Homer William Smith (January 2, 1895 – March 25, 1962) was an American physiologist and science writer.

Homer William Smith
Homer William Smith 1921.png
BornJanuary 2, 1895
DiedMarch 25, 1962
OccupationPhysiologist, science writer


Smith was born in Denver, Colorado. He received his D.Sc in 1921 from Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health. From 1928 until his retirement in 1961 he was the Professor of Physiology and Director of the Physiological Laboratories at New York University School of Medicine.[1] Smith was a leader in the field of renal physiology.[2] His elegant experiments on the kidney in the 1930s proved beyond any doubt that it operated according to physical principles, both as a filter and a secretory organ, eliminating the last vestige of vitalism in physiology.[3] He used inulin (at the same time as A.N. Richards), to measure how much kidney filtrate is formed. His book The Kidney: Structure and Function in Health and Disease, was an authoritative summary of what was known at that time..

He also wrote for general readers. From Fish to Philosopher explains how evolutionary history accounts for the seemingly bewildering mammalian kidney, in which water, salts, and small molecules are filtered from the blood into kidney tubules and then much of the water and salt and many of the small molecules are pumped back into the blood stream. Vertebrates originated in fresh water, where water was drawn into their bodies by the osmotic pressure of their body fluids. Their kidneys excreted the extra water while also retrieving their supply of small solutes. He concludes with an admiring discussion of another of his interests: how rapidly the piano can be played by an educated nervous system sustained by the kidneys. Komongo or, the Lungfish and the Padre takes place in the Suez Canal where a scientist returning to the United States with a cargo of lungfish for kidney experiments delivers a monologue to an Anglican Minister on how evolution shapes organisms. Man and His Gods [3] [4] "considered man's ideas about the supernatural in the perspective of the evolution of western theology and philosophy from the ancient Egyptians to the nineteenth century".[5]

He also served on the board of trustees of Science Service, now known as Society for Science & the Public, from 1952-1955.[3]

As a memorial to Smith in 1963 the New York Heart Association created the Homer W. Smith Award in Renal Physiology.[6] Additionally, the American Society of Nephrology established The Homer Smith Award in 1964. The award is presented annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions which fundamentally affect the science of nephrology, broadly defined, but not limited to, the pathobiology, cellular and molecular mechanisms and genetic influences on the functions and diseases of the kidney.

Homer Smith was married to Margaret Wilson, who was the daughter of Lily and James Robert Wilson from Spring City, Tennessee. His son was Homer Wilson Smith.[3]

Views on religionEdit

Smith attacked superstition and was critical of religious ideas.[7] He was an agnostic.[8][9]

Smith was an advocate of the Christ myth theory.[10][11]



  • "What engineer, wishing to regulate the composition of the internal environment of the body on which the function of every bone, gland, muscle, and nerve depends, would devise a scheme that operated by throwing the whole thing out 16 times a day and rely on grabbing from it, as it fell to earth, only those precious elements which he wanted to keep?"[18]


  1. ^ Bing, R. J. (1995). Homer W. Smith and His Contribution to Cardiovascular Medicine. Clinical Cardiology 18 (8): 486–487.
  2. ^ Giebisch, G. (2004). Homer W. Smith's Contribution to Renal Physiology. J Nephrol 17: 159–165.
  3. ^ a b c d Bynum, W.F. (2000). Smith, Homer William. American National Biography Online.
  4. ^ "Homer W. Smith: Man and His Gods". positiveatheism.org. Archived from the original on 2016-02-03.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  5. ^ Circulation, Vol. 26, p. 985, Obituary by Alfred P. Fishman. (1962)
  6. ^ Hrushka, K. A. (1991). American Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology 260 (2): F151–F152.
  7. ^ Blau, Joseph L. (1953). Reviewed Works: The Scriptures of Mankind by Charles S. Braden; Man and His Gods by Homer W. Smith; The Religions of Mankind by Edmund Davison Soper; What Americans Believe and How They Worship by J. Paul Williams. Jewish Social Studies 15 (1): 77–80.
  8. ^ Farber, Saul J. (1996). Homer W. Smith: The Humanist. Kidney International 49: 1528-1529.
  9. ^ Evans, David. (2015). Marine Physiology Down East: The Story of the Mt. Desert Island Biological Laboratory. Springer. p. 111. ISBN 978-1-4939-2959-7
  10. ^ Graubard, Mark. (1953). Reviewed Work: Man and His Gods by Homer W. Smith. Isis 44 (1/2): 88–89.
  11. ^ Zadunaisky, José A. (1989). Dedication of the Homer W. Smith Laboratory at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, Salsbury Cove, Maine: Friday, July 28, 1989. Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory. p. 31
  12. ^ Bankoff, Milton L. (1951). The Kidney: Structure and Function in Health and Disease. Academic Medicine 26 (4): 334.
  13. ^ Corcoran, A. C. (1951). The Kidney: Structure and Function in Health and Disease. Science 23 (114): 558.
  14. ^ Howard, Evelyn. (1953). The Kidney: Structure and Function in Health and Disease. The Quarterly Review of Biology 28 (1): 88.
  15. ^ Nelson, Boris Erich. (1952). Reviewed Work: Man and His Gods by Homer W. Smith. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 284: 211-212.
  16. ^ "Man and His Gods". Kirkus Reviews.
  17. ^ "From Fish to Philosopher". Kirkus Reviews.
  18. ^ Brunton, Laurence (2011). Goodman & Gilman's: The Pharmacological Bases of Therapeutics. China: The McGrqw-Hill Companies. p. 671. ISBN 9780071624428.

Further readingEdit