Barbour, Henry Gray

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Barbour, Henry Gray

(b. Hartford, Connecticut, 28 March 1885; d. New Haven, Connecticut, 23 September 1943)

physiology, pharmacology.

Although a pharmacologist by profession, Henry G. Barbour made his single most important contribution to science in physiology, with his delineation of the reactions of the body temperature-regulating center in the brain. Barbour was graduated A.B.from Trinity College in Hartford in 1906, and M.D.from Johns Hopkins University in 1910. After a year at Johns Hopkins as a fellow in pathology, he traveled abroad (1911–1912), visiting research laboratories in Freiburg, Vienna, and London. Following his return to the United States he taught pharmacology at Yale University (1912–1921), McGill University (1921–1923), and the University of Louisville (1923–1931). In 1931 he returned to Yale, first as associate professor and in 1940 as research associate in pharmacology.

In 1885, twenty years after the appearance of Claude Bernard’s concept of the physiologically constant milieu intérieur, E. Aronsohn and J. Sachs had disclosed the existence of a region in the corpus striatum of the brain concerned with the regulation of one of the most important factors in internal constancy, body temperature. A puncture of the nervous tissue in this region was shown to produce a characteristic fever. R. Kahn’s experiments in 1904 on the heating of the blood in the carotid artery showed that the brain reacted to the increased heat of this blood with such cooling responses as peripheral vasodilation and increased perspiration.

In 1912 Barbour set out to test the effect of heat and cold applied directly to this temperature-responsive region of the brain. He punctured the brains of rabbits and inserted in each a tube through which water at different temperatures could be passed. The puncture itself induced a fever, but when water heated 46°C.–49°C. was passed through the tube, body temperature dropped sharply, almost 1.5 degrees C. in one hour. When cold water was passed through the tube, body temperature rose sharply.

Through observations of the veins in the ear of the rabbit, Barbour was able to correlate vasomotor reactions with the temperature of the water in the experiment. He reported a striking alteration in the ear’s appearance: within two minutes after the start of hot water flow, the veins had dilated and filled with blood, and the entire ear felt warm. Cold stimulation of the temperature center produced opposite effects. The heat center of the brain therefore reacted to extreme temperatures by activating countervailing physiological mechanisms that brought the blood temperature hack to normal.

From 1912 until well into the 1940’s Barhour contributed to the amassing of more precise information on the phenomena of temperature regulation, and he became a leading authority on the mechanism of body temperature regulation and the effect of pyretic and antipyretic drugs. His primary contribution to this field was contained in his 1912 paper. After 1931, Barbour’s work benefited from the added stimulus of Walter B. Cannon’s ideas on the physiological elements contributing to homeostasis.

In a 1940 paper expanding on the work of Keller and Hare and others, Barbour showed, through the use of localized lesions to remove functions selectively, that there are two temperature control centers: a heat loss center in the anterior hypothalamus and a heating center in the posterior hypothalamus. In both cat and monkey brains, lesions of the anterior hypothalamus produced abnormally high body temperatures, while lesions of the posterior hypothalamus or the nervous paths related to that region resulted in greatly lowered temperatures. In the same series of experiments, control of water-shifting mechanisms, and therefore of the concentration of the bodily fluids, was found to be associated with the anterior hypothalamic region.


I. Original Works. Works. by Barbour include “Die Wirkung unmittelbarer Erwärmung und Abkülung der Wärmezentra auf die Körpertemperatur,” in Archiv für experimentelle Pathologic and Pharmakologie, 70 (1912). 1–26: and “Hypothalamic Control of Water Movement in Response to Environmental Temperature,” in Research Publications. Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Diseases, 20 (1940), 449–485.

II. Secondary Literature. No satisfactory bigraphyical or bibliographical materials concerning Barbour exist. For work closely related to Barbour’s, see E. Aronsohn and J. Sachs, “Die Beziehungen des Gehirns zur Körperwärme und zum Fieber,” in Pflügers Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und des Tiere, 37 (1885), 233–301; R.H. Kahn, “Ueber die Erwärmung des Carotidblutes,” in Archiv für Anatomie und Physiologie (1904), supp., 81–134; and A. Keller and W. Hare, “The Hypothalamus and Heat Regulation,” in Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, 29 (1932), 1069–1070.

Alan S. Kay