Julius H. Comroe Jr.

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Julius H. Comroe Jr
Born(1911-03-13)March 13, 1911
DiedJuly 31, 1984(1984-07-31) (aged 73)
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania
Scientific career
FieldsRespiratory and cardiovascular physiology
InstitutionsUniversity of Pennsylvania, University of California, San Francisco.

Julius H. Comroe, Jr. (March 13, 1911 – July 31, 1984) was a surgeon, medical researcher, author and educator,[2] described by The New York Times as an "award-winning expert on the functions and physiology of the human heart and lungs".[3] His work contributed to advances in respiratory physiology, cardiology, heart and vascular surgery, and the treatment of pulmonary disease, hypertension and high blood pressure.[3]

Comroe became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in 1936. He was chairman of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the university's Graduate School of Medicine from 1946-1957.[3] From 1957-1973 Comroe served as the founding director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) at the University of California, San Francisco. In 1974 he retired as director and was named the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology.[1][4]

In addition to being a fellow of the American College of Physicians, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Comroe was an Honorary member of the Royal Society of Medicine the American Physiological Society, and The Physiological Society of London. The annual distinguished lectureship for outstanding research in respiratory physiology at the American Physiological Society is named in Dr Comroe’s honor.


Julius Hiram Comroe, Jr. was born in York, Pennsylvania. (Both his father Julius H.Comroe and his older brother Bernard Comroe were medical doctors.) In 1931 he graduated first in his class from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1934, he graduated first in his class from the UPenn Medical School with an M.D. degree. He became an intern at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, intending to become a surgeon, but had to give up that goal after he lost one of his eyes to an infection.[2]


In 1936 Comroe became an instructor at the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine. He was promoted to Associate in 1940 and Assistant Professor in 1942.[5] Working with Carl Frederic Schmidt [de], he carried out generative research work on the mechanisms and control of breathing, identifying carotid and aortic chemoreceptors and their part in the regulation of breathing. His work was considered "the definitive work on the aortic chemoreceptors".[2]

During World War II, between 1944 and 1946, Comroe also worked with the Chemical Warfare Service. For example, he used diisopropyl fluorophosphate as a model for the effects of more lethal nerve gas on the eye.[2]

When the University of Pennsylvania formed the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in the Graduate School of Medicine in 1946, Comroe became both professor and chairman of the new department. Under his direction, it focused on the field of respiratory physiology.[2][6] Between 1946-1957, Comroe continued to study breathing. With his colleagues, he developed scientific instrumentation and methods for evaluating human respiratory performance under normal conditions, while exercising, and during illness. Many of the pulmonary function tests still used are based on this work. Comroe investigated topics including reflex control of breathing, rate and depth of breathing, and the effects of drugs and oxygen. He and anesthesiologist Robert Dunning Dripps showed that the method of manual artificial respiration used at that time was inefficient, which eventually led to its replacement by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.[6]

In 1957 Comroe moved to the University of California, San Francisco to become Director of its new Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) and professor of physiology. From 1957-1973 he continued his research into cardiac and pulmonary function. At the same time, he developed a highly respected program for postdoctoral training and teaching in medicine and physiology. As a medical educator he emphasized the interdisciplinarity of science, the importance of basic research, and the integration of research into clinical departments. In 1974 he stepped down as director and was named the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology.[6]

Comroe published both research papers and books, including The Lung (1955, 1962), Physiology of Respiration (1965, 1974), the series Physiology for Physicians, and Exploring the heart (1983). From 1966-1970 he edited the journal Circulation Research.[5][6] From 1972–1975 he was the editor of the peer-reviewed journal Annual Review of Physiology.[7][8]

Comroe was a founder of the Institute of Medicine (later National Academy of Medicine).[9] He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences,[2] and served on the Medical Board of the National Academy of Sciences.[10] Comroe became a member of the American Physiological Society in 1943, served on its council and committees, and was its president for 1960-1961.[11]

Comroe served on a number of national-level scientific advisory boards, including the National Advisory Heart Council, the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Heart Institute, and the National Advisory Mental Health Council.[5] In 1954, Comroe was appointed to the scientific advisory board of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee.[12] He expressed repeated dissatisfaction with its operations and public statements, and resigned in 1960.[13] Comroe also served on national-level educational committees of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and the American Physiological Society.[5]


