Ernest Starling

Ernest Henry Starling (April 1866 –1927) was an English Physiologist and Fellow of the Royal Society. Starling joined Guy’s Hospital, London in 1882, earning his qualifying degrees of MB, in 1889 and MD in 1890. Starling worked part-time from 1889 to 1899 at Guy’s and also lectured at the London School of Medicine for Women. In this period, after research experience in various German laboratories, he established ‘Starling’s Principle’ which describes tissue fluid formation and the importance of osmotic forces across the capillary wall. He was next appointed Professor of Physiology at University College London, serving from 1899 to 1923. It was here he met Sir William Maddock Bayliss, with whom he first described gut peristalsis and then discovered the peptide hormone secretin. This first discovery of a hormone significantly broadened the fields of research in physiology. Starling was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1899, but it was not until 1915 that he uncovered the findings known now as the ‘Frank-Starling law of the Heart’, which was further revised in 1919. Together with Otto Frank, Starling had independently discovered and characterised that the stroke volume of the heart (‘cardiac output’) increases in response to an increase in the volume of blood filling the heart (‘end diastolic volume’), when all other factors were held constant and that the force of the muscular contraction of the heart is directly proportional to the extent to which the muscle is stretched. On 2 May 1927, Starling died at the age of 61 whilst aboard a ship in the Atlantic. He was buried in Kingston, Jamaica. The Physiological Society created the Bayliss Starling Prize Lecture as a joint memorial in 1960 and in 1979, the Bayliss and Starling Society was established, focusing on central and autonomic peptide functions. (It merged with the Physiological Society in 2014)