an expert in metabolic bone disease. His contributions to education including chairing a committee which revised the undergraduate medical curriculum at McGill University.


Alvin Shrier (Hosmer Professor of Applied Physiology)

Alvin Shrier was born and raised in Montreal and did his undergraduate studies at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia). He obtained his Ph.D. in Physiology and Biophysics (1976) from Dalhousie University and went on to a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Emory University, Atlanta. In 1979 he was hired as Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology at McGill University where he spent the duration of his academic career. Shrier was appointed full Professor in 1991 and in 1994 became Chair of the Department. Subsequently he was awarded the Hosmer Chair in Applied Physiology, which he held for more than twenty-five years. The focus of the Shrier laboratory has been on cardiac ion channel maturation, function and localization on one hand, and the initiation of complex cardiac rhythms on the other. One theme has been the hERG potassium channel that is responsible for cardiac repolarization and when mutated is responsible for the long QT syndrome. Early in his career he first identified this current in embryonic heart cells and went on to characterize the biophysical properties of the channel. Subsequently, he studied the quality control mechanisms responsible for degrading mutated channels and in particular, a unique quality control mechanism at the cell membrane. Subsequently, he identified drugs that can control this process which may be useful in the treatment of the long QT syndrome. The other main research theme throughout his career was the study of cardiac dynamics that underlie the initiation of cardiac arrhythmia. In collaboration with Leon Glass and Michael Guevara he provided the first demonstration of deterministic chaos in a biological system using aggregates of beating cardiac cells. Then he showed how the phase resetting properties could be used to predict the dynamics in this model experimental systems and then the human heart. He developed imaging techniques using optical dyes and showed paroxysmal bursting of spiral waves in monolayer cultures of cardiac cells. Then he showed how reentrant rhythms associated with clinical arrhythmias could be generated in patterned cultures and initiated by spiral waves. During Shrier’s term as Chair he initiated the Physiology Graduate Research Day, hired new faculty in the area of systems physiology and played a lead role in the creation of the McGill Life Sciences Complex. In 2004 Shrier became Director of the Cell Information Systems group that was one of five themes of a Canadian Foundation of Innovation Grant that funded the construction and infrastructure of the Bellini and Goodman Cancer Buildings. He also set up the imaging infrastructure for the McGill Life Sciences Complex and has served as Scientific Director of the Advanced BioImaging Facility since 2008. During his tenure as Chair, Shrier was also appointed for two terms (1996-2002) as Associate Dean of Information Technology for the Faculty of Medicine. He established MedIT to provide the Faculty of Medicine computer and information technology support on campus as well as the first integrated computer network. He played the lead role in establishing the CyberMed Facility, the first large scale interactive teaching facility in the Faculty of Medicine. Shrier has been involved in the broader University community having served as President of the McGill Association of University Teachers and a was a long-standing member of the MAUT executive. In addition, he served as a member of the Board of Governors of McGill, the McGill Senate and numerous committees across the University. On the national level he was President of the Canadian Physiological Society, the Canadian Federation of Biological Sciences and has served on numerous grant panels. On the research front, Shrier was director of an FRSQ research group in 1989 and then Director of MRC/CIHR research groups from 1994 through to 2007.


Ellis Cooper (Acting)
Ellis Cooper came to McGill in 1980 following postdoctoral research at Harvard University. His research focusses on activity-dependent mechanisms that underlie the formation of neural circuits during early postnatal development. In addition, Cooper has recently contributed to research on diabetic dysautonomias. Cooper obtained his PhD from McMaster University, a MSc in Biomechanics from the University of Surrey, and a B. Eng. from Concordia (formerly S.G.W.U.)


John Orlowski (James McGill Professor)
John Orlowski was born in London, England and raised in Montreal. He obtained his B.Sc. in Biology (1978) from McGill University, followed by graduate training (M.Sc. 1981 and Ph.D. 1986) in Biochemistry from Queen’s University under the supervision of Dr. Albert Clark studying androgen metabolism and actions in the prostate gland. This was followed by highly successful postdoctoral fellowship (1986-1990) in the laboratory of Dr. Jerry Lingrel (U. Cincinnati College of Medicine) where he investigated the tissue, developmental and hormonal regulation of newly identified members of the sodium-potassium ATPase (Na+,K+-ATPase) gene family, essential ion pumps that maintain the resting membrane potential of all animal cells and are critical for numerous physiological processes, such as nerve and muscle excitability and the Na+-coupled uptake of various nutrients (e.g., glucose, amino acids), to name but a few. His meticulous analyses opened up a whole new era in the study of these important ion pumps and their unique contributions to animal physiology. In 1990, he was recruited to the Department of Physiology at McGill at the rank of Assistant Professor and became a Full Professor in 2000. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s his laboratory became internationally recognized for its discovery of several novel alkali cation (Na+, K+)/proton (H+) exchangers (termed the NHE or Solute Carrier 9A (SLC9A) gene family) that are expressed in a tissue, cellular and subcellular-specific manner. Subsequent formative studies addressed fundamental questions regarding their intrinsic structure-function relationships and unique involvement in different physiological processes, including not only the regulation of cytoplasmic and organellar pH, but also the control of cell volume, shape and proliferation, intracellular vesicle cargo trafficking and their responsiveness to diverse biological stimuli. Building on these scientific advances, Dr. Orlowski is currently investigating their importance in central nervous system function, an organ that is exquisitely sensitive to changes in its pH environment. Genetic and metabolic dysregulation of certain NHEs are associated with various pathophysiological conditions, including ischemic stroke, intellectual disability, epilepsy and neurodegeneration. Notably, he has revealed that mutations in NHE6/SLC9A6 that cause Christianson Syndrome, a severe form of X-linked intellectual disability, disrupt neuronal activity by impairing the pH homeostasis and trafficking of recycling endosomes and their associated cargo, ultimately causing extensive neuronal degeneration and reduced viability. Most recently, he and his colleagues identified a new form of nonsyndromic intellectual disability caused by mutations in NHE7/SLC9A7 that disrupts Golgi pH homeostasis and protein glycosylation. Together, Professor Orlowski’s findings have revealed new roles for the NHEs in brain pH homeostasis, health and disease and pave the way for future development of therapies to treat NHE/SLC9A-related disorders. In addition to research, he has made numerous contributions to various national and international granting agencies and journals, including 2 terms on the editorial board of the influential international Journal of Biological Chemistry. He served several years on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences (2002-2015), including as President. At McGill, he served as Director of the Graduate Studies Program (2000-2005) and Chair of the Department of Physiology (2005-2017). During his tenure as Chair, Dr. Orlowski oversaw a significant renewal of the professoriate, hiring 13 new faculty members in several strategic areas, and established a biannual departmental research retreat called “Shop Talk” for physiology faculty to discuss recent research developments in their laboratories. He also instituted the Annual Physiology Undergraduate Students Research Day (2006-present) to highlight the achievements of the Honours and Joint Majors students registered in PHGY 461: Experimental Physiology and co-Chaired a Faculty of Medicine committee which undertook a major revision of the undergraduate MDCM medical curriculum at McGill University. Throughout his career, he has received several honors and distinctions, including a Medical Research Council of Canada (MRC) postdoctoral fellowship, FRQS Chercheur Boursier I and II, a CIHR Investigator Award, and is currently a James McGill Professor.

