Alan Hodgkin

Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin (1914 –1998) was an English physiologist and biophysicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sir Andrew Huxley and Sir John Eccles in 1963. Hodgkin studied at Trinity College Cambridge from 1932 to 1936 and after spending some time in New York, he returned to the Physiology Department at Cambridge in 1938. Huxley was an undergraduate student there and their collaboration began. They discovered the ‘overshoot’ of the nerve action potential – the brief period during nerve cell activity when membrane polarity reverses. When war broke out in 1939, Hodgkin worked in Aviation Medicine and later on the development of the centimetric radar. As the war ended in 1945, he returned to his teaching post at Cambridge, where he and Huxley continued their work focusing on neuronal and electrophysiology. Most of these experiments  were done using giant axons of the Atlantic squid at the Marine Biological Association Laboratory in Plymouth using the voltage clamp technique. Their analysis and mathematical description of the basis of the nerve impulse and its propagation  earned them the Nobel Prize in 1963. In 1970, he became President of the Royal Society and was knighted in 1972. Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin died at the age of 84, on 20 December 1998 in Cambridge. In 1999, The Physiological Society established the Hodgkin-Huxley-Katz Prize Lecture; this prestigious biennial lecture celebrates the contributions to the physiological sciences of Alan Hodgkin, Andrew Huxley and Bernard Katz. The Society’s headquarters building in London is named Hodgkin Huxley House.