  • Comroe, Julius H., ed. (1950). Methods in Medical Research (2 volumes, 1st ed.). Chicago: Year Book Publishers. [2]
  • Comroe, Julius H. (1955). The Lung : clinical physiology and pulmonary function tests (1st ed.). Chicago: Year Book Publishers. (1955, 1962)[4]
  • Comroe, Julius H., Jr. (1965). Physiology of respiration : an introductory text. Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers. ISBN 9780815118244.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) (1965, 1974)[4]
  • Comroe, Julius H. (1983). Exploring the heart : discoveries in heart disease and high blood pressure (1st ed.). New York: Norton. ISBN 9780393017083.[3]
  • Comroe, Julius H. (1977). Retrospectroscope : insights into medical discovery. Menlo Park, Calif.: Von Gehr Press. ISBN 9780960147014.[2]

Awards and distinctions[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Renowned heart and lung specialist Julius Hiram Comroe, Jr., MD, dies". UCSF News. San Francisco: University of California, San Francisco. July 31, 1984. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kety, Seymour S.; Forster, Robert E. (2001). "Julius H. Comroe, Jr.". National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs. Vol. 79. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. pp. 66–03. doi:10.17226/10169. ISBN 978-0-309-07572-5. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d "Julius H. Comroe Jr.; Heart and Lung Expert". The New York Times. August 2, 1984. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  4. ^ a b c "People, Julius Comroe (1911-1984)". A History Of UCSF. University of California San Francisco. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d "News from the American Heart Association". Circulation Research. 17 (6): 565–568. December 1965. doi:10.1161/01.RES.17.6.565. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d Krogh, David. "University of California: In Memoriam, 1986". University of California. Academic Senate. pp. 46–49. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  7. ^ "Preface". Annual Review of Physiology. 33 (1). 1 March 1971. doi:10.1146/annurev.ph.33.030405.100001. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  8. ^ "Preface". Annual Review of Physiology. 37 (1). 1 March 1975. doi:10.1146/annurev.ph.37.030405.100001. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  9. ^ a b Berkowitz, Edward D. (1998). "1 Creating the Institute of Medicine". To Improve Human Health: A History of the Institute of Medicine. Washington, D.C.: NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS. doi:10.17226/6382. ISBN 978-0-309-06188-9. PMID 25101426. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  10. ^ CLARK, EVERT (November 14, 1967). "Medical Board Set Up to Speed Benefits of Research to Public; DOCTORS TO SPEED MEDICAL BENEFITS". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  11. ^ a b c Brobeck, John R. (1987). "Presidents : 33 (1960-61) APS President (1960-1961) Julius H. Comroe, Jr. (1911-84)". History of the American Physiological Society : the First Century, 1887-1987. New York, NY: Springer New York. pp. 171–172. ISBN 9781461475767. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  12. ^ "JOINS TOBACCO RESEARCH; Dr. Comroe, Lung Expert, Will Aid Health Study Board". The New York Times. August 22, 1954. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  13. ^ Bowden, Sue; Forster, Martin; Walsh, Martin (29 June 2007). Co-operation and conflict in the management of a health scare: the work of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, 1953-1964 (PDF). Centre for Historical Economics and Related Research at York.
  14. ^ "New elections to membership in the American College of Physicians". Annals of Internal Medicine. 46 (6): clxxiii. 1 June 1957. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-46-6-clxxiii. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  15. ^ "Julius H. Comroe, Jr". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  16. ^ "Members of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences: 1780–2017" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. p. 119. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  17. ^ a b "List of Distinguished Fellowship Awardees" (PDF). American College of Cardiology. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  18. ^ "Bulletin Briefs". The Campus Bulletin. Vol. 1, no. 5. University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. April 1968. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  19. ^ "AHA Honors Presented During Annual Meeting". Circulation Research. XXIII (December): 811–812. 1968.
  20. ^ "Dr. Julius H. Comroe, Jr. appointed Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology". UCSF News. San Francisco: University of California, San Francisco. February 19, 1974. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  21. ^ "Edward Livingston Trudeau Medalists". American Thoracic Society. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  22. ^ "UCSF former cardiovascular research director receives award from American Lung Association". UCSF News. San Francisco: University of California, San Francisco. July 9, 1974. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  23. ^ "Julius H. Comroe, Jr". UCSF News. San Francisco: University of California, San Francisco. November 21, 1975. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  24. ^ "Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  25. ^ "ACP National Awards" (PDF). American College of Physicians. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  26. ^ "UCSF Medal". Office of the Chancellor. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  27. ^ "Keeping in Touch". Alumni-Faculty Association Bulletin. Vol. 24, no. 1. 1980. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  28. ^ "Keeping in Touch". Alumni-Faculty Association Bulletin. Vol. 25, no. 2. 1981. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  29. ^ "Former head of the Cardiovascular Institute is elected to England's Physiological Society". University Bulletin: A Weekly Bulletin for the Staff of the University of California. Office of Official Publications, University of California. 32 (31): 125. 1983. Retrieved 6 October 2021.

External links[edit]