Tuesday 25 September 2018

Through the Lion Gate. A History of Berlin Zoo by Gary Bruce. Oxford University Press 2017

Readers of books on the history of zoos are looking for different things. Some want a social history of a zoo and its place in the society of the day; some an account of the zoo in terms of its purpose at the time, i.e. the display of animals for education and/or entertainment and its breeding record; others an account of a zoo’s internal workings, architecture, policies and politics while others delight in a lighter story of individual animals and their relations with their keepers. This book falls firmly into the former camp. I can understand why that is the case because Berlin Zoo has a very dark history. It did not just exist during the Nazi regime—it was part of that regime and nearly completely destroyed as part of that regime.

The author has brought to bear his obviously great knowledge of the modern history of Germany on what is a thorough study of the history of Berlin Zoo and of how it came to have iconic rôle in the social life of the city. What makes the book even more remarkable is that the author ‘was not permitted to view documents held by Berlin Zoo’. I found that statement hard to take in, indeed I had to read the whole sentence twice. A respected academic historian of Germany was not given access to the Zoo’s archives is to me unfathomable and unforgivable. However, it becomes clear at the heart of this book that there has been an unwillingness to face up to what happened to the Zoo under the Nazi regime and the foul people involved in its running, including Lutz Heck, its Director. The emergence of their particular brand of eugenics, which ignored environment as a determinant of phenotype, is covered, if not in those terms.

The truth about Lutz Heck (1892-1983) was slow to emerge. In the 1960s, magazine articles describing his efforts to breed back the aurochs and wild horse by crossing domestic breeds with ‘primitive’ features made no mention of his past in the Nazi party or of his political responsibilities for nature, conservation and hunting in the conquered lebensraum to the east of Germany. Much has been made of his regime-supported but actually rather pathetic efforts to recreate for Germany the great wild beasts that occupied its original grasslands and forests. Heck’s efforts to educate and enthuse the young about the natural world, a trait common at the apex of the Nazi hierarchy, just goes to demonstrate that an interest in animals, their conservation, their protection and even bunny-hugging sentimentality—as well as a compulsion to control the lives of other people—can pop up right along the political spectrum from the loony left to the idiotic right.

Bruce also describes, at length, the displays, not confined to Berlin, of human natives of other parts of the world in regular exhibitions at the Zoo. These ethnographic shows brought in the crowds and the money (the Zoo was often short of money in the financial turmoil of the inter-war years) but there was no evidence that they were staged or visited because of any special feelings of racial superiority at the time. Curiosity about how other people lived seemed to be the motivation of the visitors, a curiosity satisfied in the 21st Century by well-paid-for in-situ demonstrations of traditional dancing, singing and village life to the passengers of visiting cruise ships from Shetland to Samoa.

There are parts of the book I did not find convincing. It seems impossible to escape the views of Harriet Ritvo in books about zoos written by professional historians. Her book, The Animal Estate, published in 1987 has been highly influential but I must say I disagreed then with much that she had written and I disagree with it now. In the early years, Berlin, along with other German zoos, was playing catch-up, particularly with London. Bruce falls into line with Ritvo in equating London Zoo’s history with its wish to display imperial superiority. This is not the place to argue the contrary but it is worth pointing out that the British Empire provided a network through which animals could be obtained. But London Zoo was obtaining animals from all parts of the world; the Empire had no monopoly on ‘new and curious objects of the animal kingdom’, just a whole lot of people riding the crest of the wave of interest in natural history that swept through Victorian Britain. It is also worth noting that the architecture of early- and mid-Victorian London Zoo was hardly imperial; modified domestic and garden buildings best describes the animal housing*.

A bonus to the book is the inclusion of the zoo built in East Berlin during the 1950s as a paean to the delights of communism.

It is difficult to criticise a book that has involved so much research across the whole history of Germany and Berlin. But I do object to some of the terminology, in particular the use of ‘euthanization’. Animals were killed. Full stop.

