Walter Clark Randall

55th APS President (1982-1983)
Walter Clark Randall
(1916-1993)

From his birthplace and boyhood home in the farming community of Akeley, Pennsylvania, Randall studied at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, able to go to school during the Depression only because of financial sacrifices on the part of his parents and sisters and by virtue of the honor scholarships he received. Graduating in 1938, he enrolled for further study at Purdue University, where he received his Ph.D. degree in physiology in 1942. The following year he was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Carl J. Wiggers at Western Reserve University; Wiggers then recommended him for appointment as instructor in Alrick Hertzman's Department of Physiology at St. Louis University, and by 1949 he was an associate professor. Five years later (1954) he moved to Chicago as professor and chairman of the Department of Physiology in the Stritch School of Medicine of Loyola University. He held these positions until 1975, when he relinquished the chairmanship to continue essentially full-time research.

In 1962 Randall was a visiting scientist at the National Spinal Nerve Injuries Center in Aylesbury, England, and in 1965 he held a similar position at the National Spinal Injuries Center at the VA Hospital in Long Beach, California. During the summer of 1970 he was visiting professor of physiology at the University of Washington in Seattle. Taylor University designated him Alumnus of the Year in 1963, and since 1968 he has served that university in various capacities, most recently as a member of its Board of Trustees (1971-). He received the Stritch Medal from Loyola in 1971, was elected an honorary fellow of the American College of Cardiology in 1977, and was given the Carl J. Wiggers Award by the Circulation Group of APS in 1979.

Randall has been active both in national and in local and regional societies and programs. The latter include particularly the Chicago Heart Association and the Illinois section of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine (president, 1959-60). He is a fellow of AAAS. For three years he was a member of the Board of Governors of AIBS (1976-79). For AHA he served on the Scientific Council, the Basic Sciences Council, and the Research Review Committee (1969-75). Elected to membership in APS in 1943, he has long been active in the Temperature Regulation Group (chairman, 1957) and the Circulation Group (chairman, 1963). He was chosen for Council in 1976-80 and as president elect in 1981. He served on the Education Committee from 1963-1970 and later became the first chairman of the Committee on Career Opportunities in Physiology (1979-82), concerned with evaluation of training programs and providing attractive job opportunities for young physiologists. Most recently (1984-) he has been chairman of the Society's Long-Range Planning Committee.

For seven years (1968-74) Randall was a coeditor of the circulation section of the Society's journals. He had earlier (1964-68) served in a similar capacity for Circulation Research. He served the National Board of Medical Examiners on the Physiology Test Committee (1964-68; chairman, 1968) and also was a member of the Advisory Committee for the Medical College Aptitude Test of AAMC. Beginning in 1963 he has been a member of various committees for NIH, including the Heart Program Project Committee (1963-67), a Special Project Committee of the Heart and Lung Institute (1968-72), an ad hoc committee on myocardial infarction (1969-72), an ad hoc committee on electrical excitability of the heart (1971-72), and the Physiological Sciences Advisory Committee of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (1968).

Of his decision to become a physiologist, Randall wrote that it came about simply because the teaching assistantship he needed to take up graduate study happened to be in that discipline.

"At Purdue, I studied under a comparative physiologist, William A. Hiestand, trained at the University of Wisconsin. I was one of his three graduate students. He and I became interested in temperature regulation of birds and constructed small climate chambers that would accommodate different sizes and shapes of the many different species available to us. I exposed hundreds of hens and chicks to hot environments, and recorded respiratory rate and depth, blood pressure and heart rates, deep and surface temperatures, and behavioral reactions and thus published the first scientific paper of its kind (1). Because of my comparative interests, similar experiments were carried out on many avian species, as well as on virtually all orders of reptiles. Plethysmographs were constructed from long pieces of pipes to accommodate garter snakes, rattlers, or Florida blue snakes, or of a metal coffee can to accommodate a turtle. Different gas mixtures were administered with crude localization of chemoreceptors in upper respiratory passages. My dissertation research led to a paper on factors that influence body temperature of birds (2). Commercial chicken farmers noticed our early publications, and I was especially thrilled when an Australian farmer wrote that my paper allowed him to save his flock from heat exhaustion."

