- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Bayliss William Maddock

Born  1860-05-02
Died  1924-08-27

Related eponyms

    English physiologist, born May 2, 1860, Wednesbury, Staffordshire; died August 27, 1924, London.

    Biography of Bayliss William Maddock

    With the English physiologist Ernest Starling, William Maddock Bayliss was the co-discoverer of hormones. He conducted pioneer research in important areas of physiology, biochemistry and physical chemistry.

    Bayliss was the son of Moses Bayliss, a manufacturer of galvanized goods and founder of the Wolverhampton firm of Bayliss, Jones and Bayliss. William received his early education at a private school in Wolverhampton, Stafforshire, and was then apprenticed to a local general practitioner.

    From 1880 he studied at University College, London, where he, in 1882, took the B.Sc. degree with a scholarship in zoology and anatomy. However, he failed at the second M.B. examination in anatomy and then gave up medical studies to concentrate on physiology.

    In 1882, John Burdon-Sanderson (1828-1906) was appointed to the Waynflete chair of physiology at Oxford, and in 1885 Bayliss followed him to Oxford as an undergraduate of Wadham College. 

    Bayliss took a first class degree in physiology in 1888 and then returned to University College, where, in the meantime, Edward Albert Schäfer, later Sir Edward Albert  Sharpey-Schäfer (1850-1935) had succeeded to the Jodrell chair, the first separate chair of physiology in Britain.

    Bayliss remained at University College for the rest of his life. He became an assistant professor in 1903 and from 1912 to 1924 he was professor of general physiology.

    In 1893 Bayliss married Gertrude Starling, the sister of the great physiologist Ernest Henry Starling (1866-1927). After his father's death in 1895, he returned to live with his family in Hampstead, London. He had three sons and a daughter. Bayliss was well-off financially, he lived a happy married life and his health was excellent until shortly before his death from a blood dyscrasia.

    Bayliss was found of music and played the violin. He was of a merry and gentle disposition, good with his hands, and would accept little help from others, although he gladly gave his own. Photography was more than a hobby for him; the illustrations for his books and papers were his own work.

    Bayliss was elected member of the Physiological Society in 1890. He served as its secretary from 1900 to 1922, and treasurer from 1922 to 1924. He was editor of Physiological abstracts from 1923 to 1924, and joint editor of the Biochemical Journal from 1913 to 1924.

    In 1922 Bayliss visited the United States to deliver the Herter lectures in Baltimore, a Harvey lecture at New York, and to talk to the Research Club at Harvard.

    In 1903, the anti-vivisectionist Stephen William Buchanan Coleridge (1854–1936), secretary of the National Antivivisection Committee, accused Bayliss of having broken the law during an experiment on a dog. Bayliss sued for libel.  The trial, before the lord chief justice, occupied four days and Bayliss won the day, with 2.000 pounds in damages. He presented the money to University College for furtherance of research in physiology. The interest on the capital sum is still used for that purpose.

    During World War I Bayliss served on the Food (War) Committee of the Royal Society, and on the wound Shock Committee of the medical Research Committee. His World War I investigation of wound shock led him to recommend gum-saline injections that were responsible for saving many lives. From 1917 to 1924 he served on the Medical Research Council's committee to study the biological action of light. He visited the front in France in 1917.

    Bayliss' important research concerns many fields: Electrophysiology, the vascular system, intestinal movements, pancreatic secretion, enzyme action, colloids, and war problems. 

    Bayliss’ and Starling’s study in the 1890s of nerve-controlled contraction and dilation of blood vessels resulted in the development of an improved hemopiezometer (a device for measuring  blood pressure). Observations of intestinal movement led to their discovery of the peristaltic wave, a rhythmic contraction that forces forward the content of the intestine.

    Bayliss and Starling are best known, however, for determining, in 1902, the chemical substance that stimulates the secretion of pancreatic digestive juices - the first example of hormonal action. In a famous experiment performed on anesthetized dogs, they showed that dilute hydrochloric acid, mixed with partially digested food, activates a chemical substance in the epithelial cells of the duodenum.

    Bayliss and Starling coined the term hormone (Greek hormone, "to set in motion") to describe specific chemicals, such as secretin, that stimulates an organ at a distance from the chemical's site of origin.

    Bayliss received many honours and awards and in 1922 was created a Knight Bachelor.  

    «It is not going too far to say that the greatness of a scientific investigator does not rest on the fact of his having never made a mistake, but rather on his readiness to admit that he has done so, whenever the contrary evidence is cogent enough.»
    Principles of General Physiology, Preface.


    •  On the physiology of the depressor nerve.
        The Journal of Physiology, Oxford  1893, 14: 303.

    •  On the origin from the spinal cord of the vaso-dilator fibres of
       the hind-limb, and on the nature of these fibres
        Reprinted from The Journal of physiology, London, volume 26, No. 3, 1901.

    •  On the local reaction of the arterial wall to changes in the
       internal pressures
    . The Journal of Physiology, Cambridge, 1902, 28: 220.

    •  Die Innervation der Gefässe. Ergebnisse der Physiologie,
        Wiesbaden : Verlag von J. F. Bergmann, 1906, 5: 319-346.

    •  The Nature of Enzyme Action.
        London, Longmans, Green, and Company, 1908.

    •  Principles of General Physiology.
        London, Longmans, Green, and Company, 1915. 3rd edition, 1922;
        Translated into German.

    •  The Physiology of Food and Economy in Diet.
        London, Longmans, Green, and Company, 1917.

    •  Intravenous Injections in Wound Shock: Being the Oliver-Sharpey Lectures
        Delivered before the Royal College of Physicians of London in May 1918.
        London: Longmans, Green.

    •  The Colloidal State in Its Medical and Physiological Aspects.
        London: Frowde; Hodder & Stoughton;
        in the series: Oxford Medical Publications, 1923.

    •  The Vaso-Motor system. London 1923.

    Biographical etc:

    •  Encyclopædica Britannica, Chicago, 15th edition 1986.

    •  Familiar Medical Quotations.Edited y Maurice B. Strauss.
        Little, Brown and Company (Inc).  Boston, 1968.

    Charles Coulston Gillispie, editor in chief:
    •  Dictionary of Scientific Biography.
        Charles Scribner’s Sons. New York, 1970.

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