In conclusion I think this book will satisfy those involved in ‘human-animal studies’ but leave those seeking information on Berlin Zoo as a zoo wanting much more. Still to be answered are such questions as: how innovative and influential has Berlin been in advancing wild animal husbandry? How did the senior staff of Berlin Zoo, drawn, like Lutz Heck, from the descriptive academic zoology of the day, learn how to cope with the requirements of living animals—an entirely different sphere of activity?

†Not to be confused with his brother Heinz Heck (1894-1982), Director of Munich Zoo, who, as Bruce relates, did not join the Nazi party. He used one of the Zoo’s elephants to clear an overturned tram car left by the retreating Wehrmacht to slow the advance of American troops in 1945.

*Guillery P. 1993. The Buildings of London Zoo. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

‘Go extinct' or 'Become extinct'

The week before last the pens of the retired admirals of Budleigh Salterton were spluttering their contents onto paper. The Times, in an obituary, had described H.M.S. Hood as a ‘battleship’. As every schoolboy knew, Hood, blown apart in that encounter with Bismarck and Prinz Eugen in the Denmark Strait on 24 May 1941, was not a battleship—she was a battlecruiser.

On a much lesser scale in the same week, there were those of us grating at the receipt of a society newsletter. Apart from the usual corporate managerialist claptrap on ‘strategies’ which divert so much effort from the organisation doing its real job, it contained the phrase: ’to stop wild animals going extinct’.

There have been discussions on ‘becoming extinct’ and ‘going extinct’. As numerous people have pointed out, there is nothing wrong with using the verb ‘go’ with some adjectives. However, ‘extinct’ is an absolute term; there are no shades of extinction, just like ‘complete’, ‘perfect’ or ‘certain’. Something can ‘become complete’, ‘become perfect’, ‘become certain’ or 'become extinct'; nobody, surely would write ‘go complete’, ‘go perfect’, ‘go certain’—or ‘go extinct’.

If I see or hear ‘go extinct’ again I will go mad.

Dodo by Roelant Savery (late 1620s)--before it became extinct

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Ultraviolet Exposure of Insects and Vitamin D Synthesis. An intriguing study from 1934 is answered in 2018

Earlier in the year I was looking up articles in old magazines when I my eye shot towards a tiny snippet at the foot of a page:

VIOLET RAYS FOR MEALWORMS:—Reptile fanciers may be interested to learn that, according to a report in “The News Chronicle,” experiments have shown that live mealworms on which many of the Zoo animals are fed, prove far more beneficial if reared in artificial sunshine. (The Aquarist, March-April 1934, page 14)

The reason for my interest was that the finding implied that the mealworms kept under ultraviolet light were making Vitamin D. But insects do not synthesise Vitamin D; or do they?

I searched the scientific literature but could find no further information. The article in The Aquarist appeared on a page devoted to news from the Zoological Society’s Aquarium and ‘the Zoo” referred to is clearly London. I had no access to News Chronicle archives and put a copy of the intriguing report aside as ‘unsolved’.

For reasons that will become obvious further into this article, a few days ago I realised that the news from London Zoo would probably have appeared in a press release from the Zoo early in 1934 and that other newspapers could have carried the same story. The Zoo bombarded the newspapers of the day with stories about the animals, the keepers and the visitors. Some newspapers even had designated zoo correspondents such was the interest of the public in the Zoo and all its works. I searched the online British Newspapers Archive not expecting a great deal since its coverage is less extensive than was promised at its launch. However, my gloomy prediction was wrong. An article from the Daily Herald (12 January 1934) appeared on my screen:

     Several of the animals at the Zoo are now having their food treated by artificial sunshine. Milk treated in this way is being given to the two orphan nilghaie antelopes recently born at the zoo. They are fed from the bottle twice daily in the presence of visitors. Experiments have shown that even live mealworms, on which many of the Zoo animals are fed, prove far more beneficial if irradiated. Monkeys fed on mealworms kept under ordinary sunless conditions were found to be more liable to rickets than those given mealworms reared in artificial sunshine.

