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Vogt, Marthe Louise (1903-2003)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 PP/MLV
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Vogt, Marthe Louise (1903-2003)
Date(s): 1895-1988
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 33 boxes, 4 oversize items
Name of creator(s): Vogt | Marthe Louise | 1903-2003 | pharmacologist, neurophysiologist and neuropharmacologist
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Marthe Louise Vogt was born on 8th September 1903. Her parents, Oskar (German-Danish) and Cécile (French) Vogt (née Mugnier) were distinguished neuro-anatomists, living in turn of the century Berlin. Marthe was educated in a liberal and intellectual environment. She received her schooling at Auguste Viktoria-Schule, Berlin. She then studied medicine and chemistry at Berlin University 1922-1927 and obtained her Doctor of Medicine degree on account of some research on the microscopical anatomy of the human brain, carried out in Berlin at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut für Hirnforschung (Kaiser William Institute for Brain Research - aka "Brain Science" although Marthe herself translates it as 'Brain Research'). Shortly afterwards she became involved in research in biochemistry under Professor Neuberg at the Kaiser William Institute (1927-1929) and then took the degree of Dr. phil. in chemistry.

For a short time Vogt worked in histological research on the normal and pathological brain. In October 1929 she started work under Professor Paul Trendelenburg at the Pharmacological Institute of Berlin University on pharmacology and endocrinology. She left the Pharmacological Institute in December 1930 for a post as research assistant at the Kaiser William Institute for Brain Research. In 1931, at age 28, she became head of its Chemical Department. Her main work there was on the pharmacology of the central nervous system, i.e. on the distribution, within the brain, of various drugs with specific central effects. Her work was made possible by the Rockefeller Foundation which equipped the new Chemical Department of the Institute where she worked until March 1935. By the early 1930s Marthe Vogt was a well established pharmacologist. However, like many other scientists of her generation she left Germany at that time and came to Britain. Departing in April 1935 on a one-year Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship, Vogt had no intention of returning to a Germany ruled by the Nazis whom she detested. She joined the British Pharmacological Society (established in 1931), along with several other German pharmacologist 'refugee scientists' such as Otto Krayer, William Feldberg, Edith Bülbring and Phillip Ellinger. Once in England Vogt worked for 6 months under leading pharmacologist Sir Henry Dale, at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, on humoral transmission of nerve impulses. This led to her co-authoring a paper with Dale and Feldberg, 'Release of Acetylcholine at Voluntary Motor Nerve Endings' published 1936 in the Journal of Physiology (Vol.86, pp.353-379). This classic paper contains the first description of release of acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction following stimulation of motor nerve fibres (i.e. proving that acetylcholine from nerves originating in the spinal cord triggers movement in muscles - the chemical basis of movement) The effects of denervation, transmitter depletion and the post-synaptic actions of curarine are all described. The work described in this paper contributed to Sir Henry Dale winning the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1936.

In Oct 1935 Marthe Vogt went to Cambridge and, as a Fellow of Girton, began working with Professor E B Verney, mainly on the rise in general blood pressure caused by substances liberated from the ischaemic kidney. She continued this research until 1940 with the aid of grants to Verney from the Royal Society and the Rockefeller Foundation and then the award of the Alfred Yarrow Research Fellowship of Girton College. Some experimental work during that time was concerned with the problem of the innervation of the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland. In 1938 she was awarded the degree of PhD (Cambridge). While at Cambridge Vogt acted as a demonstrator in the Pharmacology classes, the Physiology classes and in the Pharmacology lecture demonstrations. From 1939-1943 she was examining in the Cambridge Pharmacology examinations of medical students. From June 1941 to the end of 1946 (most of the Second World War) she was a member of staff of the College of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. In the Pharmacological Research Laboratories of the Society in London she did routine work concerned with the biological standardisation of drugs and hormones, plus research on the physiology of the suprarenal gland. Teaching activities were concerned with the supervision of post-graduate students. During this time she was also working with J H Gaddum who was also on the staff of the College. There she produced the seminal paper with William Feldberg on 'Acetylcholine Synthesis in Different Regions of the Central Nervous System' which was eventually published in 1948 in the Journal of Physiology (Vol.107, pp.372-381). The paper demonstrated the regional distribution of cholinergic systems in the brain. It provided strong evidence that acetylcholine was a transmitter in the brain and presented a chemical basis upon which drugs to combat disorders of the brain could be designed.

In January 1947 Marthe Vogt was appointed lecturer, later reader, in Pharmacology, Edinburgh University. There she also carried on with research on the suprarenal cortex as well as taking part in the teaching and research activities of the Pharmacology Laboratory. She worked there for the next 13 years. During 1949 she spent time at Columbia University, New York, as a Visiting Associate Professor (see file PP/MLV/C/21/4). In 1952, only 5 years after her appointment she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, a distinction awarded previously to only eight other women. In 1954 Vogt published what is viewed as her most important paper, 'The concentration of sympathin in different parts of the nervous system under normal conditions and after the administration of drugs' Journal of Physiology 1954 (Vol.123, pp.451-481). This was a milestone on the mechanism of neural transmission. She observed that adrenaline and noradrenaline are heterogeneously distributed in the brain and concluded that cerebral sympathin (adrenaline and noradrenaline) was yet another chemical in the brain involved as a transmitter in the communication between brain cells. She went on to show that levels of noradrenaline in the brain could be manipulated pharmacologically, i.e. influenced by drugs that are used to treat mental illness. This fundamental discovery was the beginning of studies in the field of catecholamines (including sympathin) as transmitters in the brain. Marthe Vogt continued to make a substantial contribution to this area for many years, for example, in 1956 she published another important paper on neural transmission by demonstrating the effects of reserpine on catecholamine storage (see Journal of Neurochemistry 1956, Vol.1, pp.8-11).

