Haldan Keffer Hartline Biography, Life, Interesting Facts


Haldan Keffer Hartline

Birthday :

December 22, 1903

Died On :

March 17, 1983

Birth Place :

Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, United States of America

Zodiac Sign :


Born on December 22, 1903, Halden Keffer Hartline was an America physiologist and a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine recipient. Halden Keffer Hartline shared the award with George Wald and Ragnar Granit for his studies into neurophysiological mechanisms of visions.  Halden Keffer Hartline taught at the Eldridge Reeves Johnson Foundation for Medical Physics of the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University, and the Rockefeller Institute.

Early Life And Education

Halden Keffer Hartline was born on December 22, 1903, in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Both parents were teachers at the State Normal School (now Bloomsburg State College). With his father being Daniel S. Hartline Professor in Biology, Halden Keffer Hartline also became interested in natural sciences. Halden Keffer Hartline started his education at the State Normal School and continued at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania where he graduated with BSc in 1923. While there, his biology teacher, Beverly W. Kunkel urged him to undertake research, resulting in his first scientific paper concerned visual responses of land isopods. He also spent his summers at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, which also influenced his biological studies have met the likes of Merkel H. Jacobs, Jacques Loeb and Selig Hecht.

In 1923, Halden Keffer Hartline entered the John Hopkins School to continue his study in vision under E. K. Marshall and C. D. Snyder at the Department of Physiology. With the use of animals including rabbits, decerebrate cats, and frogs, Halden Keffer Hartline studied retinal action potential using Dr. Snyder’s Einthoven string galvanometer. Halden Keffer Hartline also learned how to obtain electroretinograms from intact animals and recorded recognizable retinal action potentials from human subjects.

In 1927, he received his M.D and with a National Research Council Fellowship (Medical Sciences) studied Mathematics and Physics to strengthen his background for his research works. Hartline took courses and worked in the laboratory A. H. Pfund in the Physics Department at Johns Hopkins for two years. He received a Reeves Johnson Traveling Fellowship from the University of Pennsylvania in 1929 to continue his physics studies spending a semester with W. Heisenberg’s seminar group at the University of Leipzig and for two semesters attended lectures of A. Sommerfeld at the University of Munich.


Career And Research

Upon his return to the United States, Halden Keffer Hartline took a position at the Eldridge Reeves Johnson Foundation for Medical Physics of the University of Pennsylvania, under the directorship of Detlev W. Bronk. While there, Halden Keffer Hartline researched into the activity of single optic nerve fibre in the eye of a horseshoe crab, Limulus. He then did an analysis on of the optic responses of the vertebrate retina using the eye of a frog in the mid-1930s. Halden Keffer Hartline became an Associate Professor of Physiology at Cornell Medical College in New York City in 1940 and worked until 1941 when he returned to the Johnson Foundation.

In 1949, Halden Keffer Hartline joined the Johns Hopkins University as Professor of Biophysics and became the Chairman of the Thomas C. Jenkins Department of Biophysics. While there, Halden Keffer Hartline worked with other researchers on the intracellular recording from receptor units in the Limulus eye. Halden Keffer Hartline joined the Rockefeller University (then the Rockefeller Institute) as a Professor in 1953. He was an elected Foreign Member of the Royal Society, Member of the National Academy of Sciences, Member of the American Philosophical Society, Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Physiological Society, Optical Society of America and the Biophysical Society among others.


Personal Life

Halden Keffer Hartline married Elizabeth Kraus in 1936. Elizabeth was at the time an instructor in Comparative Psychology at Bryn Mawr College. The couple had three children, Daniel Keffer, Peter Haldan, and Frederick Flanders. Haldan Keffer Hartline died on March 17, 1983.


Awards And Honors

Halden Keffer Hartline was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1967. He also received the William H. Howell Award (Physiology) in 1927, the Howard Crosby Warren Medal (Society of Experimental Psychologists) in 1948, the Albert A. Michelson Award (Case Institute of Technology) in 1964 and honorary degrees from several universities.

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