English physiologist Archibald Vivian Hill (1886-1977) shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1922) for his discoveries relating to the production of heat in muscles.
The son of a timber merchant, A (rchibald) V (ivan) Hill was born in Bristol, England, on Sept. 26, 1886. In 1904 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, to begin a brilliant career, first in mathematics, then in physiology, in which he obtained a first-class honors degree in 1909.
From 1909 until World War I broke out in 1914, Hill did research work in the Physiological Laboratory at Cambridge. Advised to investigate "the efficiency of cut-out frog's muscle as a thermodynamic machine, " this would become Hill's life work. During the war he was director of an official group of scientists who produced revolutionary recommendations on antiaircraft gunsights. In 1920 Hill became Brackenbury professor of physiology in the University of Manchester and in 1923 Jodrell professor of physiology at University College, London. Two years later he was appointed as the Royal Society's Foulerton Research Professor in biophysics at University College. He retired from this chair in 1956 but continued to work in the physiology department.
Early Investigations in Muscle Physiology
Following the suggestion of English physiologist J.N. Langley, Hill began research into the production of heat by a contracting muscle. Practically all that was known at the time was that the total energy involved in contraction of a muscle, that is, the sum of the work done and the heat evolved, was related to the length of the muscle and to the load. But in a single muscle twitch, the heat evolved does not exceed 0.003 ° C, and the available instruments could not measure such small amounts. The successive events in a muscle contraction are all chemical reactions, but these cannot be analyzed immediately after they occur, and chemistry can give only the end result. The physical changes can be measured as soon as they occur—hence the emphasis on heat production.
Using a strap-like thigh muscle in the frog, Hill demonstrated that oxygen is needed not for the contractile phase of muscular activity but only for the recovery phase. This led to the discovery of the numerous biochemical reactions that occur in muscle cells and result in contraction.
Hill's studies of the heat in muscle contraction continued through the years. There was no early chemical proof of his deductions, but they were confirmed chemically by Otto Meyerhof in 1920.
Hill wrote many of his papers in collaboration with William Hartree, who worked in Hill's laboratory. Shortly after the war, Hill found a sudden, large production of heat at the onset of contraction and another during relaxation. In 1920, with Hartree, he discovered that, with muscles in nitrogen, there was indeed a smaller heat production during the three minutes following the stimulus. In 1922 they wrote a standard paper on recovery heat, in which they gave the first clear description of the characteristics of this "anaerobic delayed heat" (a.d.h.) found in muscles in nitrogen. In 1923 they gave its value as about 0.25 of the initial heat. The explanation of the a.d.h. had to await the further chemical work of Meyerhof and others. In 1922 Hill shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Meyerhof.
More Theories and Publications
During World War II, Hill's laboratory was closed, and he held important public and advisory offices, such as chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Physical Laboratory, Member of Parliament for the University of Cambridge, and member of the War Cabinet Scientific Advisory Committee. He also visited India as a consultant to the Indian government on scientific matters.
Hill returned to experimental work after the war and published numerous important papers. He also derived his "Hill equation, " a mathematical expression for the uptake of oxygen by hemoglobin.
In 1967 Hill stopped all experimental work and moved to Cambridge. His last book First and Last Experiments in Muscle Mechanics (1970) contains the results of his difficult experimental and mathematical investigations.
For many years Hill carried out experiments on muscular activity in trained athletes. In 1922 he introduced the fruitful conception of the "oxygen debt, " which explains how a person can for a short period produce without exhaustion far larger quantities of lactic acid than the maximum oxygen intake can oxidize at the time. In many experiments Hill found that the maximum speed in running was usually reached in 30 to 50 yards; it then began to decline. In 1925 Hill was the first to plot speed against distance for world running records. In 1928 he studied the effects of different winds on running, and he later investigated the force-velocity relationship in human muscle.
Hill's important books include: Muscular Activity (1926), Muscular Movement in Man (1927), Chemical Wave Transmission in Nerve (1932), and Trails and Trials in Physiology (1965). Trails and Trials, although nominally an annotated and classified bibliography of his own scientific papers and those of his coworkers, contains critical discussions of his work and that of others.
Hill received many honors in addition to his Nobel Prize. He became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1918 and a Companion of Honour in 1946. In 1918 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, of which he was Biological Secretary (1935-1945) and Foreign Secretary (1945-1946). He was awarded its Royal Medal in 1926 and its highest honor, the Copley Medal, in 1948. He received honorary degrees from 17 universities and was elected to many foreign scientific societies. He was an Honorary Fellow of both King's College (1927) and Trinity College (1941), Cambridge, and an Honorary Fellow of University College, London (1948). In the early 1930s he was a founding member of the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, established to assist foreign scholars suffering under Nazi oppression, and later its president. A.V. Hill died in Cambridge on June 3, 1977.
Further Reading on Archibald Vivian Hill
There is a biography of Hill in Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine, 1922-1941 (1965), which also contains his Nobel Lecture. For Hill's later work see his Trails and Trials in Physiology (1965). For the general background of muscle physiology see G. H. Bourne, ed., The Structure and Function of Muscle, vol. 2 (1960).