The Society Dog
The Society’s insignia, a bronze sculpture of a dog exhibiting the scratch reflex, was presented to The Society by Sir Henry Dale at a Meeting at the Sherrington School of Physiology in October 1942.
The dog, created by an unknown renaissance sculptor, was originally given to the German physiologist Rudolph Magnus (1873–1927) by his father. Magnus subsequently gave the dog to Sir Charles Sherrington (1857–1952) who kept it for many years on the mantelpiece of his room in Oxford.
When he left Oxford, he passed on the dog to Sir Henry Dale (1875–1968). On leaving his laboratory at the National Institute for Medical Research, Dale, in turn, presented the dog to The Physiological Society, mounted on a plinth, with the inscription 'Rudolph Magnus gave me to Charles Sherrington, who gave me to Henry Dale, who gave me to The Physiological Society in October 1942.'
The dog then became part of The Society’s persona. He attended Meetings (including Dinners) and, until split sessions were introduced, sat in on Communications in the lecture theatre. In 1988 he was given a German dog licence when he went to a Joint Meeting with the Deutsche Physiologische Gesellschaft in Wurtzburg.
In the 1980s the Dolmetsch family, famous for making wooden recorders, gave a handsome new plinth. Since this was quite heavy an unmounted copy, known by one Meetings Secretary as Deputy Dog, sometimes went to overseas Meetings.
Sadly, at a Scientific Meeting in Bristol in 1994, the dog was stolen along with the car of one of the Society's employees. Many efforts have been made to recover him (see newspaper cutting below), including a reward of £1,000, but to date no trace has been found.
Replicas of the dog are given to retiring Officers and distinguished Members of The Society. The Foundry currently responsible for making these replicas gives added interest: among its products are the lions on the Nelson Monument in Trafalgar Square.