The legacy of A. V. Hill's Nobel Prize winning work on muscle energetics

J Physiol. 2022 Apr;600(7):1555-1578. doi: 10.1113/JP281556. Epub 2022 Feb 22.


A. V. Hill was awarded the 1922 Nobel Prize, jointly with Otto Meyerhof, for Physiology or Medicine for his work on energetic aspects of muscle contraction. Hill used his considerable mathematical and experimental skills to investigate the relationships among muscle mechanics, biochemistry and heat production. The main ideas of the work for which the Nobel Prize was awarded were superseded within a decade, and the legacy of Hill and Meyerhof's Nobel work was not a set of persistent, influential ideas but rather a prolonged period of extraordinary activity that advanced the understanding of how muscles work far beyond the concepts that led to the Nobel Prize. Hill pioneered the integration of mathematics into the study of physiology and pharmacology. Particular aspects of Hill's own work that remain in common use in muscle physiology include mathematical descriptions of the relationships between muscle force output and shortening velocity and between force output and calcium concentration, and the model of muscle as a contractile element in series with an elastic element. We describe some of the characteristics of Hill's broader scientific activities and then outline how Hill's work on muscle energetics was extended after 1922, as a result of Hill's own work and that of others, to the present day.

Keywords: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1922; muscle; muscle efficiency; muscle energetics; muscle heat production.

MeSH terms

  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscles*
  • Nobel Prize*