Lives of the fellows

Ernest Henry Starling

b.17 April 1866 d.2 May 1927
CMG(1917) MD Lond Hon ScD Dubl Cantab Hon DSc Shelf Hon Doctor Strasbourg MRCS FRCP(1897)

Ernest Starling was born in London, the eldest son of Matthew Henry Starling, clerk of the Crown in Bombay, and his wife Ellen Mathilda, daughter of Henry George Watkins, artist, of Islington. From King’s College School he went on to Guy’s Hospital. He completed his medical training at Heidelberg, qualifying in 1888, having gained numerous distinctions as a student. Resident posts in Guy’s were followed, in 1889, by his appointment as a demonstrator of physiology. A year later he became joint lecturer on physiology; and the next few years were devoted to the improvement of Guy’s department of physiology, culminating in the opening of new laboratories in 1897. Meanwhile, assisted financially by B.M.A. and Grocers’ Company scholarships, he researched at University College under Schäfer and, in 1892, visited Breslau to work with Heidenhain. He also lectured on physiology at the London School of Medicine for Women.

In 1899 Starling entered into permanent association with University College when he succeeded Schäfer in the Jodrell chair of physiology. Here again he effected notable material improvements, being mainly responsible for the construction of the Institute of Physiology, founded in 1909, and giving his powerful backing to the larger Institute of Medical Sciences which complemented it. Starling, however, earned his reputation by researches of the utmost importance conducted, partly in collaboration with William Bayliss, in three main fields: the secretion of lymph; the discovery of secretin; and the action of the heart and the development of the "heart-lung preparation". His two books, Elements of Human Physiology (1892) and Principles of Human Physiology (1912), earned high renown as standard works.

Starling’s researches suffered a prolonged interruption from the 1914-1918 War. Enlisting in the R.A.M.C, he first served in the Herbert Hospital at Woolwich and then experimented on protection against chemical warfare at Millbank. In 1917 he advised the Italian high command on defence against gas. In the same year he resigned his commission and became chairman of the Royal Society Food Committee and, later, scientific adviser to the Ministry of Food. He was created C.M.G. in 1917.

He relinquished the Jodrell chair in 1923, having been appointed, in the previous year, the first holder of the Foulerton research professorship of the Royal Society. Starling was prominent as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians: he delivered the Croonian Lectures in 1905, the Oliver-Sharpey Lectures in 1919 and the Harveian Oration in 1923, and was awarded the Baly Medal in 1907. At the Royal College of Surgeons he was Arris and Gale lecturer in 1894,1896 and 1897. He was a member of the governing body of the Lister Institute for the last twenty years of his life. As a man, Starling was remarkable for his personality, his dynamic energy and his inexhaustible enthusiasm. He married in 1891 Florence Amelia, daughter of Sir E. H. Sieveking, F.R.C.P, and widow of Leonard Charles Wooldridge, physiologist; they had one son and three daughters. He died on board the steamship Ariguaing in Kingston harbour, Jamaica, while on a voyage to benefit his health.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1927; B.M.J., 1927; D.N.B., 1922-30, 807]

(Volume IV, page 397)

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