Charles Scott Sherrington

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sherrington, Charles Scott


Born Nov. 27, 1859 (1857 or 1861 according to some sources), in London; died Mar. 4, 1952, in Eastbourne. English physiologist. Fellow of the Royal Society of London (1893) and corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1915).

Sherrington graduated from Cambridge University in 1885. From 1895 to 1913 he was a professor at the University of Liverpool, and from 1913 to 1935, at Oxford University. Sherrington’s research was primarily in the physiology of the central nervous system. Of particular importance were his studies on the laws of spinal reflex action. Sherrington investigated the relationship between the afferent and efferent pathways in the central nervous system, discovered the mechanisms of motor coordination, and formulated the principles of the convergence of sensory impulses at motor neurons, which form a common path. Sherrington determined the function of synapses (a term that he coined) in the interaction of nerve cells, suggested a physiological explanation for the antagonistic relationship existing between muscle groups in executing movements, and described reciprocal innervation. He also advanced a theory on muscle reception and described the interrelations of the cerebral cortex and the motor centers of the spinal cord that regulate the functions of the skeletal muscles. Sherrington’s studies provided new data on the correlation of excitation and inhibition and on the nature and disturbances of muscle tonus. In his theoretical generalizations, Sherrington strove to achieve an understanding of the organism as a whole, and he developed the concept of the integrative action of the nervous system. He assigned to the distant receptors and the brain (“ganglion of the distant receptors”) a decisive role in the integration and control of all the processes in animals and man.

Sherrington established a world-famous school of neurophysiologists, which included R. Granit, D. Denney-Brown, H. Cushing, R. Magnus, A. Fessard, E. Adrian, J. Eccles, and J. Fulton: He won a Nobel Prize in 1932 (with E. Adrian).


“The Correlation of Reflexes and the Principle of the Common Path.” Reports of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1904, vol. 74, pp. 728–41.
“On the Proprioceptive System, Especially in Its Reflex Aspect.” Brain, 1906, vol. 29, pp. 467–82.
Selected Writings. New York, 1940.
In Russian translation:
Integrativnaia deiatel’nost’ nervnoi sistemy. Leningrad, 1969.


Airapet’iants, E., and A. Batuev. “Velikii trud Ch. S. Sherringtona.” In C. Sherrington, Integrativnaia deiatel’nost’ nervnoi sistemy. Leningrad, 1969. Pages 5–16.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.