In the 1930s Vitamin D and ultraviolet radiation were hot topics in research. They are also in the public eye. Rickets were a scourge and even in the 1960s a walk in the industrial cities of the north of England soon revealed reminders of its effect on the skeleton in the form of the bent legs of old ladies who, in those days, would not be seen dead in trousers.

The news report from London Zoo showed aspects of the research of the previous 20 years*. Ultraviolet irradiation of some human foods produces vitamin D, milk, for example. That would be the reason for exposing milk to UV lamps for feeding to young animals like the Nilgai. Was it supposed at the Zoo that the vegetable matter on which mealworms feed were producing Vitamin D and that the mealworms then ingested and retained the vitamin? Or did they think that the mealworms themselves were synthesising Vitamin D, like mammals exposed to sunlight?

I do not know then answer to these questions. A search of the reports in the archives of ZSL may provide some answers along with identifying whose idea it was to try ultraviolet irradiation of mealworms. My guess is that it was a continuation of the work of Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell FRS and Joan Procter (who had died in 1931) who were interested in the practical benefits of ultraviolet light in improving the health of animals in the Zoo.

Mealworms, the larvae of Tenebrio molitor

The importance of ultraviolet and/or Vitamin D for reptiles in captivity has been recognised for decades. They, like mammals, can obtain their Vitamin D from their food or from synthesis in the skin exposed to ultraviolet. However, it was soon established that the common insects farmed for live food for reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals and some fish had as well as low calcium a very low Vitamin D content. Supplements for reptiles have been provided by, for example, shaking a powder on their live insect prey or by putting minerals and vitamins into the insect’s food, thereby ‘gut loading” the soon-to-be-eaten insect. But, even then, special ultraviolet-emitting lamps still appear essential for the health of many species.

Having put the report in The Aquarist aside, I was astonished to see a paper published in July reporting that mealworms and other insects do synthesise Vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet rays. In four insect species farmed in the absence of ultraviolet radiation, exposure to ultraviolet dramatically increased their vitamin D content. The effect varied between species but it is interesting to note that increases in both Vitamin D3 and Vitamin D2 (again with variation between species) were involved. The synthesis of Vitamin D3 is characteristic of vertebrates; D2 of plants, yeasts and fungi.

From Oonincx et al. 2018

The effect of ultraviolet was rapid, the concentration of Vitamin D3 in mealworms (the larvae of a flour beetle, Tenebrio molitor) rising steadily during 8 hours of continuous exposure.

From Oonincx et al. 2018

The work of the Dutch-led team who did this research shows the practical benefit of ultraviolet irradiation of farmed insects for feeding wild animals in captivity as well as explaining reports of high Vitamin D3 in some species of insects collected in the wild, i.e. exposed to sunlight. However, it raises as many questions as it answers. Previously, it has been argued that Vitamin D3 is something special to vertebrates, closely involved in the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus needed for a bony skeleton. So what is it doing in insects? One sure bet is that it isn’t being produced for the benefit of vertebrate predators. And if it can be synthesised by insects what about other invertebrates?

Vitamin D3 is just the precursor of the active molecule calcitriol, the synthesis of which includes several stages and different organs. Another key question is whether insects have the biochemical pathways to produce the molecule that is active in vertebrates. With that information it might be possible to infer whether Vitamin D in insects may be involved in those processes not concerned with calcium and bone in which it has been implicated, such as programmed cell death and innate immunity, in vertebrates. A whole new field of comparative endocrinology (the physiologically active form of Vitamin D is usually considered nowadays as a hormone) could be opening up.

Whatever the answers it is interesting that the work on ultraviolet irradiation of mealworms at London Zoo reported in the British press in 1934 was forgotten and only 84 years later has the question been raised again—and answered.

