W. H. Gaskell

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For the Unitarian minister, see William Gaskell.
Walter Holbrook Gaskell.jpg

Walter Holbrook Gaskell FRS (1 November 1847; Naples – 7 September 1914; Great Shelford) was a British physiologist.[1]

The son of barrister John Dakin Gaskell, he was educated at Highgate School and Trinity College, Cambridge, receiving his BA as a wrangler in 1869 and becoming a Fellow of Trinity Hall.[2][3] He worked in the Physiological Laboratory of the University of Cambridge, focusing on the physiology of the heart and the vascular and nervous systems. His research was central to the understanding of cardiac physiology. Key discoveries included the sequence of cardiac contraction, dual autonomic control of the heart, introduction of the concept of heart block and the experimental demonstration of the myogenic origin of the heartbeat. His research also laid the foundations for investigation into cardiac arrhythmias. He also made progress in mapping the sympathetic nervous system. In 1881, he was the first to describe the effects of extracellular pH on cardiac and vascular tissues.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1882 and gave their Croonian lecture of that year. In 1889 he won their Royal Medal for his contributions both to cardiac physiology and to the anatomy and physiology of the sympathetic nervous system.

He wrote "The Origin of the Vertebrates", published by Longmans, Green, and Co., London, in 1908.

He died at his home The Uplands, Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire on 7 September 1914. He had married Catherine Sharpe Parker in 1875; they had four daughters and a son.[4]


  1. ^ "Gaskell, Walter Holbrook". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 662. 
  2. ^ Ed. Boreham, J.Y. Highgate School Register 1838-1938 (4th ed.). p. 29. 
  3. ^ "Gaskell, Walter Holbrook (GSKL864WH)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  4. ^ "Walter Gaskell and the understanding of atrioventricular conduction and block". American College of Cardiology Foundation. Retrieved 31 January 2011. 
  • JNL (1914–1915) Proc Roy Soc Lond B Biol Sci 88:xxvii–xxxvi (Obituary)
  • Silverman, ME; Upshaw, CB (2002). "Walter Gaskell and the understanding of atrioventricular conduction and block". J Am Coll Cardiol. 39: 1574–1580. doi:10.1016/s0735-1097(02)01839-9. PMID 12020482. 

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