Corneille Heymans

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Corneille Heymans
Corneille Heymans nobel.jpg
Born (1892-03-28)28 March 1892
Ghent, Flanders, Belgium
Died 18 July 1968(1968-07-18) (aged 76)
Knokke, Flanders, Belgium
Nationality Belgium
Fields Physiology
Institutions Ghent University
Alma mater Ghent University
Doctoral students Paul Janssen
Known for Vascular Presso- and Chemo-Receptors in Respiratory Control (blood pressure)
Notable awards Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (1938)

Corneille Jean François Heymans (28 March 1892 – 18 July 1968) was a Belgian physiologist. He studied at the Jesuit College of Saint Barbara and then to Ghent University, where he obtained a doctor's degree in 1920.[1]

Heymans won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1938 for showing how blood pressure and the oxygen content of the blood are measured by the body and transmitted to the brain.

Early life and education

After graduation Heymans worked at the Collège de France (under Prof. E. Gley), the University of Lausanne (under Prof. M. Arthus), the University of Vienna (under Prof. H. H. Meyer), University College London (under Prof. E. H. Starling) and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (under Prof. C. F. Wiggers).[1] In 1922 Heymans became Lecturer in Pharmacodynamics at Ghent University, and in 1930 succeeded his father, Jean-François Heymans, as Professor of Pharmacology, as well as being appointed Head of the Department of Pharmacology, Pharmacodynamics, and Toxicology; and Director of the J. F. Heymans Institute.[1]


Heymans was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1938 for showing how blood pressure and the oxygen content of the blood are measured by the body and transmitted to the brain.

Heymans accomplished this by using two dogs, one of which was connected to its body only by nerves, and the second of which was used to cross-perfuse or supply blood to the first dog's head. Heymans noted that the first dog's upward and downward cardiovascular reflex arc traffic were carried by its own vagus nerves, and agents introduced to the second dog's blood, which served the first dog's brain, had no effect. He used a similar experiment to demonstrate the role of peripheral chemoreceptors in respiratory regulation, for which he received his Nobel Prize.[2]

He was the Editor-in-Chief of Archives Internationales de Pharmacodynamie et de Therapie for many years. His memberships included the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Academie des Sciences, and the Royal Society of Arts.[3]

The group of physiopharmacologists working under Heymans advice at Ghent University were looking for the anatomical basis of this respiratory reflex at the carotid sinus. It was necessary that the Spanish neurohistologist Fernando de Castro (1898-1967) described in detail the innervation of the aorta-carotid region, circumscribing the presence of baroreceptors to the carotid sinus, but that of chemoreceptors to the carotid body, for the Belgian group to move their focus from the first to the very small second structure to physiologically demonstrate the nature and function of the first blood chemoreceptors.[4] The contribution of the young De Castro, maybe the last direct disciple of Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934; awarded the 1906 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine) was forgotten at that time, but it is world-wide recognized[citation needed] that he deserved to share the Nobel Prize with Heymans, his colleague and friend.

Personal life

Heymans married Berthe May, an ophthalmologist, in 1929 and had four children. He died in Knokke from a stroke.

Honours and awards


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Corneille Jean François Heymans – Biography". Nobel Media. Retrieved 2 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Boron, Walter F. and Emile L. Boulpaep. Medical Physiology. Saunders, 2012, p. 555.
  3. Chen, K. K. (ed.) (1969) The first sixty years 1908–1969, p.145, The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics .
  4. de Castro, F. (2009) Towards the sensory nature of the carotid body: Hering, De Castro and Heymans. Front. Neuroanat. 3: 23 (1-11) (doi:10.3389/neuro.05.023.2009).

External links