*Rajakumar K, Greenspan SL, Thomas SB, Holick MF. 2007. Solar. Ultraviolet Radiation and Vitamin D. A historical perspective. American Journal of Public Health 97, 1746-1754.
†Oonincx DGAB, Keulen P van, Finke MD, Baines FM, Vermeulen M, Bosch G. 2018. Evidence of vitamin D synthesis in insects exposed to UVb light. Scientific Reports 8:10807. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-29232-w 1 

Saturday 8 September 2018

Crimson Finch - a beautiful Australian bird

I couldn’t resist taking video of Crimson Finches while birdwatching along the edge of Lily Creek Lagoon in Kununnura, on the eastern edge of the Kimberley in Western Australia earlier this year.

The Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) occurs in tropical Australia and a small area of New Guinea. ‘Finch’ is of course a misnomer. It, along with all Australian ‘finches’ is an estrildid, like the waxbills of Africa. Seed forms the bulk of their diet but insects, as a richer protein supply, are taken in the breeding season. All the books say they occur along water courses and those in the video were in the thick vegetation surrounding the lagoon.

The males in particular were shining in the sunlight and were living up to their specific name of ‘phaeton’ - Greek for radiant or shining. Three subspecies have been defined and the ones we saw are in the range of N. phaeton phaeton.

Here is the distribution map of the species adapted from the late Derek Goodwin’s book, Estrildid Finches of the World, published in 1982 by the British Museum (Natural History):

Friday 7 September 2018

Genomic signatures of human commensalism in House Sparrows; but what about urban Tree Sparrows?

News media have been reporting the results of a paper published recently on the genome of the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)*. It is likely that commensal House Sparrows moved into Europe as agriculture spread. By comparing the genomes of a population of the species that is not commensal with ones from those that are, two distinctive signatures of positive selection associated with commensalism were found. One signature included a gene involved in development of the craniofacial region and skull the other a gene linked to starch digestion, as in, the authors noted, the domestication of dogs and the human population during the agricultural revolution of the Stone Age. It would appear that commensal House Sparrows adapted to eating cereal seeds.

Here's a male House Sparrow

Embed from Getty Images Male House Sparrow

Those of us who live or have lived in parts of Asia, will twitch a little at these news report because the commensal sparrow is not the House Sparrow but the Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus). That realisation often comes as a shock to birdwatchers from Europe who step out of their hotels in the heat of Hong Kong.

And here's a Tree Sparrow

Embed from Getty Images

So, if the authors of the paper on the genome of the House Sparrow extend their work to the Tree Sparrow would they find the same signatures of human commensalism? Anybody taking bets?

*Ravinet M, Elgvin TO, Trier C, Aliabadian M, Gavrilov A, Sætre G-P. 2018. Signatures of human-commensalism in the house sparrow genome. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285: 20181246. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.1246 

Thursday 6 September 2018

Professor Harry Norman Green in a tragic aircraft accident in 1927, says Wikipedia. NO, it was a different Harry Norman Green, of the Royal Aircraft Establishment

In researching the story of Professor Harry Norman Green and his work on traumatic shock during the Second World War I came across an intriguing hit in a Google search of his name. The seemingly well-researched and referenced article on Wikipedia identified him as the Harry Norman Green who was involved in a tragic aeroplane accident in 1927. However, a little more research shows this was NOT ‘our’ Harry Green, then clinical assistant to Dr (later Sir) Edward Mellanby, Professor of Pharmacology in Sheffield, but somebody else of the same name, in his case a scientific civil servant who developed techniques for navigation and safer night flying in the 1930s.

Western Daily Press
14 November 2007
British Newspaper Archives
In short, on 9 November 1927, Flying Officer Campbell Mackenzie-Richards, the pilot of a Bristol F2b fighter, was flying in the dark from Croydon aerodrome, where he had been testing experimental navigation equipment, to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. He had a defective compass and could find neither Farnborough nor, on turning back, Croydon. By then he was low on fuel and  told his observer to bail out using a parachute; this the observer did and landed safely. The pilot, however, was killed, with parachute apparently open, after he jumped at, it was believed, too low an altitude. The plane crash a short distance away. Mackenzie-Richards, a well known test pilot and air race competitor had been married for only three months; he left an unborn daughter.

