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Sunday, December 20, 1998 Published at 19:29 GMT


Nobel winning biologist dies, aged 84

Professor Alan Hodgkin was knighted in 1972

One of Britain's most distinguished biologists, Professor Sir Alan Hodgkin, who won the Nobel prize for medicine in 1963, has died aged 84.

Sir Alan and fellow scientists Professor Andrew Huxley and Sir John Eccles were honoured by the Nobel committee for "solving a problem that has haunted physiology for 100 years".

They discovered how nerve cells transmit electrical impulses between the skin and the brain.

Sir Alan's daughter, Rachel, said her father died at his home in Cambridge early on Sunday after a long illness.

'Remarkable scientist'

She said: "He was one of the most remarkable scientists of his time as well as being a wonderful family man."

Sir Alan was born in February 1914 in Banbury, Oxfordshire, but his father was killed in World War I while he was only a toddler.

The young Alan was interested in both history and science but he eventually opted for the latter and went to Trinity College in Cambridge, of which he was made a fellow in 1936.

When World War II broke out he joined the Air Ministry as a scientific officer developing radar for night-flying planes.

After the war he became Assistant Director of Research at Cambridge University before moving on to Leicester University, where he became chancellor.

Sir Alan, who had began his research into the nervous system before the war, worked with his former pupil Professor Sir Andrew Huxley, investigating the "ionic theory" of how nerve cells send messages to the brain via an "electric cable" in the spinal cord.

'Experiment on squids'

They conducted a series of experiments on the nerve fibres of squids and frogs.

Australian scientist Sir John Eccles developed the research, which led to the introduction of new techniques in physiology.

The trio were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work in 1963.

Sir Alan's father-in-law Peyton Rous won the Nobel prize for medicine himself three years later for his work on leukaemia.

Sir Alan, a former President of the Royal Society, was knighted in 1972 and awarded the Order of Merit the following year.

In 1978 he was made Master of Trinity, the biggest and richest college in Cambridge.

Sir Alan, a keen fisherman, is survived by his wife, Lady Marion, and four children. His son, Jonathan, works in molecular biology at Cambridge University.

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