Sir Henry Hallett Dale

Elected in 2013

Born on 9 June 1875 in London, UK
Died on 23 July 1968 in Cambridge, UK


  • Dale made significant breakthroughs in the study of naturally occurring substances called alkaloids that are found in ergot, a fungal growth that can ruin rye crops. His fundamental discoveries helped define chemical transmission as the mode of signalling between nerves, and the central role of histamine in allergic reactions
  • His work culminated in him being jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1936 with his life-long friend Otto Loewi "for their discoveries relating to chemical transmission of nerve impulses"
  • He graduated in Physiology from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1900 but later qualified in medicine in 1909. While still studying medicine, he joined the Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratories and was appointed Director of these laboratories by the age of 31
  • He was one of the three founders of the British Pharmacological Society, who were elected to develop the Society’s constitution at a meeting held at Wadham College in Oxford on Friday 3 July 1931 
  • He also served in leading roles for the Wellcome Trust, the Royal Institution and the Royal Society

Personal life

  • Dale described his early education as “remarkably casual and opportunist” but was inspired to pursue science by Edward Albert Butler, a distinguished zoologist and Vice Principal at his school
  • He has described how, at the age of just 13 years old, he formed with his two brothers “a, perhaps, rather priggish little ‘Society”, in which we met and read papers, or lectures to one another”
  • During World War II, he served on several Advisory Committees to the Government. He was knighted in 1932 and awarded the UK’s highest honour, the Order of Merit, in 1944

Published: 05 Sep 2013 in Pharmacology Hall of Fame