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Herbert Spencer Gasser

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Title: Herbert Spencer Gasser  
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Subject: List of Nobel laureates by university affiliation, Joseph Erlanger, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, List of Nobel laureates affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, List of Johns Hopkins University people
Collection: 1888 Births, 1963 Deaths, American Nobel Laureates, American People of Austrian Descent, American People of German-Russian Descent, American Physiologists, American University and College Presidents, Foreign Members of the Royal Society, Johns Hopkins University Alumni, Members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine, People from Platteville, Wisconsin, Presidents of Rockefeller University, Rockefeller University Faculty, University of Wisconsin–madison Alumni
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Herbert Spencer Gasser

Herbert Spencer Gasser
Gasser in 1944
Born (1888-07-05)5 July 1888
Platteville, Wisconsin, USA
Died 11 May 1963(1963-05-11) (aged 74)
New York City, New York, USA
Nationality American
Fields Physiology
Institutions Rockefeller University
Cornell University
Washington University in St. Louis
Alma mater University of Wisconsin–Madison
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Known for Action potentials
Nerve fiber analysis
Notable awards Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (1944)
Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) (1946)[1]

Herbert Spencer Gasser (5 July 1888 – 11 May 1963) was an American physiologist, and recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1944 for his work with action potentials in nerve fibers while on the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis, awarded jointly with Joseph Erlanger.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


Gasser was born in Platteville, Wisconsin, to Herman Gasser and Jane Elisabeth Griswold Gasser. His father was a physician[7][8] from Dornbirn in the Austrian province of Vorarlberg; his mother was of New England Yankee and German Russian ancestry.[9][10][11]


Gasser attended State Normal School in Platteville, then entered the University of Wisconsin in 1907. Finishing his undergraduate studies in zoology in only two years, he enrolled in the university's medical school in 1909, studying physiology under Joseph Erlanger, and pharmacology under Arthur S. Loevenhart. While still a student, he was named an instructor in pharmacology (1911). Since UW only provided preclinical medical instruction, Gasser transferred to Johns Hopkins University in 1913, where he received his medical degree in 1915. He then returned to UW as a pharmacology instructor. In 1916 Gasser moved to the department of physiology at Washington University.

As the United States became involved in World War I and the armies began using chemical warfare tactics, Gasser was urged to contribute his knowledge of human physiology to the subject. Accordingly, in the summer of 1918 he joined the Armed Forces Chemical Warfare Service in Washington D.C.[12] After the Armistice he returned to Washington University, where he was made a professor of pharmacology in 1921.

During the years 1923-1925 Gasser studied in London, Paris and Munich under a Rockefeller Foundation grant, with the goal of improving the quality of US medical education. After completing these studies he returned to Washington University.

In 1931 Gasser moved to New York City, being named a professor of physiology at Cornell Medical College. After four years at that post, he was named the second director of the Rockefeller Institute, succeeding the long-running tenure of Simon Flexner, who had founded the institute. He remained in that position until 1953.

In 1936 Gasser and Erlanger gave a series of lectures at the University of Pennsylvania, summarizing their investigations into the actions of human nerve cells. This work led to their recognition in 1944, when they jointly received the Nobel Prize (Gasser used his prize money to fund further research into the subject).

After his retirement from the Rockefeller Institute in 1953, Gasser continued his research. He published over 100 scientific papers during his lifetime. He died in New York City on 11 May 1963. He had never married.


  1. ^ a b Adrian, L. (1964). "Herbert Spencer Gasser 1888-1963".  
  2. ^ Perl, E. (1994). "The 1944 Nobel Prize to Erlanger and Gasser". FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology 8 (10): 782–783.  
  3. ^ Kenéz, J. (1968). "Milestones in the development of electrophysiology (Herbert Spencer Gasser)". Orvosi hetilap 109 (32): 1779–1782.  
  4. ^ Sulek, K. (1968). "Nobel prize for Joseph Erlanger and Herbert S. Gasser in 1944 for the discovery of high differentiation of the functions of various nerve fibres". Wiadomosci lekarskie (Warsaw, Poland : 1960) 21 (14): 1273–1274.  
  5. ^ Chase, M. W.; Hunt, C. C. (1995). "Herbert Spencer Gasser - July 5, 1888-May 11, 1963". Biographical memoirs. National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) 67: 147–177.  
  6. ^ Herbert Spencer Gasser — Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences
  7. ^ The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1944
  8. ^ Gasser
  9. ^ Gasser again
  10. ^ more gasser
  11. ^ Gasser again again
  12. ^
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