2017 - Present

John White (Joseph Morley Drake Professor)
John White is a Professor in the departments of Physiology and Medicine. He was born in London, England and raised in Ottawa. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from Carleton University (1979) and an M.Sc. in Chemistry at Carleton (1981) studying mechanisms of catalysis by alcohol dehydrogenases. His Ph.D. at Harvard Medical School (1987) introduced him to molecular biology, an interest he pursued as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Pierre Chambon in Strasbourg, France, studying the mechanisms of action of the estrogen receptor. He was hired as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology in 1991 and became a full Professor in 2003. His laboratory focuses on the physiological implications of signaling through various ligand-regulated transcription factors, in particular the vitamin D receptor (VDR) and more recently the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR). Vitamin D is obtained naturally from limited dietary sources or photochemical conversion in skin exposed to adequate levels of ultraviolet B radiation. It was discovered for its critical role in calcium homeostasis, but has pleiotropic physiological functions. The active form of vitamin D induces DNA binding, and controls transcriptional regulation by the VDR, thus acting as a “gene switch”. In the early 2000’s, the White lab was the first to use microarray technology to study gene regulation by vitamin D to investigate the mechanisms underlying its physiological effects. Collectively, the lab’s work identified over 1000 target genes of vitamin D signaling and provided numerous novel insights into its diverse physiological roles. Most notably, it opened up the field of study of vitamin D as a regulator of human innate immunity, which has implications for roles of vitamin D sufficiency in protection against upper respiratory tract infections and defects in innate immune homeostasis such as the inflammatory bowel condition Crohn’s disease. The laboratory has also made several seminal contributions to understanding the molecular basis of the putative cancer-preventive activities of vitamin D, work that has been borne out by meta-analyses of the results of large-scale RCTs of vitamin D supplementation. More recently, the White lab has been studying the AHR, which functions as an environmental sensor and has emerged as a key regulator of immunity. The AHR can be regulated by ligands produced by the photochemical effects of ultraviolet irradiation, and recent work showed that the AHR can be activated systemically by exposure of skin to moderate levels of UV light. Dr. White has made numerous contributions to national and international granting agencies as a reviewer, panel member, scientific officer or chair. He is a member of several journal editorial boards, was a member of the executive committee of the International Vitamin D Workshop, the premier annual meeting on vitamin D biology, and was scientific chair of the 2017 meeting.

* The Hosmer Foundation Fund was established in 1949 by a gift to McGill University from Miss Olive Hosmer, in memory of her father Charles Rudolph Hosmer, a wealthy and influential Montreal businessman and generous philanthropist. C.R. Hosmer began his career as a telegraph operator and ended as a highly successful financier, retiring from business at the age of 48. According to the original Deed of Donation, funds valued close to $ 1,000,000 were provided by Olive Hosmer primarily for “the establishment, endowment and maintenance of the Hosmer Chair of Applied Physiology in the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University”. The secondary purpose was to provide Teaching Fellowships to deserving young physicians and surgeons in the McGill teaching hospitals. The first appointee to the Hosmer Chair was the 27-year old Arnold S.V. Burgen from London’s Middlesex Hospital Medical School, who – together with F.C. MacIntosh – arrived at McGill in 1949 to join and re-invigorate the Physiology Department (see above). When Burgen left McGill in 1962, the Hosmer funds began to be used largely for the secondary purpose of providing Teaching Fellowships. Thus, due to this dispersion of the moneys, the Chair remained vacant for the next 16 years, until in 1978 the funds of the Donation were again consolidated and directed toward the primary purpose of the Deed, i.e. the full implementation of the Hosmer Chair; and in that year the then Director of McGill’s Aviation Medical Research Unit - Professor Geoffrey Melvill-Jones - was appointed the second Hosmer Professor. (Revised July 25, 2007)




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