The Faculty History Project documents faculty members who have been associated with the University of Michigan since 1837, and the history of the University's schools and colleges. This project is part of a larger effort to prepare resources for the University's bicentennial in 2017. Find out more.

The Bentley Historical Library serves as the official archives for the University.


Robert Gesell
Regents' Proceedings 1342

The sudden death on April 19, 1954, of Dr. Robert Gesell, Professor of Physiology and Chairman of the Department of Physiology, came as a great shock to the University community and to the medical world.

Graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1910 and from Washington University Medical School in 1914, Dr. Gesell had become Associate Professor of Physiology at the latter university by 1918. From that year to 1923 he was Professor of Physiology at the University of California.

He came to the University of Michigan in 1923 as Professor of Physiology and Chairman of the Department of Physiology. In 1911, three years before he became Doctor of Medicine, he published his first paper in the American Journal of Physiology under the title "Auricular Systole and Its Relation to Ventricular Output." Its publication clearly marked the trend of his life's endeavor as a scholar.

More than 150 papers and monographs followed as a constant flow in report of his experiments and researches. These included volume flow of blood and traumatic shock, regulation of respiration. physiology of the neuron, mechanisms of nervous integration, electrical potentials of the submaxillary gland, the relation of pulse pressure to renal secretion and filtration, and relation of blood volume to tissue nutrition.

He was a pioneer in devising instruments for recording electrical impulses in the human body. His achievements were recognized by his election to the position of Honorary Research President of the International Research Society and to membership in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society of Naturalists, American Physiological Society, Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine, the International Anesthesia Research Society, and the University of Michigan Research Club. Last year his fellow scholars in the University honored him by naming him Henry Russel Lecturer. Dr. Gesell chose as the subject of his lecture "The Wisdom of the Body and the Wisdom of the Mind." In it he embraced the conclusions he had reached during a lifetime of careful and patient research and reflection. It mirrored the catholicity of his mind and his extraordinary ability to relate technical studies to a philosophical system.

The Regents of the University of Michigan join in the sorrow which Dr. Gesell's death has brought to his many colleagues and friends and express to his surviving family their heartfelt sympathy.