Revisitation of the Work of A Forgotten Comparative Physiologist, Homer W. Smith Academic Article uri icon


  • The death of renowned renal physiologist Homer William Smith in 1962 brought an end to what some have called the Smithian Era of renal physiology. Although Dr. Smiths contributions to renal physiology have been acknowledged most recently in a 2015 article in Physiology Reviews, there has been very little written over the past 50+ years about his extraordinary life. Dr. Smith spent most of his career at the New York University College of Medicine and therefore focused much of his academic energy on human health and disease, but as any reader of his various books knows, Dr. Smiths research interests involved far more than mammals, and were filled with adventure. That he lucidly communicated his deep knowledge and appreciation of geography, geology, evolution, and physiology brings great meaning not only to his work, but to the discipline of physiology. The purpose of this presentation is to revisit his extraordinary career with an emphasis on his contributions to comparative physiology, as documented through his various research articles and in his most celebrated book, From Fish to Philosopher. His other more philosophical works, including Kamongo and Man and His Gods, will also be discussed. Many physiologists today, similar to Dr. Smith, are tasked with teaching physiology to medical students who lack both the time and interest in learning the evolutionary history of the system under study. Consequently, professorseven those with academic roots in comparative physiology (present author included)are apt to not enrich their physiology sessions with discussion about how animals other than Homo sapiens work, let alone any discussion of who made this knowledge available. There are rich histories to explore to help put the biology back into medical physiology. As printed books are disappearing from our medical school libraries, the time is ripe to dig a bit deeper and resurrect the contributions of great biologist storytellers like Homer W. Smith, leading to an enrichment of our students learning experiences.Support or Funding InformationNone

published proceedings

  • The FASEB Journal

author list (cited authors)

  • Slivkoff, M. D.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Slivkoff, Mark David

publication date

  • April 2020