John Newport Langley

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John Newport Langley
John Newport Langley2.jpg
Born (1852-11-02)2 November 1852
Newbury, UK
Died 5 November 1925(1925-11-05) (aged 73)
Cambridge, UK
Residence UK
Nationality British
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Known for Autonomic nervous system
Awards Royal Medal (1892)
Scientific career
Fields Physiologist
Institutions University of Cambridge
Academic advisors Michael Foster
Notable students Walter Morley Fletcher
Charles Sherrington

Prof John Newport Langley FRSE LLD (2 November 1852 – 5 November 1925) was a British physiologist.


He was born in Newbury, Berkshire the son of John Langley, the local schoolmaster, and his wife, Mary Groom. He was educated at Exeter Grammar School in Devon. In 1871 he won a place at St John's College in Cambridge University where he graduated MA before continuing multiple postgraduate studies, gaining several doctorates.

He spent his entire career at Cambridge University, beginning as a Demonstrator in lectures in 1875. He began lecturing in Physiology in 1884 and was awarded a professorship in 1903, succeeding Prof Michael Foster.[1]

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1883 and later its vice-president. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1916.[2]

Langley is known as one of the fathers of the chemical receptor theory, and as the origin of the concept of "receptive substance".[3][4]

In 1901, he advanced research in neurotransmitters and chemical receptors, working with extracts from adrenal glands. These extracts elicited responses in tissues that were similar to those induced by nerve stimulation.[5]

He died in Cambridge on 5 November 1925.


  • The Autonomic Nervous System (1921)
  • Elementary Experimental Physiology


A brass plaque to Langley's memory exists in Trinity College Chapel at Cambridge University.[6]


Langley married at St. Mary′s church, Montrose, on 10 September 1902 Vera Kathleen Forsythe-Grant (d.1932), third daughter of Frederick Grant Forsyth-Grant, of Ecclesgreig, Kincardineshire.[7]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X. 
  3. ^ Langley J.N. (1905). "On the reaction of cells and of nerve-endings to certain poisons, chiefly as regards the reaction of striated muscle to nicotine and to curari". J Physiol. 33 (4-5): 374–413. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.1905.sp001128. PMC 1465797Freely accessible. PMID 16992819. 
  4. ^ Maehle A.-H. (2004). ""Receptive Substances": John Newport Langley (1852–1925) and his Path to a Receptor Theory of Drug Action". Med Hist. 48 (2): 153–174. doi:10.1017/s0025727300000090. PMC 546337Freely accessible. PMID 15151102. 
  5. ^ Rubin, Ronald P. (December 2007). "A Brief History of Great Discoveries in Pharmacology: In Celebration of the Centennial Anniversary of the Founding of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics". Pharmacological Reviews. 59 (4): 289–359. doi:10.1124/pr.107.70102. PMID 18160700. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Marriages". The Times (36872). London. 13 September 1902. p. 1.