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J Med Biogr. 2008 Nov;16(4):221-6. doi: 10.1258/jmb.2008.008009.

Sir Michael Foster MD FRS (1836-1907): the rise of the British school of physiology.

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In 1867 William Sharpey (1802-80), Professor of General Anatomy and Physiology at University College, London, appointed Michael Foster to the unique post of Teacher of Practical Physiology; in Britain the study of experimental physiology was dormant. In 1870 Foster accepted a Praelectorship in Physiology at Trinity College, Cambridge, and soon established a school of physiology. He was the first Cambridge Professor of Physiology (1883-1903). Foster, a great teacher, had a remarkable ability to attract talented students and to inspire them to undertake research. He himself took inspiration from the scientific philosophy of Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95) and of Claude Bernard (1813-78). Foster was active in the foundation of the Physiological Society (1876), and founded and edited the Journal of Physiology (1878). He was interested in the scientific training of medical students and wrote a highly lauded Text Book of Physiology (1877). Physiology became a profession in its own right and British physiologists were in the vanguard of research.

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