Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Cannon, Walter Bradford from The Columbia Encyclopedia

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.


Summary Article: Cannon, Walter Bradford
from Chambers Biographical Dictionary

1871-1945

US physiologist

Born in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, he was associated with Harvard University for most of his career. He investigated many physiological problems, including digestion (using X-rays to study the movement of barium in the alimentary tract), and argued that the sympathetic nerves prepared an animal for "fight or flight", through increasing heart rate, blood pressure etc, with the two branches of the autonomic system acting together to maintain a large number of physiological functions, which he named homeostasis. During World War I, he studied the mechanism of traumatic shock on the battlefield, and in 1939 discovered sympathin, a stimulant for certain organs. After the Spanish civil war he helped to find posts for scientists and physicians who opposed Franco, and also assisted many victims of Nazi Germany. His death at the age of 73 was the result of a neoplasm caused by exposure to X-rays during his research.

© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2011

Related Articles


Full text Article Cannon, Walter Bradford
Biographical Dictionary of Psychology

Born : 1871, Prairie du Chein, Wisconsin, USA Died : 1945, Franklin, New Hampshire, USA Nat : American Ints : Physiology Educ :...

See more from Credo