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Walter Bradford Cannon

Born: 19-Oct-1871
Birthplace: Prairie du Chien, WI
Died: 1-Oct-1945
Location of death: Franklin, NH
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist, Doctor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Fight or flight response

Military service: US Army (to Lt. Colonel, WWI)

In medical school, studying the mechanics of swallowing, Walter Bradford Cannon devised the bismuth or barium meal, adding heavy salts to foodstuffs to allow x-rays to study the mechanism of swallowing and movement of digestive organs. He researched the physiology of emotion, finding that in some animals peristaltic waves in the stomach cease when the animal is panicked, and later described the adrenaline flood that triggers response in emergency situations as "fight or flight response". He also studied psychosomatic response, chemical neurotransmission, and the body's systems for maintaining steady states -- for which he coined the term "homeostasis".

Cannon was 46 years old when World War I broke out, and immediately enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to medical research of traumatic shock among the injured, represented the US at the 1918 inter-allied conference on gas warfare, oversaw the research unit at the Army's Central Medical Laboratory in Dijon, France, and received the Distinguished Service Medal. Before and after the war, he took public stands against fascist governments' interference with science, defended animal research from criticism by anti-vivisectionists, and called eloquently for war to be replaced with athletic competitions. He is the namesake of Mount Cannon in Glacier National Park, the southwest peak of which was first scaled by Cannon and his wife on their honeymoon in 1901.

Father: Colbert Hanchett Cannon (railroad executive, b. 1846, d. 1915)
Mother: Sarah Wilma Denio Cannon (teacher, m. 1870)
Sister: Bernice May Cannon (b. 1875)
Sister: Ida Cannon (nurse, b. 1877)
Sister: Jane Laura Cannon (b. 1879)
Wife: Cornelia James Cannon (author, b. 1876, d. 1969)
Son: Bradford Cannon (plastic surgeon, b. circa 1907, d. 20-Dec-2005)
Daughter: Marian Cannon Schlesinger (author, b. 1913, m. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.)
Daughter: Wilma Cannon Fairbank (art historian, b. circa 1910, d. 2002)

    High School: St. Paul High School, St. Paul, MN
    University: BS, Harvard University (1896)
    University: MA, Harvard University (1897)
    Medical School: Harvard Medical School (1900)
    Teacher: Physiology, Harvard Medical School (1900-06)
    Professor: Physiology, Harvard Medical School (1906-42)

    American Medical Association
    American Physiological Society Treasurer (1905-13), President (1914-16)
    National Academy of Sciences
    Russian Academy of Sciences
    National Research Council (1940-45)
    Distinguished Service Medal (1922)
    Scottish Ancestry
    Irish Ancestry

Author of books:
A Laboratory Course in Physiology (1910)
The Mechanical Factors of Digestion (1911)
Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage (1915)
Traumatic Shock (1923)
The Wisdom of the Body (1932)
Digestion and Health (1936)
Autonomic Neuro-Effector Systems (1937, with Arturo Rosenblueth)
The Way of An Investigator (1945, memoir)


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