Charles Scott Sherrington: Biography of this English neurophysiologist

Different branches of medicine are dedicated to the study of the nervous system, such as neurology and neurophysiology. Fortunately, these two disciplines have come a long way over the years. Charles Scott Sherrington, English neurophysiologist and Nobel Prize winner in medicine in 1932, is an important figure in this regard.

In this article we will get to know this important figure in the history of medicine through a biography of Charles Scott Sherrington, And we will comment on the most relevant contributions and data on his academic and professional career.

    Biography of Charles Scott Sherrington: Who was he?

    Charles Scott Sherrington (1857-1952) was an English neurophysiologist, as well as a winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine., Who was born in Islington, London, on November 27, 1857, and who died in Eastbourne, England, on March 4, 1952. This English physician focused on studying, above all, the various functions of the cerebral cortex .

    Charles received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1932, thanks to his contributions in the field of neurophysiology. His contributions for which he received this award concerned the functioning of the nervous system from the point of view of the neuron and synapses., And his work on the functions of the cerebral cortex, as well as his reflexological research.

      Childhood, adolescence and personal life

      When Charles Scott Sherrington was still young, his father died. His mother remarried, this time to Caleb Rose, from a cultured family passionate about literature and art, fields which also interested Charles.

      As a child (and also a teenager), Charles was a great athlete, who excelled in various schools, such as Queen Elizabeth’s School (Ipswich), where he was in 1871, and Gonville and Caius Collegue. Cambridge), a little later. It is in the latter that Charles played rugby and also rowing. On the other hand, he also excelled in winter sports in Grindelwald.

      As for her personal life, we highlight her marriage to Ethel Mary, in 1892, daughter of John Ely Wright.


      Charles Scott Sherrington began his medical studies at St. Thomas Hospital in 1876And two years later, in 1878, he passed the exam at the Royal College of Surgenos. He stayed in Edinburgh and then went to Cambridge in 1879.

      It was here at Cambridge University, where he pursued much of his medical career and where he graduated in 1885. Charles he was influenced by physiologist Michael Foster, Who was one of his teachers.

      Two years after graduating, Charles Scott Sherrington began working at St. Thomas Hospital, where he had previously been, this time teaching medicine. He then developed different experiences in the veterinary department of another university, the University of London, which was called the Brown Institution.

      Charles’s academic and professional life took a turn and in 1885 he began working as a professor of medicine at the University of Liverpool. Later, in 1913, he worked as professor of physiology at the University of Oxford, One of the largest and most famous in the world.


      Regarding his professional achievements and recognitions, in addition to the aforementioned and outstanding Nobel Prize, Charles Scott Sherrington he was president of the Royal Society for five years, from 1920 to 1925. The Royal Society, with its full name “Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge”, translates into Spanish as “Royal Society of London for the Advancement of Natural Science”.

      This society is the oldest scientific society in the United Kingdom, as well as one of the oldest in Europe, and has received the participation, contribution and collaboration of very important scientists for many years, from different fields and fields. .

      Charles, in addition, has also received awards for his academic and professional work. Some of them were: the Grand Cross of the British Empire, in 1922, and the Order of Merit, two years later, in 1924.

      After a long career in academia, Charles retired from classes in 1935. However, continue to lecture and write various medical and neurophysiological publications.

      Relevant contributions to science

      Neurophysiology, the science to which Charles Scott Sherrington devoted his entire life, is a specialty of medicine and at the same time a branch of neuroscience. Its mission is to study the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).

      That is, the brain and spinal cord (CNS) and muscles, nerves and sensory organs (SNPs). All of this also involves treating any diseases or conditions that affect one of these two systems (or both).

      Charles introduced the concept of “synapse” in 1897. As a result, he postulated the synaptic hypothesis, which described the interactions that occurred between reflexes; According to this hypothesis, neural information travels from one neuron to another and does so through a small gap between cells, called a “synapse”.

      Also, Charles Scott Sherrington contributed to the description of the nervous mechanisms of muscle movement.

      Charles noted that nerve stimulation of a muscle is able, in turn, to inhibit the movement of the opposite muscle. He called this phenomenon “Sherrington’s Law”.

      Another of Charles’s contributions was the classification of human sensory organs, according to the origin of the stimulus they perceive. More precisely, he grouped them into: exteroceptor organs, interoceptors and proprioceptors.

      On the other hand, it should be noted that Charles Scott Sherrington he is considered the father of English neurology, alongside John Hughlings Jackson, An English neurologist, who was also a member of the Royal Society, alongside Charles.

      In this sense, Charles’s contributions in relation to treatments and the further development of the medical specialty of neurosurgery stand out.


      As for his works, they are numerous, but we will cite two of the most important: The integrative action of the nervous system (1904) and The activity reflects the spinal cord (1932).

      Death and inheritance

      After a lifetime of neurophysiology and studying the nervous system, Charles’s health became fragile and Charles Scott Sherrington died at the age of 95 from heart failure.

      It happened in an English town, Eastbourne, on March 5, 1952. Today Charles is still considered one of the pioneers of English neurology..

      Bibliographical references:

      • Gillispie, chap. C. Dictionary of Scientific Biography, New Cork, The Children of Charles Scribner, vol. XII, pages 395 to 403.
      • Rothschuh, KE Physiology, In: Laín (dir), Universal history of medicine, Barcelona, ​​Salvat, vol. 6, 59-97, 1974.
      • Ruiza, M., Fernández, T. and Tamaro, I. (2004). Biography of Charles Scott Sherrington. In Biographies and Lives. The online biographical encyclopedia. Barcelona, ​​Spain).
      • Valderas, JM (2017). Charles Scott Sherrington, Synapses and Reflexes. Research and science.

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