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Edgar Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian
Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian OM PRS (Hampstead, London, 30 November 1889  – Cambridge, Cambridgeshire 4 August 1977 ) was a British electrophysiologist and recipient of the 1932 Nobel Prize for Physiology, won jointly with Sir Charles Sherrington for work on the function of neurons.
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Son of Alfred Douglas Adrian CB MC, legal adviser to the British Local Government Board, he attended Westminster School and studied Natural Sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge, remaining in Cambridge for the major part of his life.
Completing a medical degree in 1915, he did clinical work at St Bartholomew's Hospital London during World War I, treating soldiers with nerve damage and nervous disorders such as shell shock. Adrian returned to Cambridge in 1919 and in 1925 began his studies of nerve impulses in the human sensory organs.
He married Hester Agnes Pinsent on 14 June 1923 and they had three children, a daughter and mixed twins:
Continuing earlier studies of Keith Lucas, he used a capillary electrometer and cathode ray tube to amplify the signals produced by the nervous system and was able to record the electrical discharge of single nerve fibres under physical stimulus. An accidental discovery by Adrian in 1928 proved the presence of electricity within nerve cells. Adrian said,
A key result, published in 1928, stated that the excitation of the skin under constant stimulus is initially strong but gradually decreases over time, whereas the sensory impulses passing along the nerves from the point of contact are constant in strength, yet are reduced in frequency over time, and the sensation in the brain diminishes as a result.
Extending these results to the study of pain causes by the stimulus of the nervous system, he made discoveries about the reception of such signals in the brain and spatial distribution of the sensory areas of the cerebral cortex in different animals. These conclusions lead to the idea of a sensory map, called the homunculus, in the somatosensory system.
Later, Adrian used the electroencephalogram to study the electrical activity of the brain in humans. His work on the abnormalities of the Berger rhythm paved the way for subsequent investigation in epilepsy and other cerebral pathologies. He spent the last portion of his research career investigating olfaction.
Among the many awards and positions he received during his career were Foulerton Professor 1929-1937; Professor of Physiology at the University of Cambridge 1937-1951; President of the Royal Society 1950-1955; Master of Trinity College, Cambridge 1951-1965; Chancellor of the University of Cambridge 1967-1975. In 1942 he was awarded the Order of Merit, and in 1955 was created Baron Adrian, of Cambridge in the County of Cambridge.
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