The observer who landed safely was Harry Norman Green. I do not know how the writer of the Wikipedia article (also picked up and reported elsewhere including here) equated this Harry Green with Dr (later Professor) Harry Green. A quick perusal of the newspapers reporting the accident and the inquest clearly indicate they were not one and the same. At the inquest the observer ‘said he was a Technical Officer in the Royal Air Force and had been in the service for two years’ and that he was a ‘a technical officer at the same establishment’ (i.e. Farnborough). This was obviously not Dr Harry Norman Green of Sheffield.

Records available online about Farnborough and the RAF show that Green was an expert in lighting for airfields. In 1932 he produced a report for RAE on the atmospheric transmission of coloured light. He applied for a British patent for his ‘Improvements in or relating to navigation lights’ in 1934. Earlier, in 1930, he published with A.K. Toulmin Smith BA AMIEE “Marking the Modern Air Route: The Lighting of Civil Air Routes and Aerodromes for Night Flying Considered in the Light of Modern Development”*. Both authors were shown as Scientific Research Staff at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. He is also mentioned in the Meteorological Magazine of March 1957 for proposing a technique using flares to measure visibility on airfields.

Further evidence, were any required, is that a Harry N Green was shown in the 1939 Register living with his wife and children at 134 Victoria Road, Farnborough as a ‘Senior Scientific Officer, R.A.E.’. This Harry N. Green’s date of birth was 13 March 1891. A family tree on ancestry.com indicates this was his second wife, his first wife having died in 1932.  In the 1911 Census he is listed as an electrical engineer living in London He was born in Grasmere, now in Cumbria, and died in Surrey in 1967, aged 76, the same year as Professor Harry Norman Green.

Now how do I tell the author of the Wikipedia article on Mackenzie-Richards and his tragic death that he/she got the wrong Harry Norman Green as the observer in the aircraft?

*To enable aircraft to compete with other forms of transport, on a commercial basis, it is essential that services should be run during the hours of darkness. With this end in view the development of night flying facilities has received considerable attention in recent years, and it has been conclusively proved that, when multi‐engined machines are flown over an adequately lighted airway, night flying is both safe and reliable. In the United States, where aircraft are extensively used for carrying mails, more than 15,000 miles are flown every night under all conditions of weather.

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Traumatic Shock: wartime research in Sheffield

Ear worms brought on by a catchy tune eventually wear off. By contrast, brain worms—questions, problems and ideas—can recur at intervals for years or decades. Why I should have remembered the one recounted here or why I have done nothing to find the answer previously I do not know.

During the academic year 1963-64, Gerald Wiseman (1923-2000), then Reader in Physiology at Sheffield, gave a lecture on shock to second year physiology students, a cohort comprising honours physiologists as well as those of us taking physiology as a subsidiary subject to a different honours course. Physiology in Britain has its roots in human medicine and pre-clinical teaching and even science students had lectures or short courses on topics at the edges of physiology and pathology. Shock or traumatic shock in the early 1960s was still highly topical. The treatment of traumatic shock had advanced during the Second World War. In cities with heavy industry, like Sheffield then, there were numerous industrial accidents.

During that lecture which covered reversible and irreversible shock came my brain worm. Gerald Wiseman explained that as a result of work in Sheffield during the War, a substance released from damaged tissues was thought to be one of the factors responsible for the deleterious effects of shock on the cardiovascular system that can have such a devastating effects on survival. What, I thought—and continued to think—was that substance, and what happened next?

