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Blue plaque unveiled to celebrate physiologist Professor Thomas Graham Brown

3 October 2022

Blue plaque unveiled for Thomas Graham Brown

The Physiological Society’s blue plaque scheme, which recognises outstanding physiologists, marks more than 100 years of cutting-edge physiology research at what is now Cardiff University

A blue plaque celebrating the renowned physiologist Professor Thomas Graham Brown FRS has been unveiled by The Physiological Society and Professor Ole Peterson CBE FRS at the School of Biosciences.

Professor Thomas Graham Brown (1882 – 1965) was a physiologist renowned for his neurological research, and a British Alpine climber. In 1920 he was appointed chair in Physiology at the University of Wales in Cardiff, a position he held until 1947. Professor Brown is best known for his studies on the neural control of rhythmic movement described in a series of papers published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Physiology under the general title 'Studies in the physiology of the nervous system'.

While at the University of Wales in Cardiff, Professor Brown was also head of the then new Cardiff Institute of Physiology (CIP). He oversaw considerable growth in the reputation of what would become the University of Wales College of Medicine, now known as Cardiff University School of Medicine.

Professor Brown was the first researcher to propose a half-centre model of motor neurons in which two groups of spinal neurons can produce basic rhythmic movement. Although discarded at the time, his model was acknowledged fifty years later when it set the groundwork for the field of motor control. The theory reflects today's widely accepted concept of central pattern generators in motor neurons.

Professor Frank Sengpiel, Head of Neuroscience at the School of Biosciences, said: “The unveiling of this blue plaque commemorating Thomas Graham Brown marks more than 100 years of cutting-edge research in physiology at what is now Cardiff University.

"It is a fitting tribute to Brown’s work that research into neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, features prominently at Cardiff today.”

The Physiological Society’s blue plaque scheme recognises outstanding physiologists, providing long-term recognition of the impact these scientists have had, and by extension, a marker of excellence for the universities that they adorn.

Professor David Paterson, President of The Physiological Society, said: “We are honoured to be in Cardiff to unveil this plaque to remember Professor Thomas Graham Brown.

"This is the fourteenth unveiling in the Physiological Society’s Blue Plaque scheme which is intended to raise the visibility of physiology and give the wider public an insight into the positive role that ‘the science of life’ plays in their everyday lives. We hope that these plaques will spark curiosity and help inspire new generations to get involved in the physiological sciences.”

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