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Henry Hallett Dale

Sir Henry Hallett Dale OM GBE FRS (June 9, 1875 – July 23, 1968) was an English pharmacologist. For his study of acetylcholine as agent in the chemical transmission of nerve impulses he shared the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Otto Loewi.


Although Dale and his colleagues first identified acetylcholine in 1914 as a possible neurotransmitter, Loewi showed its importance in the nervous system.

During the 1940s Dale was embroiled in the scientific debate over the nature of signaling at the synapse. Dale and others believed that signaling at the synapse was chemical, while John Carew Eccles and others believed that the synapse was electrical. It was later found that most synaptic signalling is chemical, but there are some synapses that are electrical.

Dale also originated the scheme used to differentiate neurons according to what neurotransmitter they release. Thus, neurons releasing norepinephrine (also known as noradrenaline) are called noradrenergic, neurons releasing GABA are GABAergic, and so on. This scheme is related to Dale's principle (sometimes erroneously referred to as Dale's Law). This principle states that each neuron releases only one type of neurotransmitter. Dale's principle has been shown to be false; since many neurons have been shown to release neuropeptides and amino acids in addition to classical neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine or biogenic amines (Bear, et al. 2001). This finding, that numerous neurotransmtters can be released by the same neuron, is referred to as the "coexistence principle." This phenomenon was most popularized by the Swedish neuroanatomist and neuropharmacologist Tomas Hökfelt, who is considered to be the "Father of the Coexistence Principle."



Dale was born in London, England. He was educated at The Leys School Cambridge (one of the school's houses is named after him) and in 1894 he entered Trinity College at Cambridge University working under the physiologist John Langley. For a few months in 1903 he also studied under Paul Ehrlich in Frankfort, Germany. Also in 1903, Dale assisted Ernest Starling and William Bayliss in the vivisection of a dog which ultimately lead to the events of the Brown Dog affair. In 1904, Dale married his first cousin Ellen Harriet Hallett. Dale received his M.D. from Cambridge in 1909. While working at the University College London he met and became friends with Loewi. Dale became the Director of the Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology at the National Institute for Medical Research in London in 1914. He was knighted in 1932, receiving the Order of Merit in 1944 and the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1948. Dale served as President of the Royal Society from 1940 to 1945. During World War II, he served on the Scientific Advisory Panel to the Cabinet. He died in Cambridge.


  • Valenstein, E.S.: The War of the Soups and the Sparks: The Discovery of Neurotransmitters and the Dispute Over How Nerves Communicate. Columbia University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-231-13588-2
  • Valenstein E.S.: The discovery of chemical neurotransmitters. Brain Cogn. 2002 Jun;49(1):73-95 (Medline abstract)
  • Tansey EM. Chemical neurotransmission in the autonomic nervous system: Sir Henry Dale and acetylcholine. Clin Auton Res. 1991 Mar;1(1):63-72 (Medline abstract)
  • Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1922-1941, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1965.
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir William Bragg
President of the Royal Society
Succeeded by
Robert Robinson
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Henry_Hallett_Dale". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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