(From a 1994 talk given by Professor Paul C. Johnson)
Beginnngs of Physiology in the U.S. (1820-1892)
Physiology at the University of Arizona was developed here by faculty trained in physiology programs elsewhere. Its roots may be traced to the development of physiology in other institutions in this country.
In respect to the development of physiology in this country, many would say that it began with William Beaumont, an Army surgeon who had the opportunity in the 1820's to study human gastric function after treating an itinerant French trapper, Alexis St. Martin, who was left with an opening into the stomach after a gunshot wound had healed.
Physiology's Beginnings at the University of Arizona (1892-1901)
I think almost everyone in this room knows that the townspeople in Tucson were greatly disappointed when their representatives brought home from the territorial legislature the state university rather than the state prison or asylum. The university took form here only through the generosity of 2 gamblers and a saloon keeper who donated the land.
Regarding the origins of physiology on this campus, physiology as a discipline has existed here for a long time. In fact, in perusing the catalog, published in the fall of 1892, I was interested to learn physiology was among the courses listed by the Department of Zoology and Entomology, the courses being Anatomy, General Zoology and Entomology.
Growth of Physiology at the University of Arizona (1902-1940)
In 1904, physiology disappeared for a time from the curriculum. Only Zoology 1 and 2 were offered, and physiology apparently was encompassed to a degree in these introductory offerings. In 1902, John James Thurber, who had received his Master's degree from Nebraska, was appointed Professor of Biology. In 1903 the Desert Botanical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. was located in the Tucson Mountains and was apparently available to university personnel. According to the catalog, this new facility was seen as destined to become an important center of active scientific research.
Caldwells to Hamilton (1940-1960)
A very important chapter in the history of biology at the U of A was contributed by George and Mary Caldwell. Mary took her B.S. and M.S. degrees at the U of A and joined the Biology faculty in 1919 as Instructor. Among her duties was as an assistant to James Greenley Brown in teaching physiology. She was then Mary Estill. In 1920 George Thornhill Caldwell joined the biology department and took responsibility for teaching physiology and histology. In the early 20's Caldwell and Estill were listed as teaching physiology. In the 1927 catalog Caldwell and Estill became Caldwell and Caldwell. Actually they were married in 1925.
Both subsequently received Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago. While George retained his interest in physiology and zoology, Mary's interests were in bacteriology and she became head of that department in 1935. Concurrently George served as head of Zoology. Both continued in those capacities until the mid-fifties. George died in 1956 but Mary continued her association with the university, carrying on an active research program until recently on the cancer chemotherapy and anti-tumor properties of certain plant extracts.
University of Arizona College of Medicine (1960-1994)
In 1964 Merlin K. DuVal was recruited from the University of Oklahoma to be Dean of Arizona Medical School. He surveyed the several biology departments and found with the possible exception of microbiology, that none were interested in teaching basic sciences to medical students. At that point he began to plan for teaching basic sciences in the College of Medicine and hired Philip Krutzsch from the University of Pittsburgh as coordinator for basic sciences.