Charles James Martin (physiologist)

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Sir Charles James Martin CMG FRS FRCS[1] (9 January 1866 – 15 February 1955) was a British scientist who did seminal work on a very wide range of topics including snake toxins, control of body temperature, plague and the way it was spread, dysentery, typhoid and paratyphoid, nutrition and vitamin deficiencies, proteins, and myxomatosis as a means of controlling rabbit populations. He was a director of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, serving from 1903 to 1930.[1][2]

Charles Martin
Portrait of Sir Charles J. Martin Wellcome L0017186.jpg
Charles James Martin

(1866-01-09)9 January 1866
Died15 February 1955(1955-02-15) (aged 89)
Scientific career

Early lifeEdit

Born in Wilmot House, Dalston,[3] Hackney, North London he was the twelfth[3] child of Josiah (an insurance company actuary) and Elizabeth Mary Martin (née Lewis),[3] Charles James was part of an extended family of children from his parents' previous marriages. Being a delicate child, he was sent off to a private boarding school in Hastings.

At 15 he was employed as a junior clerk at the insurance firm where his father worked. He studied mathematics as a requirement for a future as actuary, but showed no special aptitude. Browsing through the numerous bookshops in the area, he came across a secondhand copy of "A Hundred Experiments in Chemistry for One Shilling." Carrying out these experiments, he was sufficiently inspired to entreat his father to allow him to pursue a career in science. He accordingly took evening classes at King's College, London. He then studied medicine at St Thomas's Hospital and spent some time in Leipzig studying physiology under Karl Ludwig.


Sister Florence Elizabeth McMillan, Dr Anderson in the centre and Sir Charles James Martin on the right

In 1887 he was appointed demonstrator in biology and physiology at King's College. In 1891 he accepted a post as lecturer at Sydney University, before moving to the University of Melbourne as acting Professor of Physiology. He remained in Australia for 12 years, after which he returned to the UK to become the first Director of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine.[4]

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1901.[1] His candidacy citation read:

During World War I he served with the Australian Army Medical Corps in Gallipoli, Egypt, and France as a pathologist with the rank of Lieutenant-colonel. After the war he returned to the Lister Institute until his retirement in 1930. He then spent a further two years in Australia as head of the animal nutrition division of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in Adelaide. On his return to the UK he went to live at Roebuck House in Old Chesterton, Cambridge, which he equipped as a laboratory. During WWII it was used to rehouse the experimental animals being used for medical studies by the staff of the Lister Institute.

He was awarded the Royal Society's Royal Medal in 1923 and delivered the Royal College of Physicians Croonian Lectures in 1930. He was knighted in 2015.

Personal lifeEdit

He died in 1955 at Old Chesterton. He had married Edith Cross, born 24 February 1860, died 2 March 1954, daughter of Alfred Cross in 1891.[6] They had one daughter. He is buried in the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge, with his wife.


  1. ^ a b c d Chick, D. H. (1956). "Charles James Martin. 1866-1955". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 2: 172–208. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1956.0013.
  2. ^ Copping, A. M. (1971). "Sir Charles James Martin--A biographical sketch (1866-1955)". The Journal of Nutrition. 101 (1): 3–8. PMID 4924885.
  3. ^ a b c Chick: Sir Charles James Martin(1866–1955)’, rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009, accessed 14 Jan 2013
  4. ^ Martin, C. J. (2007). "Charles James Martin, Kt, C.M.G., F.R.C.P., DSc., F.R.S". British Journal of Nutrition. 10 (1): 1–7. doi:10.1079/BJN19560003. PMID 13315918.
  5. ^ "DServe Archive Catalog Show". 15 February 1955. Retrieved 20 June 2012.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Charles Martin his life and letters", by Martin Gibbs, published in 2011

External linksEdit