Cannon, Walter Bradford

Cannon, Walter Bradford,

1871–1945, American physiologist. While still a medical student at Harvard, Cannon was the first to demonstrate (1897) that bismuth could be utilized as a contrast medium in the roentgenologic examination of the gastrointestinal tract. His interest in the physiological effects of emotional stimuli, especially on digestion, led to the publication in 1919 of Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage. He later concentrated his attention on the adrenal glands and by 1929 was emphasizing the emergency function of these glands in meeting vital threats to the body and in maintaining the equilibrium of the many processes of the organism. In 1932, while professor of physiology at Harvard, he introduced the important concept of homeostasis.

Cannon, Walter Bradford


Born Oct. 19, 1871, in Prairie du Chien, Wis.; died Oct. 1, 1945, in Franklin, N.H. American physiologist and doctor of medicine (1900).

Cannon graduated from Harvard University in 1896. He was a professor of physiology at the Harvard Advanced Medical School from 1906 to 1942. In 1897 he pioneered the use of the X-ray method in his research on the motor function of the gastrointestinal tract. His principal works were devoted to neurohumoral regulation of functions, the role of the sympathetic nervous system and hormones in the formation of emotions, and internal equilibrium of the body, which he named homeostasis (1929). He elaborated the toxemic theory of shock and made a substantial contribution to the chemical theory of the transmission of the nerve impulse; he also investigated the change in reactivity of denervated muscles.

An antifascist, Cannon was a progressive public figure in the USA. He corresponded with I. P. Pavlov. He became an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1942.


The Wisdom of the Body. New York, 1939.
The Way of an Investigator. New York, 1945.
In Russian translation:
Fiziologiia emotsii. Leningrad, 1927.
Problema shoka. Moscow-Leningrad, 1943.
Mentioned in ?