C annon graduated from Harvard College in 1896, where he had studied with the psychologist William James and the physiologist Charles B. Davenport (with whom he had published a paper as an undergraduate). He took his MD at Harvard and worked there from 1896 in the laboratory of Henry Pickering Bowditch (1840-1911). Bowditch had recently introduced modern physiological research, developed by the German physiologist and psychologist Wilhelm Wundt, into the U.S.A. In 1902, Cannon became an assistant professor of physiology, and in 1906 he succeeded Bowditch as the George Higginson Professor of Physiology, a position he would hold until 1942..
Under Bowditch, Cannon began to investigate swallowing and stomach motility using the newly discovered X-ray technique. Wilhelm Röntgen had discovered "X-rays" on December 9, 1896; not a year later, Cannon was tracing the passage of a pearl button through the digestive system of a dog using them. Moving to human subjects, he found that he was able to correlate feelings of satiety to physiological responses. In 1911, he coauthored a study with Arthur Lawrence Washburn, which showed that stomach contractions were tied to hunger. Every morning, Washburn, then a medical student, swallowed a length of rubber tubing, to which was tied a condom, and recorded when he felt hungry, as he went about his usual activities. The condom was filled with air, and the tubing attached to a pressure gauge. The pressure gauge recorded the contractions, and Cannon found Washburn's subjective hunger pangs correlated to his stomach contractions. This study would be the most influential study about appetite for fifty years. It was later discovered that there was no causal relationship between these things. They were both caused by a drop in blood glucose levels. Cannon also published one of the earliest dieting articles in the very first issue of the American Journal of Physiology in 1898, recounting his research on swallowing and stomach motility.
Cannon's published books include Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear, and Rage (1915) and The Wisdom of the Body (1939). During World War I, he published widely on shock among soldiers and documented the ways in which systems changed in response to shock. He argued strongly for the theory of homeostasis, which explained the self-correction of bodily systems, including hunger and digestion.
40 carpenter, karen
References and Further Reading Cannon, W.B. (1898) "The Movements of the Stomach Studied by Means of the Röntgen Rays," American Journal of Physiology 1 (3): 359-82.
-(1929) Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear, and
Rage, New York and London: D. Appleton & Co.
Norton & Company. Cannon, W.B. and Lieb, C.W. (1911) "The Receptive Relaxation of the Stomach," American Journal of Physiology 29 (2): 267-73.
Cannon, W.B. and Moser, A. (1898) "The Movements of the Food in the Esophagus," Journal of Physiology 1
(4): 43 5 -44. Cannon, W.B. and Washburn, A.L. (1912) "An Explanation of Hunger," American Journal of Physiology 29 (5): 441-54. Cross, Stephen J. and Albury, William R. (1987) "Walter B. Cannon, L.J. Henderson, and the Organic Analogy," Osiris 3: 165-92.
Was this article helpful?
Studies show obesity may soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of death in America. Are you ready to drop those extra pounds you've been carrying around? Awesome. Let's start off with a couple positive don't. You don't need to jump on a diet craze and you don't need to start exercising for hours each day.