"Hiestand was an avid journal reader and inculcated the habit in all his graduate students. I treasure my journal library today and feel privileged to be able to pass it along to my son, David, also a physiologist. I graduated from four years in Hiestand's laboratory with nine publications, including three in the American Journal of Physiology."

"With Ph.D. credentials in comparative physiology, I applied in 1942 for a postdoctoral fellowship with Carl J. Wiggers, and in his laboratory I began a lifetime interest in cardiovascular physiology. At Western Reserve I encountered a veritable beehive of research on hemorrhagic shock. His faculty consisted of A. Sidney Harris, Harold Green, Paul Quigley, and Harold Wiggers, all destined eventually to head departments of their own. Green tutored me in elementary physics, while Harris showed me how his magic little wick electrodes operated to pick up epicardial action potentials, and we collaborated in a project on mechanisms underlying electrocardiographic changes associated with anoxia in the canine heart (3). There was a steady stream of visitors and former fellowsGordon Moe, Louis Katz, Rene Wegria, Jane Sands Robb, Donald Gregg, Samuel Middleton, and dozens of otherswith an equally outstanding group of younger students and fellows, including Robert Alexander, David Opdyke, Matthew Levy, Robert Berne, and Ewald Selkurt. We have enjoyed an esprit de corps that defies both time and advancing technology."

"I was surprised when Wiggers informed me that Alrick Hertzman at St. Louis University wished to recruit a young cardiovascular physiologist for his faculty. The job paid $2,500 a year and would mean that I could be married and begin my own research program. Within a few days I was involved in the intricacies of the photoelectric plethysmograph with which I studied control of cutaneous blood flow (4). A short time later I stumbled onto a method for counting active sweat glands in a specified skin surface area. Iodine had slopped onto my palms (from use in the Miner test for sweating), and while chatting with a colleague I leaned my hands on a sheet of bond paper lying on the desk. On removing my hand I noted a clear palm print consisting of discrete lines of tiny black spots outlining the ridges along my finger pads and palmar surfaces. Each little black spot was an active sweat pore (5)."

Asked about his favorite publications, Randall replied:

"They are all favorites, and I recall anecdotes and incidents relating to each."

"I collaborated with W. F. Alexander, an exceptional neuroanatomist and surgeon, with J. W. Cox, my first Ph.D. student (later, Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy), and with Hertzman to write a paper requested by Wiggers for publication in the first issue of the new journal Circulation Research (6). This led to studies of the distribution of autonomic nerves carrying sweating and cutaneous vasomotor fibers to the upper extremities in humans via electrical stimulation of sympathetic rami of the T1-T2 spinal nerves in surgical patients (7)."

"At Loyola my research on nervous control of the heart provided immediate and exciting results (8). The cardiac nerves had long been known as accelerator nerves, but no one had explained their strongly augmentor action on cardiac contractility, much less their dromotropic influence. Initially we set up optical methods for recording cardiovascular pressure pulses, but we soon adopted electronic transducer and bridge techniques for multiple and simultaneous cardiovascular tracings. Robert Rushmer at the University of Washington was also describing cardiac control experiments similar to mine at APS meetings, and soon Stanley Sarnoff joined the fun to make it a three-ring circus. The years 1956-75 were extremely productive of quality research (12)."

"During the period I organized, edited, and contributed chapters to two books that brought together leaders in research on cardiac innervation (11, 13). The first of these volumes suggested literally hundreds of questions that needed to be answered experimentally, many of which were, in fact, answered when the second book appeared in 1977. A third volume published in 1984 (15) again updated our understanding of this same control system."

Randall never completely relinquished his interest in control of body temperature and, particularly, of sweating. Of the many papers that came from this research, two summary articles may be cited: one on control of sweating (9) and the other on central and peripheral factors in "dynamic" thermoregulation (10).

