The Society mascot
This bronze statuette is The Physiological Society’s mascot. The dog is depicted in the middle of the canine scratch reflex, as studied by the eminent British physiologist Sir Charles Sherrington in the first years of the twentieth century. In this reflex, tickling or scratching a trigger point on the dog’s body provokes rhythmic kicking of the hind leg. Sherrington believed the reflex may have developed to counter skin parasites.
The statuette is thought to be from 17th Germany. The physiologist Rudolph Magnus (1873-1927), was given it by his father. Magnus in turn gave it to Sherrington, who gave it to Sir Henry Dale, who donated it to The Physiological Society in October 1942.
The dog became part of The Society’s rituals, sitting on the table in front of the host at The Society’s dinners. In the 1980s, he acquired a handsome new plinth – a gift from the Dolmetsch family. As this was quite heavy, an unmounted copy of the mascot – known by one Meetings Secretary as ‘Deputy Dog’ – was sometimes taken to overseas Meetings. For one of these, with the Deutsche Physiologische Gesellschaft in Würzburg in 1988, the mascot was given a German dog licence.
Sadly, the mascot was stolen in Bristol in 1994. Despite a £1000 reward, offered at the time by a local newpaper, it has never been recovered.
The Society still gives a replica sculpture to retiring Trustees and other distinguished members.
- Sherrington CS (1906). Observations On The Scratch Reflex In The Spinal Dog. J. Physiol 34, 1–50.
- Bynum WF (1976). A Short History of The Physiological Society. J. Physiol 263, 23-72.