The research mission of the Department of Physiology is to explore how the complex cellular phenotypes that underlie the integrated functions of the tissues and organ systems comprising higher living organisms, emerge from the genomic code. Our research program extends from computational methods to developmental genetics and post-genomic strategies—from bacteria and yeast, to zebrafish, mouse, and man.
William Guggino, Ph.D.
History of Department Chairs
Hover over each chair to see more information
William B. Guggino
Currently serving as the Director of the Department of Physiology since 2006, Dr. Guggino also serves as director of the NIH Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Cystic Fibrosis Gene Therapy Center and the Cystic Fibrosis Research Development Program. He also co-authored a paper with Peter Agre, M.D. detailing the discovery of the first water channel protein, which won Dr. Agre the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Henry Newell Martin, b. 1848 - d. 1896
In 1876, Henry Newell Martin, a British Physiologist, was appointed to the first professorship of Physiology at JHU. Martin was instrumental in pioneering a new model for graduate education in Biology. Additionally, with the help of W.K. Brooks, a new model for advanced training in the biological sciences, including laboratory training and original research, was created. Primarily, Newell studied cardiology. Most notably, he developed the first isolated mammalian heart lung preparation.
William R. Milnor, b. 1921 - d. 2008
In 1951, Milnor joined the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Department of Medicine as a specialist in internal medicine and cardiology. He was appointed professor of Physiology in 1969, during which time he authored Hemodynamics and Cardiovascular Physiology. In 1980, he assumed the position of Director of Physiology, where he served until 1985.
John W. Littlefield, b. 1925 - d. 2017
John Littlefield assumes the position of Professor and Chairman of Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Pediatrician-in-chief of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Later, in 1985, he succeeds William Milnor as Chairman of the Department of Physiology. His career contributions include: discovering the role of ribosomes in protein synthesis, originating a method to isolate hybrid cells, and developing the technique of prenatal diagnosis by amniocentesis.
William Henry Howell, b. 1860 - d. 1945
In 1893, the year that the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine opened it’s doors, William Henry Howell, American Physiologist who studied under Henry Newell Martin, took the first official seat as Physiology Department Chair. He published 55 papers, as well as his first textbook (versions of which are still used in the curriculum), during his time at Johns Hopkins University, and would also serve as Dean of the Medical School from 1899-1911. A Baltimore native, Howell pioneered the use of heparin as a blood anti-coagulant.
Eli K. Marshall, b. 1889 - d. 1966
In 1917, Eli K. Marshall received his Hopkins M.D. He served as the Physiology Department Chair, succeeding Howell, from 1921 to 1932. Interestingly enough, Marshall had never taken a course in Physiology. The bulk of his research was focused on renal chemistry and physiology. He would also serve as the chair of Pharmacology following his time in Physiology.
Archibald Philip Bard, b. 1898 - d. 1977
In 1933, Bard succeeds Marshall as the Director of the Department of Physiology. Known for his leadership skills, Bard was a student of central nervous system physiology and maintained many intellectual relationships with a wide variety of people. He served during World War I as a member of the American Army Ambulance Corps.
William S. Agnew
William Agnew joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1992, later taking on the role of Director of the Department of Physiology, a position which he held until 2004. Dr. Agnew’s research focuses mainly on the molecular mechanisms regulating the structure and function of ion channels in the human nervous system.
Vernon Benjamin Mountcastle, b. 1918 - d. 2015
A 1942 graduate of the School of Medicine, Mountcastle entered the US Navy in 1943 before he was appointed as a School of Medicine faculty member in 1948, and in 1964 succeeded Philip Bard as the Director of the Department of Physiology. Mountcastle also studied the neurosciences primarily, and in the 1950s, he discovered and characterized the columnar organization of the cerebral cortex.
Peter C. Maloney, b. 1941 – d. 2013
Maloney first came to Hopkins in 1976 as a physiology professor and stayed for 37 years. He was internationally known for his research on cystic fibrosis and protein carriers that move molecules along cell membranes. He served as the Director of Physiology from 2004-2006. Maloney was also associate dean for graduate students for 12 years and established programs to reach out to minority students to encourage them in attending Hopkins University.
The origins of the Department of Physiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine began with H. Newell Martin, Sc.D. (1843-1893) who, in 1883, was Professor of Biology. Martin was a former student of the great 19th century biologist Thomas Huxley, one of the earliest proponents of Darwin’s theory of evolution. He was at that time appointed as the first Professor of Physiology on the Medical School faculty. He organized a physiological laboratory at Johns Hopkins wherein he made some important studies related to the physiology of circulation and established a method for perfusing the isolated mammalian heart.
Johns Hopkins University pioneered a new model for graduate education in biology. Prior to its opening in 1876, opportunities for graduate education in biology were extremely limited in the United States. Under the careful leadership of W. K. Brooks and H. Newell Martin, Johns Hopkins not only provided for the education of many of the first generation of American-trained biologists, but it also developed a new and workable model for advanced training in the biological sciences. This model, formed around laboratory training and original research, was adopted by many American universities by the end of the nineteenth century.
Martin died in 1893, and William Henry Howell, Ph.D. (1860-1945) became the Chair of the first Department of Physiology when the School of Medicine opened in 1893. Howell remained in that position until 1920. He published the Textbook of Physiology for Medical Students and Physicians and authored 55 scientific publications. His research demonstrated that the two lobes of the pituitary are functionally different, and showed the circulatory effects of extracts of the pituitary gland derived from substances entirely from the posterior lobe. He was one of the early scientists to demonstrate the chemical nature of nervous influences controlling the heart rate, and he made important contributions to the study of blood coagulation, including important observations on heparin.
Since then, the department has grown in leaps and bounds in response to the ever changing scientific environment. Advances in technology and research techniques, combined with the diverse background of our scientists and students, have helped maintain the Physiology Departments roots in scientific discovery and education.