Archibald Vivian Hill (1886-1977)
A brilliant student at Trinity and Kings Colleges, Cambridge, England, A.V. Hill attracted the notice of two eminent physiologists. W. M. Fletcher and (Sir) F. G. Hopkins (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1929) convinced Hill to pursue advanced studies in physiology rather than mathematics. Hill's early experiments researched the effects of electrical stimulation on nerve function, the mechanical efficiency of muscle, energy processes in muscle during recovery, the interaction between oxygen and hemoglobin, and quantitative aspects of drug kinetics on muscle. Hill used his background in mathematics to explain the results. Later, Hill devised mathematical models describing heat production in muscle, and applied kinetic analysis to explain the time course of oxygen uptake during both exercise and recovery. Hill combined aspects of physics and biology, a discipline which he championed as biophysics (Hill, 1931).
During World War I, Hill directed a laboratory and published technical reports on anti-aircraft defense (Katz, 1986). After the war, Hill achieved international acclaim for research in muscle physiology. In 1920, he left Cambridge to Chair the Physiology Department at Manchester University. In newly refurbished laboratories, Hill expanded his work on muscle physiology in animals which resulted in a book on muscular activity (Hill, 1926). Hill shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1922 with German chemist Otto Meyerhof for discoveries about the chemical and mechanical events in muscle contraction.
The Figure shows Hill's famous Thermopile apparatus to measure heat production in sartorius muscle. Until the invention of this equipment, it was impossible to accurately measure a muscle's heat production. In the muscle twitch of a frog's sartorius at 20 degrees C, the rise in temperature did not exceed 0.003 degrees C, and lasted only a few hundredths of a second. Thus, this instrument paved the way for Hill and co-workers to carry out their historic experiments. As a point of information, a thermopile can be thought of as a kind of battery made of alternating pieces of two different metals; heat applied to the couples produced an electric current (based on the strength of the muscle action and measured by a galvanometer) (Stevenson, 1953). The thermopile precisely measured the heat liberated from the muscle based on the change in temperature. Hill made insightful comments about his early experiments during his acceptance of the Nobel Prize in 1922 (Stevenson, 1953):
While Hill's research is best known in physiology and exercise physiology, he was also acclaimed by nutritionists. Lusk's (1925) Lectures on Nutrition (based on a series of lectures given at the Mayo Foundation and five universities) contains chapters by Hill on muscular activity and carbohydrate metabolism. (Other prominent scientists, F. G. Benedict, E. F. DuBois, E. V. McCollum, H. M. Evans, and G. Lusk, lectured about nutrition-related topics). The opening paragraph of Hill's lecture connects muscle physiology with nutrition:
An avid sportsman, Hill became interested in recovery from exercise after himself experiencing fatigue during track meets. He coined the term "oxygen debt" based on experiments in the early 1920s (Hill et al., 1924a-c; Hill & Lupton, 1923). He maintained that the amount of oxygen consumed above resting in recovery represented the oxidation of approximately one-fifth of the lactic acid produced during exercise and provided the necessary energy to resynthesize the remaining lactic acid to glycogen.
Hill's more important scientific achievements included: discovery and measurement of heat production associated with the nerve impulse; improved analysis of heat development accompanying active shortening in muscle; application of thermoelectric methods to measure vapor pressure above minute fluid volumes; analysis of physical and chemical changes associated with nerve excitation; and excitation laws for animal tissue (Katz, 1986). An outspoken critic of Hitler's wartime persecution policies against Jewish and dissident scientists, Hill helped found the Academic Assistance Council (later called the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning) to assist refugee scientists. Hill wrote popular articles about science (Hill, 1926), a practice he continued in addition to a productive scientific career for 15 years after retiring from University College London in December, 1951 (Hill, 1960, 1965).
© Frank I. Katch, William D. McArdle, Victor L. Katch. 1997.
Hill, A.V. (1931). Adventures in biophysics. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.
Katz, B. (1986). Archibald Vivian Hill. Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 406.
Hill, A.V. (1926). Muscular activity, Herter Lectures. Sixteenth Course. Williams & Wilkins Company, Baltimore.
Stevenson, L.G. (1953). Nobel Prize Winners in Medicine and Physiology. 1901-1950. Henry Schuman, New York.
Lusk, G. (1925). Lectures on nutrition. 1924-1925. W. B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia.
Hill, A.V., Long, C.N.H., and Lupton, H. (1924a). Muscular exercise, lactic acid and the supply and utilization of oxygen. Pt. 1-III. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 96, 438.
Hill, A.V., Long, C.N.H., and Lupton, H. (1924b). Muscular exercise, lactic acid and the supply and utilization of oxygen. Pt. 1V-VI. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 97, 84.
Hill, A.V., Long, C.N.H., and Lupton, H. (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., and Lupton, H. (1923). Muscular exercise, lactic acid, and the supply and utilization of oxygen. Quarterly Journal of Medicine, 16, 135.
Hill, A.V. (1926). The scientific study of athletics. Scientific American, 224 (April).
Hill, A.V. (1928). Myothermic apparatus. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 103, 117.
Hill, A.V. (1960). The ethical dilemma of science, and other writings, Rockefeller Institute Press, New York.
Hill, A.V. (1965). Trails and trials in physiology. a bibliography,
1909-1964; with reviews of certain topics and methods and a reconnaissance
for further research. Arnold, London.