Knut Schmidt-Nielsen

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Knut Schmidt-Nielsen
Left to right Bodil Mimi Krogh Schmidt-Nielsen (b. 1918), Knut Schmidt-Nielsen (1915-2007), and Barbara Wagner.jpg
Bodil Mimi Krogh Schmidt-Nielsen, Knut Schmidt-Nielsen, and Barbara Wagner.
Born(1915-09-24)September 24, 1915
DiedJanuary 25, 2007(2007-01-25) (aged 91)
Spouse(s)Bodil Schmidt-Nielsen (divorced) Margareta Claesson (m. 1977–his death)
AwardsInternational Prize for Biology (1992)
Scientific career
InstitutionsDuke University

Knut Schmidt-Nielsen (September 24, 1915 – January 25, 2007)[1] was a prominent figure in the field of comparative physiology and Professor of Physiology Emeritus at Duke University.


Born in Trondheim, Norway. He was educated in Oslo and Copenhagen. He became a student in the laboratory of August Krogh in Copenhagen in 1937. Schmidt-Nielsen moved to the United States, where he studied at Swarthmore College, Stanford University, and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.[2]


Schmidt-Nielsen published over 275 scientific papers and wrote the authoritative text on animal physiology. Schmidt-Nielsen is widely recognized as having made significant contributions to ecophysiology. He has been referred to as "the father of comparative physiology and integrative biology"[3] and "one of the all-time greats of animal physiology".[4] He came to Duke University in 1952 and became a James B. Duke Professor in the Department of Biology.

In 1980, Knut Schmidt-Nielsen was elected President of the International Union of Physiological Sciences. He was the founding editor of News in Physiological Sciences. He was a member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (1973), the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (1979), the Royal Society of London, the French Academy of Sciences and the United States National Academy of Sciences.[5][6] Next to the Biological Science building on Duke's campus is a statue of Schmidt-Nielson looking at a camel, honoring his more than twenty years of work studying and dispelling myths on how camels withstand the harsh desert environment.[7] [8]

He was recipient of the 1992 International Prize for Biology awarded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.[9]


  • 1972 How Animals Work Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-09692-8
  • 1975 Animal Physiology: Adaptation and Environment Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-20551-4
  • 1979 Desert animals: Physiological problems of heat and water Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-23850-0
  • 1984 Scaling: Why Is Animal Size So Important? Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-31987-0
  • 1998 The Camel's Nose: Memoirs Of A Curious Scientist Washington, D.C: Island Press. ISBN 978-1-55963-512-7


  1. ^ Vogel, S. (2008). "Knut Schmidt-Nielsen. 24 September 1915 -- 25 January 2007". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 54: 319–331. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2008.0010.
  2. ^ "Animal Physiology Expert Knut Schmidt-Nielsen Dies". Duke University Office of News & Communications. 2007-01-25. Archived from the original on 2010-06-15. Retrieved 2010-03-03.
  3. ^ "MOVERS". Science. 315 (5813): 745c–. 2007. doi:10.1126/science.315.5813.745c. S2CID 220093898.
  4. ^ McNeill Alexander, R. (2007). "Obituary: Knut Schmidt-Nielsen (1915–2007)". Nature. 446 (7137): 744. Bibcode:2007Natur.446..744A. doi:10.1038/446744a. PMID 17429390.
  5. ^ Weibel, E. R. (2007). "Obituary in memoriam Knut Schmidt-Nielsen 24 September 1915 - 25 January 2007". Journal of Experimental Biology. 210 (8): 1299–1301. doi:10.1242/jeb.005306. PMID 17533689.
  6. ^ Trætteberg, Marit. "Knut Schmidt-Nielsen". In Helle, Knut (ed.). Norsk biografisk leksikon (in Norwegian). Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  7. ^ "In Memoriam: Knut Schmidt-Nielsen (September 24, 1915 – January 25, 2007)". ScienceBlogs (SEED Media Group). 2007-04-11. Archived from the original on January 3, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-03.
  8. ^ Tierney Thys. "Curiosity And The Camel". Duke University Alumni Magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-06-10. Retrieved 2010-03-03.
  9. ^ Travis, John (1992-10-23). "Biology: There's Honor Outside Stockholm". Science. 258 (5802): 545. Bibcode:1992Sci...258..545T. doi:10.1126/science.1411565. PMID 1411565.