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Archibald Hill

Archibald Hill

Archibald Vivian Hill (1886-1977)
BornSeptember 26 1886(1886-09-26)
Bristol, England
DiedJune 3 1977 (aged 90)
Cambridge, England
FieldPhysiologist and biophysicist
InstitutionsCambridge University
University of Manchester
University College, London
Alma materCambridge University
Academic advisor  Walter Morley Fletcher
Notable students  Ralph Fowler
Bernard C. Abbott
Bernard Katz
Known forMechanical work in muscles
Founding biophysics
Notable prizes Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1922)
He is notably the father of Polly Hill, David Keynes Hill and Maurice Hill.

Archibald Vivian Hill CH CBE FRS (September 26, 1886 – June 3, 1977) was an English physiologist, one of the founders of the diverse disciplines of biophysics and operations research. He shared (with Otto Meyerhof) the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his elucidation of the production of mechanical work in muscles.



Born in Bristol, he graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge as third wrangler in the mathematics tripos before turning to physiology. His early work involved the characterization of what came to be known as Michaelis-Menten kinetics and the use of the Hill coefficient. Hill's first paper, published in 1909, was remarkably prescient, anticipating by many years the emergence of receptor theory. He made many exacting measurements of the physics of nerves and muscles and is regarded, along with Hermann Helmholtz as one of the founders of biophysics.

In 1913 he married Margaret Keynes, daughter of the economist John Neville Keynes, and sister of the economist John Maynard Keynes and the surgeon Geoffrey Keynes. They had two sons and two daughters:

  • Polly Hill (1914 -2005), economist, married K.A.C. Humphreys, registrar of the West African Examinations Council.
  • David Keynes Hill (1915-2002), physiologist
  • Maurice Hill (1919-1966), oceanographer
  • Janet Hill (?-?) child psychiatrist, married the immunologist John Herbert Humphrey.

In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, Hill joined the British army and assembled a team working on ballistics and operations research. The team included many notable physicists including Ralph H. Fowler, Douglas Hartree and Arthur Milne.

Hill returned to Cambridge in 1919 before taking the chair in physiology at the Victoria University of Manchester in 1920. Parallelling the work of German Otto Fritz Meyerhof he elucidated the processes whereby mechanical work is produced in muscles. The two shared the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.

In 1923 he succeeded Ernest Starling as professor of physiology at University College, London, a post he held until his retirement in 1951. He continued as an active researcher until 1966.

World War II saw the beginning of Hill's extensive public service. Already in 1935 he was working with Patrick Blackett and Sir Henry Tizard on the committee that gave birth to Radar. He served as independent Member of Parliament for Cambridge University from 1940 to 1945), a post that enabled him to be active in defending fellow scientists persecuted by the regime of Adolf Hitler. He took part in many scientific missions to the U.S..


  • Commander of the Order of the British Empire, (1918)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society, (1918)
  • Companion of Honour, (1946)
  • Copley Medal of the Royal Society, (1948)


By Hill

  • Hill, A.V., and Lupton, H. (1923). "Muscular exercise, lactic acid, and the supply and utilization of oxygen.". Quarterly Journal of Medicine 16: 135.
  • Hill, A.V., Long, C.N.H., and Lupton, H. (1924a). "Muscular exercise, lactic acid and the supply and utilization of oxygen. Pt. I-III". Proceedings of the Royal Society B 96: 438.
  • - (1924b). "Muscular exercise, lactic acid and the supply and utilization of oxygen. Pt. IV-VI". Proceedings of the Royal Society B 97: 84.
  • - (1924c). "Muscular exercise, lactic acid and the supply and utilization of oxygen. Pt. VII-IX". Proceedings of the Royal Society B 97: 155.
  • Hill, A.V. (1924-5). Textbook of Anti-Aircraft Gunnery, 2 vols
  • - (1926). "The scientific study of athletics". Scientific American 224 (April).
  • - (1926a). Muscular Activity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 
  • - (1926b). Muscular Activity: Herter Lectures - Sixteenth Course. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Company. 
  • - (1927a). Muscular Movement in Man
  • - (1927b). Living Machinery
  • - (1928). "Myothermic apparatus". Proceedings of the Royal Society B 103: 117.
  • - (1931). Adventures in Biophysics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 
  • - (1932) Chemical Wave Transmission in Nerve
  • - (1960). The Ethical Dilemma of Science, and Other Writings. New York: Rockefeller Institute Press,. 
  • - (1965). Trails and Trials in Physiology: A Bibliography, 1909-1964; with reviews of certain topics and methods and a reconnaissance for further research. London: Arnold. 

About Hill

  • Katz, B. (1986). "Archibald Vivian Hill", Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oxford, p.406
  • Lusk, G. (1925). Lectures on nutrition: 1924-1925. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company. 
  • Stevenson, L.G. (1953). Nobel Prize Winners in Medicine and Physiology: 1901-1950.. New York: Henry Schuman. 

NAME Hill, Archibald
SHORT DESCRIPTION Physiologist and biophysicist
DATE OF BIRTH September 26, 1886
DATE OF DEATH June 3, 1977
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Archibald_Hill". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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