Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Physiology 2016 (Dublin, Ireland) (2016) Proc Physiol Soc 37, PCA096

Poster Communications

Physiology at the heart of modern biomedicine: Evidence through oral testimonies

T. Tansey1, A. Wilkinson1, A. Yabsley1, A. Zarros1

1. History, Queen Mary University of London, London, London, United Kingdom.


The History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group, funded by the Wellcome Trust, studies the history of recent biomedicine principally by employing oral history methodology. We generate resources such as individual interviews, Witness Seminars, and other publications and outputs, by collecting, transcribing, editing and undertaking research on oral testimonies from groups and individuals who have made significant contributions to the legacy of modern biomedicine. Physiology lies at the heart of our work, as biomedical developments depend on a thorough understanding of human physiology and knowledge of the molecular mechanisms and functions that define health and homeostasis throughout our lives. Oral testimonies provide invaluable accounts of the historical background of modern biomedical discoveries: the personal, social and scientific contexts in which physiological and pathological concepts develop; the development of experimental techniques; and the institutional, financial and political forces that shaped innovation, as well as the coincidental factors that have led to breakthroughs. To date, the Group's systematic work has generated more than 60 Witness Seminar volumes and a large number of individual interviews and publications, all of which are freely available to consult and download from the website: http://www.histmodbiomed.org/. Much of this output is related to the physiological understanding of genetics, immunity and brain function, with an emphasis on the historical background of understanding basic physiology and the creation of novel treatments for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, depression, or even seasonal affective disorder. Our outputs illustrate the speed of scientific progress after World War II, especially the advances, conceptual and technological, that have allowed for a better understanding of physiological and pathophysiological processes. This evidence is accompanied by testimonies that shed light on the ways the scientific community has reacted to challenges; the nature and the complexity with which scientific collegiality has been shaped throughout the years; the bureaucratic and legal pitfalls; as well as the role of research funding and industrial relations. The materials gathered through these oral history methodologies are unique resources that inform our understanding, contextualization, reconstruction and communication of important aspects of the recent history of physiology as a discipline, and their significance in the framework of modern biomedicine.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements