- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Martin William Flack

Born  1882-03-20
Died  1931-08-16

Related eponyms

British physiologist, born March 20, 1882, Borden, Kent; died August 16, 1931, Halton, England.

Biography of Martin William Flack

Martin William Flack was born in the village of Borden, Kent. His family was poor and he had to support his education by bursaries and scholarships, which he attained throughout his undergraduate career. He commenced studying medicine at Oxford University and then did his clinical work at London Hospital where his potential was recognised by Sir Leonard Hill (1866-1952) and Sir Arthur Keith with whom he collaborated in the work on the sino-auricular node.

He worked with Sir Leonard Hill on the physiology of respiration and following his graduation in 1909 he attained a fellowship which enabled him to work with the German physiologist Hugo Kronecker (1839-1914) in Bern and also with professor Léon Fredericq (1851-1935) in Lüttich, capital of the Belgian province Liège. He was a demonstrator of anatomy at the London Hospital Medical College from 1905-1911, and from 1911 to 1914 lecturer of physiology.

He returned to work with Hill on the physiology of the heart and respiration. From 1914 to 1919 he was on the research staff of the Medical Research Council) which the air ministry had recently established, and in 1919 was appointed director of medical research, Royal Air Force. Here he made a number of notable contributions including the supply of oxygen to pilots who were flying at high altitudes, and in setting up a pro forma for a series of tests to establish the physical fitness of flyers. This approach was adopted by many air forces in different parts of the world. Apart from first discovering the anatomy of the auricular node, he first proved the function of the node by showing that local cooling caused dramatic lowering of the heart rate. As a child, Flack had rheumatic fever, which left valvular lesions, and he developed subacute bacterial endocarditis and after a protracted illness died.


  • A Textbook of Physiology.
    With Sir Leonard Hill. London, 1919.
  • Der Mensch im Flugzeug.
    Handbuch der normalen und pathologischen Physiologie. Volume 15, 1. Berlin, 1930.
  • A. Keith, M. W. Flack:
    The Auriculo-Ventricular Bundle of the Human Heart.
    Lancet, London, 1906, 2: 359.
  • The form and nature of the muscular connections between the primary divisions of the vertebrate heart.
    Journal of Anatomy, London, 1906-1907, 41: 172-189.
    Reprinted in Willius & Keys’ Cardiac classics, 1941, pp. 747-762.
    Keith-Flack node – the sino-atrial node of the heart.

What is an eponym?

An eponym is a word derived from the name of a person, whether real or fictional. A medical eponym is thus any word related to medicine, whose name is derived from a person.

What is Whonamedit?

Whonamedit.com is a biographical dictionary of medical eponyms. It is our ambition to present a complete survey of all medical phenomena named for a person, with a biography of that person.


Whonamedit? does not give medical advice.
This survey of medical eponyms and the persons behind them is meant as a general interest site only. No information found here must under any circumstances be used for medical purposes, diagnostically, therapeutically or otherwise. If you, or anybody close to you, is affected, or believe to be affected, by any condition mentioned here: see a doctor.