Ralph W. Gerard

24th APS President (1951-1952)
Ralph W. Gerard

Ralph Waldo Gerard became president after the Cleveland meeting in 1951 and presided at the fall meeting in Salt Lake City (1951) and the spring meeting in New York City (1952).

Born in Harvey, Illinois, he received B.S. (1919) and Ph.D. (1921) degrees from the University of Chicago. He then received the M.D. degree from Rush Medical College in 1925. In the interim he was professor of physiology at the University of South Dakota (1921-22). After receiving the M.D. degree he worked with A. V. Hill in London and Otto Meyerhof in Kiel on a National Research Council Fellowship (1926-27). He returned in 1928 to the University of Chicago, where he remained in the Physiology Department until 1952. He then became for three years professor of neurophysiology and physiology in the College of Medicine, University of Illinois and then professor of neurophysiology at the Mental Health Research Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan (1955-63). From 1963 he helped organize the Irvine Campus of the University of California and served as dean of its Graduate Division until his retirement in 1970.

Gerard's scientific contributions ranged from the metabolism and heat production of nerve (with A. V. Hill) to the behavioral and social sciences. One of his most pervasive contributions, with Ling and Graham, was the introduction of the intracellular recording capillary microelectrode. In addition to many research and review publications, he was author of several books; Unresting Cells (1940) and Food For Life (1952) are among the best known.

He was elected to APS in 1927 and to the Council in 1949. As president he was responsible for establishing the first standing committees of the Society, for initiating an ambitious Survey of Physiological Sciences (he was the author of the survey report, Mirror to Physiology, published by APS in 1958), and for dealing with the sensitive issues of animal experimentation and "loyalty clearance" of scientists. He also established and chaired a committee to revise the Society's constitution and bylaws. He was active in several aspects of governmental relations to science and helped establish the system and procedures for peer review of proposals for government research grants and contracts.

Selected Publications

1. Anonymous. Ralph W. Gerard (1900-1974). Physiologist 23(1): 3, 1980.

2. Fenn, W. O. History of the American Physiological Society: The Third Quarter Century, 1937-1962. Washington, DC: Am. Physiol. Soc., 1963, p. 23-26.

3. Gerard, R. W. By-ways of the investigator: thoughts on becoming an elder statesman. Past president's address.Am. J. Physiol. 171: 695-703, 1952.

4. Gerard, R. W. Prefatory chapter: the organization of science. Annu. Rev. Physiol. 14: 1-12, 1952.

5. Gerard, R. W. International physiology. Physiologist 6: 332-334, 1963.

6. Libet, B. R. W. Gerard, born October 7, 1900 - died February 17, 1974. J. Neurophysiol. 37: 828-829, 1974.

7. Libet, B., and O. E. Reynolds. R. W. Gerard, born October 7, 1900 - died February 17, 1974. Physiologist 17: 165-168, 1974.