American Physiological Society

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The American Physiological Society (APS) was founded in 1887 with 28 members.Citation needed Of them, 21 were graduates of medical schools, but only 12 had studied in institutions that had a professor of physiology. Today, the APS has 10,500 members, most of whom hold doctoral degrees in medicine, physiology or other health professions.Citation needed APS's mission then, as now, is to support research, education, and circulation of information in the physiological sciences.

The American Physiological Society was founded at a time when very few physiological laboratories existed in America and there were few investigators. The newly established society was one of the earliest national disciplinary societies in the sciences, the first society in the biomedical sciences, and the first to require its members to publish original research. The stated object of the Society was to promote the advancement of physiology and to facilitate discourse among American physiologists. Even in 1887 there was a conscious effort to ensure representation of all areas within physiology, encompassing topics as diverse as neurology, psychology, ophthalmology, pathology and therapeutics, as well as plant physiology and animal biology. Today there are a variety of membership categories for those at all interest levels and ages.

Nobel Prizes for Physiology[edit]

Since it was founded in 1887, the APS has had 86 presidents lead the organization, beginning with founder Henry Bowditch and continuing through its current president, Kim E. Barrett, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine in La Jolla, California. During a similar period, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has recognized scientists in the field of physiology by awarding the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The first physiologist to receive the award was the Russian Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, who won the coveted award in 1904 "in recognition of his work on the physiology of digestion, through which knowledge on vital aspects of the subject has been transformed and enlarged."

Americans first won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1934. It was for a dazzling cure based on luck and error. Harvard clinicians George R. Minot and William P. Murphy joined George Whipple, a Rochester pathologist and, using the wrong animal model, found a cure for pernicious anemia. Since then, an additional 29 physiologists, 7 of whom were American physiologists, have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on 24 distinct achievements in the field.


The APS is governed by an elected Council consisting of the President, the President-Elect, the immediate Past President, and nine Councillors. Management of the affairs of the Society is the responsibility of a full-time Executive Director, appointed by and responsible to the Council. The Society maintains a staff and offices on the campus of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) in Bethesda, Maryland. The Society conducts its operations based on a Constitution and Bylaws, as given in the Society's Operational Guide. As a nonprofit scientific organization, the Society holds tax-exempt status. The organization is managed by Executive Director Martin Frank, PhD., a physiologist by training.

History and activity[edit]

The first regular meeting of the APS at which papers and demonstrations were presented was held in Washington, DC, in September 1888 in conjunction with the newly formed Congress of American Physicians and Surgeons.

The first 25 years of the APS’s existence were dedicated to the organized effort to advance teaching and research via mutual cooperation. These efforts resulted in a comprehensive textbook of physiology, authored by 10 members of the APS, as well as the first publication of the American Journal of Physiology in 1898.

Over the next 25 years, physiology became an established profession. Full-time physiologists were at last considered important members of the faculty of medical schools and biology departments, and both teaching and research became standard and traditional occupations for physiologists.

Throughout the mid-1900s, there was remarkable expansion within the field of physiology, and especially in research. Research topics expanded along with new types of affordable equipment and research results were expected of every teacher and graduate student.

Since the 1960s, there has been increasingly deep specialization in research and teaching. For example, instead of being recognized as a physiologist, an individual was recognized as a neurophysiologist or vascular physiologist.

The Society has many awards, including the Horace W. Davenport Distinguished Lecturer,[1] the Walter B. Cannon Award,[2] and Arthur C. Guyton Award.[3]


The American Physiological Society publishes both journals and books as a nonprofit publisher.

There are 14 scholarly, peer-reviewed journals covering specialized aspects of physiology. Ten of the journals are published twice monthly. All told, APS publishes some 3,100 original peer-reviewed articles annually, totaling approximately 32,000 pages per year.


Members can affiliate with one of twelve disciplinary sections composed of members that share a common interest. The sections are Cardiovascular, Cell and Molecular Physiology, Central Nervous System, Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism, Environmental and Exercise Physiology, Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, Neural Control and Autonomic Regulation, Renal Physiology, Respiration, Teaching of Physiology and Water and Electrolyte Homeostasis. Each member is asked to designate one primary, and two secondary section affiliations. Sections have their own internal governance.


The APS has a variety of membership categories to accommodate all interest levels. Regular membership is for individuals conducting original research in physiology. Affiliate membership is for individuals interested in physiology but without the evidence of scholarly work. Graduate Student membership is for any student engaged in physiological work that will culminate in a doctoral degree. Undergraduate Student membership is for individuals working toward an undergraduate degree that will eventually lead to work in physiology or a related field.


The American Physiological Society provides its membership with opportunities to be involved with the Society through service on its various committees. The Committees are: Animal Care and Experimentation, Awards, Career Opportunities in Physiology, Chapter Advisory Committee, Committee on Committees, Communications, Conferences, Daggs Award, Education, Finance, International Physiology, Joint Program, Physiologists in Industry, Membership, Perkins Memorial Fellowship, Porter Physiology Development, Public Affairs, Publications, Section Advisory, Senior Physiologists, Trainee Advisory, and Women in Physiology.


The American Physiological Society sponsors a number of scientific meetings each year. Experimental Biology, the APS annual meeting, is conducted jointly with other FASEB member societies. In addition to its annual meeting, specialized APS Conferences are held throughout the year and focus on designated areas of physiological research. The spring annual meeting, Experimental Biology, is convened jointly with other biomedical societies. This multi-society interdisciplinary, biomedical, and scientific meeting features plenary and award lectures, symposia, oral and poster sessions, a placement center, and an exhibit of scientific equipment, supplies, and publications.[4]


External links[edit]