Nobel Prize Recipient. Sir Andrew Huxley received notoriety after being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, according to the Nobel Prize Committee, "for discoveries concerning the ionic mechanisms involved in excitation and inhibition in the peripheral and central portions of the nerve cell membrane.” He shared jointly this coveted award with Sir John Carew Eccles and Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin. Born to a family distinguished in both the literary and scientific worlds, his older half-brothers included biologist Sir Julian Huxley and "Brave New World" author Aldous Huxley. He was exposed to advanced learning from early childhood and was educated at the University College School and at Westminster before earning a scholarship to Trinity College Cambridge where he studied biology, physics, and physiology. Upon graduation, he stayed at Cambridge where he was a fellow and then director of studies, a demonstrator, an assistant director of research, and finally a reader in experimental biophysics in the Department of Physiology. In 1939 at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, he partnered with Sir Alan Hodgkin in a series of experiments, which involved passing a wire down the long axis of a large neuron taken from a giant Atlantic squid and measuring electrical voltages along the nerve membrane. The two men published their observations in a small article in the journal "Nature" but soon found their work interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. During the war, Huxley performed anti-aircraft and naval gunnery research, then at the end of the war in 1946 resumed his neurophysiology studies. Though it was long known that potassium ions (K+) could pass through a neural membrane, it was felt that sodium ions (Na+) could not; he and Hodgkin were able to demonstrate that during the excitation or rising phase of a nerve impulse Na+ ions diffuse into a cell while in the falling phase K+ ions pass out and were to propose the Hodgkin-Huxley Model, a series of differential equations that explain and quantify how the action potentials of neurons are initiated and propagated. Finishing the work that was to lead to the Nobel Prize around 1952, Huxley maintained his professorship at Cambridge, turned to the subject of muscle contraction physiology, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1955. From 1960 to 1969 he held a faculty position at University College London. In 1963, he and Hodgkin jointly received the Nobel Prize with Sir John Eccles, an Australian, who had independently studied similar subject matter. He lectured at major institutions on both sides of The Pond, occasionally drawing fire for publicly conceding that Darwin's Theory does indeed have holes, and that some things such as consciousness cannot be explained by evolution. Knighted in 1974 he received the rarely bestowed Order of Merit (OM) in 1983 and from 1980 to 1985 was President of the Royal Society, in 1983 upholding, in the face of numerous letters of protest, the group's election of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In 1984 he was to succeed Hodgkin as Master of Trinity College Cambridge, a position he held until his 1990 age-mandated retirement. He lived in Cambridgeshire and continued teaching at Trinity College until his death. He published many research papers in professional periodicals, mainly in the “Journal of Physiology.” His Sherrington Lectures were published in 1980 as “Reflections on Muscle.” He married Jocelyn Richenda Gammell Pease, and the couple had six children.
Bio by: Bob Hufford