A few weeks ago, I was looking something up in Arthur Chapman’s history of the University of Sheffield published in 1955 when I came across this:

     It has long been realized that one of the most serious immediate consequences of severe injury is shock, and at the suggestion of the Medical Research Council a traumatic shock research unit was formed in the Department of Pathology in 1941 to investigate the cause and treatment of shock in major industrial accidents. The discovery by this unit of a substance in muscle which was capable, after injection, of producing a condition resembling traumatic shock aroused widespread interest, and through the active support of the Chief Medical Consultant of the U.S. Army, European Theatre, and the R.A.M.C., American and British experimental physiologists came to Sheffield to assist in the work. Later, at the request of the Medical Research Council and the War Office, investigations were extended to battle casualties. After a preliminary reconnaissance in the battlefields of Holland and Belgium the team was constituted a full R.A.M.C. unit— the British Traumatic Shock Unit 2—and was attached to the 21st Army Group to deal with casualties from the Battle of the Rhine. Working at Casualty Clearing Station level, with its own transport and mobile laboratory, it accompanied the 2nd Army through Westphalia and N.W. Germany, finally to reach Lubeck. Most of its analyses were made in the forward areas, but from time to time material for more specialized tests was flown with members of the team to England. Although the full significance of this work is not yet clear, the observations on the field and in the laboratory are of importance in that they confirm that one causal agent in shock is a substance liberated by extensive damage of muscle.
     While this research unit was with the 2nd Army it was able to advise surgeons of many units, both British and American, on the immediate treatment of those wounded a short time before, and to suggest lines of enquiry on the cause of death peculiar to certain battle casualties. After the German surrender the unit went to Louvain to study normal soldiers, and to give lectures to the Faculty of Medicine of the University and to many units of the 2nd Army.

Harry Norman Green
I have just got round to looking up what this was all about. The story begins when Sir Edward Mellanby FRS (1884-1955), then in the once powerful position of Secretary of the Medical Research Council, suggested to Professor Harry Norman Green (1902-1967) of the Department of Pathology in the University of Sheffield that for the war effort he should work on traumatic shock. Green was well known to Mellanby. Indeed Green had been Mellanby’s clinical assistant in Sheffield when the latter was Professor of Pharmacology; they had published together, on vitamin A and carotene. Sheffield was also a bit of a centre of activity for the Mellanbys. Mellanby kept his lab in Sheffield when appointed as Secretary of the MRC until facilities at Mill Hill were built. Sir Edwards nephew, Kenneth Mellanby (1908-1993), did his famous wartime research on scabies there.

Extracts from Green’s obituary* expand on the account in university history and explain the background as well as what happened next:

