Haldan Keffer Hartline

Haldan Keffer Hartline

Haldan Keffer Hartline, circa 1958
Born (1903-12-22)December 22, 1903
Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, US
Died March 17, 1983(1983-03-17) (aged 79)
Fallston, Maryland, US
Nationality American
Fields Physiology
Alma mater
Doctoral advisor August Herman Pfund
Known for Visual perception
Notable awards

Haldan Keffer Hartline ForMemRS[1] (December 22, 1903 – March 17, 1983) was an American physiologist who was a co-recipient (with George Wald and Ragnar Granit) of the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] for his work in analyzing the neurophysiological mechanisms of vision.[9]


Hartline received his undergraduate education from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1923. He began his study of retinal electrophysiology as a National Research Council Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, receiving his Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree in 1927.

Career and research

After attending the universities of Leipzig and Munich as an Eldridge Johnson traveling research scholar from the University of Pennsylvania, he returned to the US to take a position in the Eldridge Reeves Johnson Foundation for Medical Physics at Penn, which was under the directorship of Detlev W. Bronk at that time. In 1940–1941, he was Associate Professor of Physiology at Cornell Medical College in New York City, but returned to Penn and stayed until 1949. Then he became professor of biophysics and chairman of the department at Johns Hopkins in 1949. One of Hartline's graduate students at Johns Hopkins, Paul Greengard, who also won the Nobel Prize. Hartline joined the staff of Rockefeller University, New York City, in 1953 as professor of neurophysiology.

Hartline investigated the electrical responses of the retinas of certain arthropods, vertebrates, and mollusks, because their visual systems are much simpler than those of humans and thus easier to study. He concentrated his studies on the eye of the horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus). Using minute electrodes, he obtained the first record of the electrical impulses sent by a single optic nerve fibre when the receptors connected to it are stimulated by light. He found that the photoreceptor cells in the eye are interconnected in such a way that when one is stimulated, others nearby are depressed, thus enhancing the contrast in light patterns and sharpening the perception of shapes. Hartline thus built up a detailed understanding of the workings of individual photoreceptors and nerve fibres in the retina, and he showed how simple retinal mechanisms constitute vital steps in the integration of visual information.

Awards and honors

Hartline was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 1966.[1] He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1967.[10][11]


  1. 1 2 3 Granit, R.; Ratliff, F. (1985). "Haldan Keffer Hartline. 22 December 1903-18 March 1983". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 31 (0): 262–292. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1985.0010. ISSN 0080-4606.
  2. Raju, T. N. (1999). "The Nobel Chronicles". The Lancet. 354 (9178): 605–779. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)77968-X. PMID 10470741.
  3. Sulek, K. (1969). "Nobel prize for George Wald, Haldan Keffer Hartline and Ragner Granit in 1967 for discoveries concerning the primary biochemical and physiological phenomena occurring in the process of vision". Wiadomosci lekarskie (Warsaw, Poland : 1960). 22 (13): 1258–1259. PMID 4897321.
  4. Crescitelli, F. (1968). "The 1967 nobel prizes for physiology or medicine". Vision Research. 8 (4): 333–337. doi:10.1016/0042-6989(68)90103-X. PMID 4939576.
  5. Dubois-Poulsen, A. (1968). "The Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1967". Annales d'oculistique. 201 (3): 257–269. PMID 4877173.
  6. Bouman, M. A. (1968). "Ragnar Garnit, Haldan Keffer Hartline, George Wald, winners of the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine". Nederlands tijdschrift voor geneeskunde. 112 (1): 23–25. PMID 4875782.
  7. "The Nobel prize for physiology or medicine". Nordisk medicin. 78 (44): 1429–1434. 1967. PMID 4864608.
  8. Dowling, J. E.; Ratliff, F. (1967). "Nobel Prize: Three Named for Medicine, Physiology Award". Science. 158 (3800): 468–473. doi:10.1126/science.158.3800.468. PMID 4860394.
  9. Anon (1967). "Men of vision". British Medical Journal. 4 (5573): 185–186. doi:10.1136/bmj.4.5573.185. PMC 1748629Freely accessible. PMID 4861385.
  10. Nobel biography Haldan K. Hartline - Biographical
  11. National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir: Haldane Keefer Hartline 1903—1983 A Biographical Memoir by Floyd Ratliff

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