Nobel Prize Recipient. Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron of Adrian received international notoriety after being awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He shared jointly this coveted award with . Sir Charles Sherrington, and according to the Nobel Prize Committee, "for their discoveries regarding the functions of neurons." Before Sherrington and Adrian’s research, it was widely accepted that reflexes occurred as isolated activity within a reflex arc; their research proved a different theory. Born the youngest son of Alfred Douglas Adrian, C.B., K.C., legal adviser to the British Local Government Board, he attended a private school before attending Trinity College at Cambridge, on a Scholarship in Science and graduated in 1911 with honors. With his research on the law of "all or none" of nerves, he was elected in 1913 to a Fellowship of Trinity College. Keith Lucas, a pioneer in neuroscience, had assisted him as a senior advisor in his post-graduate research with the law of "all or none" of nerves before his untimely death in 1916 during World War I. In 1917 he published “The Conduction of the Nervous Impulse” giving Lucas co-authorship. In 1915 Adrian received his medical degree with clinicals at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and staying there during World War I treating soldiers with nerve damage. This enhanced his understanding of the neurological problems. In 1919 after research in clinical neurology, he returned to Cambridge to lecture on the nervous system and in 1925 began research on the human sensory organs by electrical methods. This gave him the opportunity to work with several noted scientists. By an accidental discovery, he proved in 1928 the presence of electricity within nerve cells of a frog. He published his findings the same year in “The Basis of Sensation.” Later in 1934, he did research on the human brain, in hope for a cure for epilepsy. After being recognized in the scientific community, at the age of 34, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1929, he was elected Foulerton Professor of the Royal Society. In 1937 with the opening of the post, he became Professor of Physiology at the University of Cambridge, and in 1951 was elected Master of Trinity College in Cambridge. From 1957 to 1959, he was Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, before becoming Chancellor of the University from 1968 to 1975. Concurrently, he was also the first chancellor of the University of Leicester starting in 1957 to 1971. A serious water leak in his laboratory abruptly ended his research career in 1958. All of his equipment was destroyed, which could not be easily replaced financially in a short time, thus he stopped his research. He continued lecturing and also published a series of papers on varied subjects like neurophysiology, science education and policy, and science biography. In 1942 he was awarded membership to the Order of Merit and in January of 1955 was created Baron Adrian of Cambridge in the County of Cambridge. He was a member of several British learned scientific societies as well as being elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1938 and a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1946. He was the president of the Royal Society from 1950 to 1955 and of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1954. Besides his 1928 publication, he published “The Mechanism of Nervous Action” in 1932 and “The Physical Background of Perception” in 1947. He married Hester Pincent in 1923 and after the birth of a daughter, the couple had a set of twins in 1927, with one being another daughter and the other a son, who became the Second Baron of Adrian. His son did not produce a male heir. After he retired from Cambridge University, he continued to reside at the college in the corner rooms at Neville Court until his health declined. He was a resident of a nursing home at the time of his death. His brass plaque in the chapel at Trinity College has an inscription in Latin.
Bio by: Linda Davis