Simultaneously with his research programs, Randall developed what he has called "aggressive" teaching, in collaboration with Clarence N. Peiss, who accompanied him from St. Louis to Loyola. At the time of their move (1954) many schools were seeking to improve their teaching. Randall wrote:

"Some were introducing teaching machines; some were dropping "wet" laboratories entirely; others were applying concepts of control systems and emphasizing computers rather than animal studies. Problem solving became the magic word. With technical assistance from Robert McCook, a graduate student, we purchased our first Grass model 5 recorder for the student laboratory. With it students obtained records often far better than those in textbooks. Gradually we accumulated Grass recorders for each table of four students and probably were the first department in the world to perform all student laboratory experiments with commercially available electronic recorders. Shortly after, the Hoff-Geddes physiographs were marketed."

As president of APS, Randall was obliged to give more than the usual attention to legislation threatening use of laboratory animals. His past president's address (14) outlined in some detail how operations for coronary artery bypass, as one example, were developed only after generations of investigators had laid a sound foundation in experiments on laboratory animals. He concluded with a judgement that perhaps ninety percent of what is known in modern medicine has developed as a result of fundamental research, most of it in laboratories utilizing animal experiments.

In "retirement," Randall continues his research at Loyola, although he also has an offer of a place at Taylor University when he decides finally to leave his medical school laboratory. He closed his account of his activities by writing, "I anxiously and enthusiastically look forward to each day in the laboratory. I think the Lord still has much for me to do, and I anticipate continuing to be about His business."

Selected Publications

1. Randall, W. C., and W. A. Hiestand. Panting and temperature regulation in the chicken. Am. J. Physiol. 127: 761-767, 1939.

2. Randall, W. C. Factors influencing the body temperature of birds. Am. J. Physiol. 139: 39, 1943.

3. Harris, A. S., and W. C. Randall. Mechanisms underlying electrocardiographic changes observed in anoxia. Am J. Physiol. 142: 452-461, 1944.

4. Hertzman, A. B., W. C. Randall, and K. E. Jochim. The estimation of the cutaneous blood flow with the photoelectric plethysmograph. Am. J. Physiol.. 145: 716-727, 1946.

5. Randall, W. C. Sweat gland activity and changing patterns of sweat secretion on the skin surface. Am. J. Physiol. 147: 391-399, 1946.

6. Randall, W. C., W. F. Alexander, J. W. Cox, and A. B. Hertzman. Functional analysis of the vasomotor innervation in the dog's hind footpad. Circ. Res. 1: 16-26, 1953.

7. Randall, W. C., J. W. Cox, W. F. Alexander, K. B. Coldwater, and A. B. Hertzman. Direct examination of the sympathetic outflows in man. J. Appl. Physiol. 7: 688-698, 1955.

8. Randall, W. C., H. McNally, J. Cowan, L. Caliguiri, and W. H. Rohse. Functional analysis of the cardioaugmentor and cardioacceleratory pathways in the dog. Am. J. Physiol. 191: 213-217, 1957.

9. Randall, W. C. Sweating and its neural control. In: Temperature: Its Measurement and Control in Science and Industry, edited by C. M. Herzfeld. New York: Reinhold, 1962.

10. Randall, W. C., R. O. Rawson, R. D. McCook, and C. N. Peiss. Central and peripheral factors in dynamic thermoregulation. J. Appl. Physiol. 18: 61-64, 1963.

11. Randall, W. C. Past and present hypotheses of cardiac control. In: Nervous Control of the Heart, edited by W. C. Randall. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins, 1965.

12. Randall, W. C., J. A. Armour, W. P. Geis, and D. B. Lippincott. Regional cardiac distribution of sympathetic nerves. Federation Proc. 31: 1199-1208, 1972.

13. Randall, W. C. Changing hypotheses of cardiac control. In: Neural Regulation of the Heart, edited by W. C. Randall. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1977, chapt. 1.

14. Randall, W. C. Crises in physiological research. Physiologist 26: 351-356, 1983.

15. Wehrmacher, W. H., and W. C. Randall. Performance of the heart in health and disease. In: Neural Regulation of the Circulation, edited by W. C. Randall. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1984, p. 3-20.


Randall left Loyola in 1987 to return to his undergraduate alma mater in Indiana, where he was appointed Research Professor. While at Taylor he worked tirelessly to introduce his undergraduate students to the excitement and challenges of research. Walter C. Randall died on August 20, 1993, in Muncie, Indiana.