John Scott Haldane

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John Scott Haldane, 1902
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John Scott Haldane (born May 3, 1860 in Edinburgh , † March 15, 1936 in Oxford ) was a Scottish physiologist and is considered the founder of methodical holism .


Haldane was the son of a lawyer and studied medicine in Edinburgh with an MD degree in 1884. He was then at the University of Dundee and from 1887 as an assistant to his uncle, the physiology professor John Burdon-Sanderson, at Oxford University . In 1907 he became a reader in physiology there, but moved in 1913 as director of the Mining Research Laboratory in Doncaster (from 1921 in Birmingham ).

John Scott Haldane was best known for his research in the field of breathing . He developed several methods for studying respiration , blood gas analysis and gas consumption in the body. In 1906, in a work with John Priestley , he demonstrated that it was not a lack of oxygen in the blood, but an excess of carbon dioxide that triggered the respiratory reflex. He also researched on behalf of the Royal Navy , the bends and designed in 1907 a decompression table , which was in use until the 1950s. He also suggested equipping their helmet diving equipment with a weight belt for better buoyancy of the divers . His findings made it possible, among other things, for the Royal Navy to employ divers in the recovery of gold from the Laurentic from 1917. During the First World War , he looked at ways to protect British soldiers from poison gas used by the Germans . He also earned merit in the investigation of mining accidents, about which he published an influential report in 1896 (Causes of death in colliery explosions). He pointed out that the majority of deaths were due to carbon monoxide poisoning and suggested the use of mice to indicate exposure to carbon monoxide, which because of their higher metabolic rate, react earlier than humans.

He postulated the Haldane effect , which describes the dependence of the CO 2 transport capacity in the blood on the O 2 partial pressure.

With his works The Philosophical Basis of Biology , London 1931 (German: The Philosophical Foundations of Biology , Berlin 1932) and The Philosophy of a Biologist , Oxford 1935 (German: The Philosophy of a Biologist , Jena 1936), John Scott Haldane laid the foundation stone for the philosophy of methodical holism , which denies that the behavior of individual parts can fully explain the whole.

In 1916 he was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society . Since 1934 he was an honorary member ( Honorary Fellow ) of the Royal Society of Edinburgh . In 1935 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences .

John Scott Haldane's son John Burdon Sanderson Haldane was a geneticist. John Scott Haldane's brother Richard Burdon Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane , was Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords .

The novelist Aldous Huxley lived with Haldanes for a while and parodied Haldane in the character of the scientist Edward Tantamount in the novel Counterpoint of Life .

Works (selection)

  • Life and Mechanism , in: Mind, Vol. 9, No. 33, 1884, pp. 27-47.
  • Organism and Environment as illustrated by the physiology of breathing , New Haven 1917
  • Symposium: Are physical, biological ans psychological categories irreducible? I. , in: Carr, Wildon (Ed.): Life and finite individuality, Aristotelian Society. Supplementary Volume 1, London 1918
  • with John Priestley: Respiration , New Haven (1922) 2nd ed. 1927
  • Mechanism, Life and Personality , (1923), Westport 1973
  • The sciences and philosophy , London 1928
  • The Philosophical Basis of Biology. London 1931.
  • The Philosophy of a Biologist. Oxford 1935.
  • (with Priestley, JG): Respiration , New Edition, Oxford 1935
  • The physiology of Descartes and its modern developments , in: Acta Biotheoretica, Vol. I, 1935, pp. 5-16.
  • Books by and about John Scott Haldane on the Internet Archive - online


  • Richard Friebe : The man with the stamina - With his work on the physiology of the lungs, John Scott Haldane saved the lives of tens of thousands. But 150 years after his birth he is almost forgotten. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung . May 2, 2010, p. 60 .
  • Norbert Gierschner: Diver Doctor # 1 - John Scott Haldane, scientist, philanthropist and, for many, the first diving doctor . In: VDST -sporttaucher . March 2019, ISSN  0172-8555 , p. 60-61 .

See also

Web links


  1. ^ Fellows Directory. Biographical Index: Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002. (PDF) Royal Society of Edinburgh, accessed December 14, 2019 .
  2. Bill Bryson : A Brief History of Almost Everything , Goldmann-Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-442-46071-9 , Chapter 16, Page 307.