Starling Lecture Notes

Scope and Content

One notebook of notes of lectures on Anatomy, Physiology and Organic Chemistry at Guy's Hospital, made by Ernest Henry Starling.

Administrative / Biographical History

Starling, Ernest Henry (1866-1927), physiologist, was born on 17 April 1866 at 2 Barnsbury Square, Islington, London, the eldest son in the family of seven children of Matthew Henry Starling, clerk to the crown, Bombay, and his wife, Ellen Mathilda, daughter of Henry George Watkins, artist and engraver, of Islington. Starling was educated at King's College School, London, and entered Guy's Hospital in 1882. Starling won numerous distinctions, became demonstrator in physiology at Guy's in 1887, becoming head of that department in 1889.

The main topic of Starling's investigations was the secretion of lymph and other body fluids, the discovery of secretin, and the laws governing the activity of the heart. In 1892 he went to Breslau to work with R Heidenhain on the subject of lymph formation. Starling continued his research for three years after his return to London and showed that lymph production resulted from intercapillary pressure and permeability of the capillary wall, and was controlled by blood pressure and osmosis.

In 1899 he was elected to the Jodrell chair of physiology at University College, London. There he joined a team of scientists, among them William Maddock Bayliss, who married Starling's sister Gertrude. Under Starling's guidance, funds were raised for a physiological institute at University College, which opened in 1909. In the years prior to the First World War he returned to his earliest concern, the study of the heart, converting the existing 'heart-lung preparation' into a technical method by the introduction of a suitable and variable resistance on the arterial side. By this means he could vary the factors which influence heartbeat, such as arterial pressure, venous flow, temperature, and chemical composition of the blood, to see their effect. Finally he was able to expound the generalization known as 'Starling's law of the heart', namely that 'the energy of contraction is a function of the length of the muscle fibres'. But the First World War prevented him from completing his intended programme. He was commissioned in the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving first at the Herbert Hospital at Woolwich, later as director of research at Millbank, experimenting with defences against poison gas. In 1917 he was sent to Europe where he advised the Italian army on the benefit of effective gas respirators.

Starling resigned the Jodrell chair in 1923, following his appointment as Foulerton research professor of the Royal Society, which enabled him to continue working at University College, London, now free of administrative duties. He died on board the steamship 'Ariguani' as it was entering harbour at Kingston, Jamaica, on 2 May 1927.

Access Information


The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

Transferred from the Physiology Department in November 1988 via Susan Grove.

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