Michael Foster (physiologist)

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Sir Michael Foster
Michael Foster b1836b.jpg
Michael Foster
Born (1836-03-08)8 March 1836
Huntingdon, England
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
London, England
Nationality British
Fields Physiologist
Institutions University College London
University of Cambridge
Alma mater University College School
Academic advisors Thomas Henry Huxley
William Sharpey
Notable students John Newport Langley
Charles Scott Sherrington
Known for Textbook of Physiology (1876)
Influenced Henry Newell Martin
Keith Lucas

Sir Michael Foster, KCB, DCL, MD (8 March 1836 – 29 January 1907) was an English physiologist.[1]


He was born in Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire, and educated at University College School, London. After graduating in medicine in 1859, he began to practise in his native town, but in 1867 he returned to London as teacher of practical physiology at University College London, where two years afterwards he became professor. In 1870 he was appointed by Trinity College, Cambridge, to its praelectorship in physiology, and thirteen years later he became the first occupant of the newly created chair of physiology in the university, holding it till 1903.[2] One of his most famous students at Cambridge was Charles Scott Sherrington who went on to win the Nobel Prize in 1932.


Sir Michael Foster by John Collier

He excelled as a teacher and administrator, and had a very large share in the organization and development of the Cambridge biological school. From 1881 to 1903 he was one of the secretaries of the Royal Society, and in that capacity exercised a wide influence on the study of biology in Britain. In the 1899 Birthday Honours, he was created KCB,[3] and served as president of the British Association at its meeting at Dover in September 1899.

In the 1900 general election, he was elected to represent the University of London in parliament.[4] Though returned as a Unionist, his political action was not to be dictated by party considerations, and he gravitated towards Liberalism; but he played no prominent part in parliament and at the election of 1906 was defeated.

He was joint editor with E. Ray Lankester of The Scientific Memoirs of Thomas Henry Huxley.[5] His chief writings were a Textbook of Physiology (1876), which became a standard work, and Lectures on the History of Physiology during the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries (1901), which consisted of lectures delivered at the Cooper Medical College, San Francisco, in 1900. He died suddenly in London.

Foster was also the binomial author of many iris species.[6]

One of many irises he introduced includes Iris lineata Foster ex Regel[7][8] (or A.Regel),[9] which was originally described and published in Gartenflora (1887),[7] and later cited in Curtis's Botanical Magazine (1888).[9]

Iris fosteriana was named in 1881, after Sir Michael Foster by Dr Aitchison, and found in Pendjeh, Turkmenistan.[11][12]


  1. "Foster, Sir Michael". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 626.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Foster, Michael (FSTR870M)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. The Edinburgh Gazette: no. 11101. p. 589. 13 June 1899. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 27244. p. 6772. 6 November 1900. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
  5. Addison, Henry Robert; Oakes, Charles Henry; Lawson, William John; Sladen, Douglas Brooke Wheelton (1907). "FOSTER, Sir Michael". Who's Who. Vol. 59. p. 626.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Hybridizer Sir Michael Foster". wiki.irises.org. 18 May 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Iris lineata was originally described and published in Gartenflora XXXXVI. (1887) 201, t. 1244. "Name – Iris lineata Foster ex Regel". Tropicos. Saint Louis, Missouri: Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 15 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Plant Name Details for Iris lineata Foster ex Regel". IPNI. Retrieved 15 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 Joseph Dalton Hooker (1 December 1888). "IRIS Suwarawi". Curtis's Botanical Magazine. Vol. XLIV. London: L. Reeve & Co. p. Tab 7029. Retrieved 15 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Author Query for 'Foster', International Plant Names Index Invalid |mode=CS1 (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Foster, Michael (1945). "Bulbous Irises". Forgotten Books. pp. 44–45. Retrieved 20 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Ray Desmond (25 Feb 1994) Dictionary Of British And Irish Botantists And Horticulturalists Including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers, p. 258, at Google Books


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2F1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica%2FFoster%2C_Sir_Michael "Foster, Sir Michael" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Thomas Henry Huxley
Fullerian Professor of Physiology
Succeeded by
William Rutherford
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir John Lubbock
Member of Parliament for London University
Succeeded by
Sir Philip Magnus