Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History

Sauer, Anne

Branco, Jessica

Bennett, John

Crowley, Zachary


Department of Physiology, 1893


Physiology was first taught at the medical school in 1893 as a lecture course. (The first professor of physiology was Dr. Albert Nott, who was also the first dean of the medical school.) By 1900 laboratory sessions were provided, and by 1929 first-year students were required to devote five afternoons a week to the subject.

That year Dr. David Rapport was recruited to teach medical and dental students and develop research. Stressing the importance of laboratory sessions, he conducted a series of experiments on dogs, in which groups of students were asked to prove series of points about the circulatory and respiratory systems.

In those years the department's research focused on several areas: the chemical process involved in vision; the enzymatic reactions involved in amino acid, protein, nucleic acid, and nucleoprotein metabolism; and the utilization of phosphate bond energy in the synthesis of protein from amino acids. The Charlton Fund helped support this research as well as laboratory fellowships.

In the 1960s and 1970s the department underwent a series of changes under the leadership of Dr. Walter L. Hughes. He believed that laboratory experimentation should demonstrate the principles of physiology via modern techniques. As such, he ensured that the laboratory was equipped with electronic transducers and recorders that would permit students to make sophisticated and precise measurements. He also expanded the graduate program to include Ph. D. candidates and postdoctoral investigators. Departmental research at this time focused largely on cellular mechanisms involving macro molecules (proteins and nucleic acids). When Dr. Hughes stepped down as chair in 1977, the department was subsequently led for two years by Dr. Jeffrey Sharpe and for four years by Dr. Eunice Bloomquist (in an acting role).

Dr. Irwin M. Arias became professor and chairman in 1984. He received his M.D. degree from SUNY in Brooklyn and trained in medicine at the Boston City Hospital and at Albert Einstein's in New York. He became a distinguished professor of medicine at Einstein before coming to Tufts. Arias has proved to be a superb investigator, teacher, and administrator, creating a first-rate Department of Physiology, attracting outstanding faculty, and developing an impressive research program. Under his leadership, a totally new physiology laboratory was built and equipped with modern equipment. Moreover, the department has grown to such an extent that it now includes fourteen full-time faculty, forty postdoctoral fellows, twenty-eight graduate students, eight M.D. /Ph. D. students, and five physician scientists. As of this date each faculty member has been awarded at least one NIH grant; the total departmental research support exceeds $5 million. The faculty have also received an NIH training grant as well as nineteen major awards from various sources, such as the Rockefeller, Markey, Macy, and Pew Foundations. Drs. Arias and Dice have been honored with the prestigious NIH MERIT Award.

In the last two decades classic organ physiology has moved from basic science departments into clinical settings: cardiac catheterization, pulmonary function assessment, and intestinal motility have become critical in patient management and are rarely the subject of modern physiology laboratories. In addition, physiology departments have shifted their focus to cellular and molecular physiology: Tufts' department is currently researching how events on the surface of cells regulate gene expression - namely how hormones and growth factors interact with their receptors and how cells respond by growth, differentiation, or transformation.

The physiology department in 1999 presents a basic course in medical physiology for first-year students: modern principles of normal physiology are considered in lectures, patient presentations, small group discussions, and problem-solving exercises. Second-year students take parhophysiology among other subjects. No laboratory sessions are currently offered.

Source: COE, 151-52.

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  • The encyclopedia seeks to capture more than 150 years of Tufts' achievements, societal contributions and outstanding alumni and faculty in concise entries. As a source of accurate factual information, the Encyclopedia can be used by anyone interested in the history of Tufts and of the people who have made it the unique institution it is.
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Numeric Entries
Dame, Lorin Low, 1838-1903
Dana, Charles A., 1881-1975
Dana Laboratory, 1963
Daniel Ounjian Prize in Economics,
Davies, Caroline Stodder, 1864-1939
Davies House, 1894
De Florez Prize in Human Engineering, 1964
de Pacheco, Kaye MacKinnon, ca. 1910-ca. 1985
Dean Hall, 1887-1963
Dean, Oliver, 1783-1871
Dearborn, Heman Allen, 1831-1897
Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, 1893
Department of Anesthesia, 1970
Department of Art and Art History, 1930
Department of Biochemistry, 1893
Department of Chemistry, 1882
Department of Community Health, 1930
Department of Dermatology, 1897
The Department of Economics, 1946
Department of Medicine, 1893
Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Department of Neurology, 1893
Department of Neuroscience, 1983
Department of Neurosurgery, 1951
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1893
Department of Ophthamology, 1893
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, 1906
Department of Otolaryngology, 1895
Department of Pathology, 1893
Department of Pediatrics, 1930
Department of Pharmacology, 1915
Department of Physics and Astronomy, 1854
Department of Physiology, 1893
Department of Psychiatry, 1928
Department of Radiation Oncology, 1968
Department of Radiology, 1915
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, 1955
Department of Surgery, 1893
Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, 1973
Department of Urology, 1910
Dental Health Sciences Building, 1969
Dewick, Cora Alma (Polk), 1875-1977
Dewick/MacPhie Dining Hall, 1959
Dickson Professorship of English and American History, 1913
Dirlam, Arland A., 1905-1979
Dog Cart, 1900
Dolbear, Amos Emerson, 1837-1910
Donald A. Cowdery Memorial Scholarship, 1946
Dr. Benjamin Andrews Professorship of Surgery, 1987
Dr. Philip E. A. Sheridan Prize, 1977
The Drug Bust, 1970
Dudley, Henry Watson, 1831-1906
Dugger, Edward Jr., 1919-75
Durkee, Frank W., 1861-1939
Durkee, Henrietta Noble Brown, 1871-1946
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