     Traumatic shock is more often thought of as a subject for war-time investigation by physiological rather than pathological departments. However, Green always considered that traumatic shock, being part of the general response to injury, was, with inflammation and cancer, one of the fundamental reactions of pathology. In this work, which occupied him for just over ten years, he adopted the Hunterian view that the changes that occurred in the body after injury might well be part of a defence mechanism. At first the work was clinical in association with Mr (now Sir) Frank W. Holdsworth in the accident service of the Sheffield Royal Infirmary. From an analysis of the shock following industrial accidents they became, like others before them, convinced of the need for the early treatment of the local injury and of the relation between the amount of damaged tissue and the severity of the response. These considerations led to work on the toxicity of a muscle extract first investigated by Dyckerhoff in Germany before the War and shown by him to have two components, one of which was thromboplastin. Dr Marianne Bielschowsky, who had joined the Department in Sheffield with her husband, was able to show that the second factor was adenosine triphosphate. 
     Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) had been isolated from muscle by Lohmann in 1929, but in 1942 very little was known of its biological role. The finding that ATP could produce a state of shock when given parenterally in large doses, that its activity was potentiated by environmental and other factors and that with thromboplastin it accounted for the toxicity of Dyckerhoff’s muscle extract led to a full- scale investigation of the pharmacological activities of the adenine nucleotides and their possible involvement in traumatic shock. The pharmacological studies and the use of nucleotide shock as a model for traumatic shock proved the more immediately fruitful of these two projects and the results are contained in the book on the “Biological actions of the adenine nucleotides” published with H. B. Stoner in 1950. 
     The possible involvement of the adenine nucleotides in traumatic shock was a much more difficult problem. Green had no illusions about this, for in the initial experiments he had found that injured muscle contained less ATP than normal muscle…The possibility of causal involvement was obvious and in a war-time environment had to be examined. To do this No. 2 Traumatic Shock Team RAMC [Royal Army Medical Corps] was created with Green in command. 
     As a professor in uniform Green was not a typical Lieut.-Colonel, even for the RAMC. Nevertheless he generated considerable loyalty in his small band of officers and other ranks, and the Unit achieved quite a lot during the fourteen months of its existence. His success in this venture, despite his inherent shyness, was due to his lack of sense of rank and his way of treating all military personnel as if they were still civilians. Although the prime function of the Unit was to study the effect of injury on the distribution of adenine compounds, the opportunity was taken for collecting other clinical and biochemical data. Most of the observations were made during and shortly after the battle of the Rhine Crossing. 
     In all this work there was a lot of circumstantial evidence pointing to a role for the adenine nucleotides in traumatic shock. The trouble was that, owing to the crudeness of the analytical tools available, it was not possible to devise experiments that would eliminate the hypothesis. It was not until 1957 that Threlfall and Stoner were able to show satisfactorily that adenine nucleotides left damaged muscle only after they had been deaminated to the non-toxic inosinic acid and inosine. It is now clear that the adenine nucleotides do not play a prime toxic role in the shock accompanying ischaemic limb injury. Nevertheless there are still many unanswered questions concerning the involvement of these compounds in pathological reactions, particularly in those organs where the pattern of breakdown differs from that in muscle. Green’s original decision that the study of the pharmacology of these compounds is worthwhile from a pathological point of view may prove correct. 
Harry Berrington ('Berry') Stoner
The co-author of the Green’s obituary was Harry Berrington Stoner (1919-2004), his main collaborator on the traumatic shock project, and who finally demonstrated no linkage between ATP release from damaged muscle and traumatic shock. Stoner, like Green, born in Sheffield and a Sheffield medical graduate, was moved into the MRC Unit by the R.A.M.C. and then into the No. 2 Traumatic Shock Team. Unlike Green, who became more interested in cancer research and moved to Leeds in 1953 as Professor of Experimental Pathology, Stoner retained his interest on research on trauma and remained with MRC. He was head of a unit at the laboratories in Carshalton but then moved as head of a new trauma unit attached to the University of Manchester in 1977.

It is not surprising that by the onset of war in 1939 the MRC was persuaded that release of ATP into the circulation might be responsible for many of the manifestations of traumatic shock. Physiologists and pharmacologists had been studying the effect of chemically similar compounds for the previous ten years or so. ATP had been discovered in 1929 and, in the 1930s, its role in cell energetics established. It is also not surprising that its effect and that of other purine compounds outside the cell, on blood vessels and the nervous system, for example, was the subject of pharmacological research (some I find done by former and then very senior colleagues) in the early decades of the 20th Century. Although that particular line came to nothing (and the meticulous Gerry Wiseman was behind the times in his lecture) these and other studies contributed the background knowledge for the realisation that there is a purinergic signalling system in the body. ATP is released as an extracellular signalling molecule, independently of its role inside the cell as a a high-energy carrier.  Green’s prediction, ‘the study of the pharmacology of these compounds is worthwhile from a pathological point of view may prove correct’, has been vindicated.

Although I now know the answer to my brain worm, there is an intriguing incident I found while searching for information on Harry Green. But that can wait until the next article.

*Bonser GM, Stoner HB. 1968. Harry Norman Green 21 September 1902-16 May 1967. Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology 96, 243-252.

†Burnstock G, Fredholm BB, North RA, Verkhratsky A. 2010. The birth and postnatal development of purinergic signalling. Acta Physiologica 199, 93-147.

Chapman AW. 1955. The Story of a Modern University. A History of the University of Sheffield. Oxford University Press.