SHERRINGTON,  Charles Scott  [1857-1952]

Charles Scott Sherrington was awarded the Nobel in Physiology or Medicine in 1932 for his pioneering work in seeking to understand how the nervous system operates. The technical details of his work are beyond the confines of this project but its import can be judged by the fact that many in his field asserted that Sherrington was to our knowledge of the nervous system what William Harvey was to the circulation of blood.

From 1895 to 1913 he was Professor of Physiology at Liverpool University, a period during which his researches made major advances. Throughout his stay in the city Sherrington and his family lived near Sefton Park at 16 Grove Park L8.

Born on November 27th 1857 in Islington, London, his origins are clouded in a fair degree of mystery. The man from whom he derived his surname, country doctor James Norton Sherrington,  had  died 9 years prior to his birth and various speculations have been made as to his who was his natural father. It is likely that he was the illegitimate child of his mother Anne’s second husband, Dr Caleb Rose of Ipswich, a highly regarded surgeon and noted archaeologist from Ipswich. The 1861 and 1871 censuses show Sherrington and his mother living in Caleb Rose’s household. Caleb and Anne did not marry until 1880 after his wife had died.

The family moved to Ipswich from London and Charles Sherrington was educated at Ipswich School. He was of short but very sturdy stature and in his youth played football for Ipswich Town, rugby for St Thomas’ Hospital, was on the rowing team at Oxford and was an early enthusiast for winter sports.

He began his medical studies in 1876 and by 1881 he was beginning to develop his interest in the neurological issues which would come to dominate his subsequent career. Following his move to Liverpool in 1906 he published his first book The Integrative Actions of the Nervous System, based on a series of lectures he had given at Yale University the previous year. In 1913 he was invited to become Waynflete Professor of Physiology at Oxford and he held this post until his retirement in 1936. After retirement he and his wife moved to Sherrington’s childhood home of Ipswich. He died in a nursing home in Eastbourne on 4th March 1952 aged 94.

Sherrington was President of the Royal Society from 1920 to 1925. He was knighted in 1922 and admitted to the Order of Merit in 1924. He had a passionate appreciation of art and literature, publishing a book of verse in 1925 (The Assaying of Brabantius and Other Verse) and a philosophical work Man On His Nature (1940).

16 Grove Park L8

Sherrington's home throughout his Professorship at Liverpool


In the case of Sherrington the Wikipedia entry is a very thorough, well-researched article with detailed references. There is also a biography on the Nobel Prize website. There is a short video on YouTube summarising his life and work which is excellent in every respect apart from thinking that a picture of Wayne Rooney has something to with Ipswich Town Football Club. There is also an entry for him in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.