Much of Vogt's work helped pave the way to transforming the lives of Parkinson's Disease sufferers and the mentally ill. Modern drug therapy for Parkinson's Disease, depression and schizophrenia has developed from the basic premise that the chemical systems at which the drugs are targeted - catecholamines - are present and active in the CNS in the first place. This is something which Vogt did much to establish. In 1960 Marthe Vogt moved back to Cambridge, appointed Head of the Pharmacology Unit of the Agricultural Research Council Institute of Animal Physiology at Babraham - a post she held until 1968. During this period she was also visiting Professor at Sydney, 1965, and Montreal, 1968. Despite heavy administrative duties, Vogt continued experimenting and was the first to demonstrate the actual release of diverse transmitters from the brain in vivo (in living animals), and their sensitivity to acute events such as electrical stimulation and changes in anaesthesia. Although she retired from administrative work in 1968 her experimental scientific work at Babraham diversified and she gained expertise with central serotonergic (5-HT) systems, constantly keeping up to date with new techniques and concepts. Marthe Vogt received many honours during her career; she was made an Honorary Member of the British Pharmacological Society (1971); Physiological Society (1974); German Physiological Society (1976); American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1977); Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1981); British Association of Psychopharmacology (1983). She was made a Life Fellow of Girton College Cambridge in 1970, elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1980, won the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 1981 and the Wellcome Gold Medal in 1983 which was awarded for outstanding contributions to pharmacology. The Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge bestowed the Honorary DSc in 1974 and 1983 respectively. Vogt published around 200 scientific papers in physiological, pharmacological and neurological journals during her long career, c.1927-1984, as author or co-author. In the late 1980s [c.1988] Marthe Vogt went to live with her sister Marguerite in La Jolla, California, USA. She died on 9th September 2003, the day after her 100th birthday.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Marthe Vogt, relating almost entirely to Vogt's scientific career, 1895-1988. Personal material is found in section A and includes a rare set of publications by her distinguished scientist parents Oskar and Cécile Vogt (A/1/2-4), a bibliography of Oskar Vogt (A/1/1), plus biographical information on Marthe Vogt (A/2) and various certificates of awards presented to her (A/3). Section B chiefly comprises notebooks and other papers relating to her experimental research, from Vogt's Berlin days through to the early 1980s. This research, meticulously recorded by Vogt, formed the background to many of her important and seminal papers in the field of neurotransmitters. The bulk of the collection is formed by Section C; 20 boxes of Vogt's correspondence covering all aspects of her work and career, chiefly from her arrival in Britain in 1935 up until 1988. This has been listed in detail and is arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent. Section D is a rather miscellaneous grouping of material relating to various aspects of Vogt's work. It includes papers and lectures on her adrenal research (D/1), lists of those who were sent reprints of her published articles (D/2), some ephemera relating to the Institute of Animal Research at Babraham (D/3), Vogt's University of Berlin doctoral thesis 1929 (D/4/1) and some book reviews written by her between 1952 and 1983 (D/4/2). The photographs comprising Section E include portraits of Vogt's father, mother and sister taken in Germany (E/1), an excellent collection of portraits of Marthe Vogt (E/2) and series documenting her attendance at conferences all over the world (E/4) and her many colleagues-friends and contacts (E/3).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, German, French, Italian, Russian

System of arrangement:

Section A: Personal and Family, 1895-1988 A/1 Oskar and Cécile Vogt, 1895-1988 A/2 Marthe Vogt Biographical Information, 1946-c.1988 A/3 Marthe Vogt Cetificates and Awards, 1974-1983 Section B: Research Notebooks, 1926-1982 B/1 Berlin Notebooks, 1920s B/2 Early Research and Miscellaneous Notes, c.1950 B/3 Physiology of the Suprarenal Gland, 1941-1964 B/4 Sympathin Research and Serotonergic Systems, 1949-1982 B/5 Suprarenalectomies, 1940-1953 B/6 Methods and Instructions, 1950s-1970s Section C: Correspondence, c.1907-1988 C/1-C/23 Correspondence Files - A to Correspondence Files W (inclusive) C/24 Correspondence Files - Y C/25 Correspondence Files - Z Section D: Miscellaneous Research-Related Material, 1929-1987 D/1 Adrenal Research, 1947-1961 D/2 Reprints of Published Papers Sent, c.1947-1984 D/3 Institute of Animal Research, Babraham, [1960]-1987 D/4 Other Miscellaneous Research-Related Items, 1929-1983 Section E: Photographs, [1902]-1988 E/1 Vogt Family Photographs, 1920s-1950s E/2 Portraits of Marthe Vogt, c.1940-1982 E/3 Colleagues and Friends, 1961-1988 E/4 Conferences, Congresses and Symposia, 1961-1980 E/5 Miscellaneous Photographs, [1902-1980].

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking. Section C contains a number of exceptions to these conditions. Several files contain confidential material - mainly personal references written by Marthe Vogt in support of job applications - which has been extracted and is closed for 100 years from the date/s of the material, and some files are closed entirely or access is restricted. SEE Section C Access Conditions for further details and SEE file and piece descriptions for specific closure and restriction dates.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were given to the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre of the Wellcome Institute (now Archives and Manuscripts, Wellcome Library) in 1991 by Marthe Vogt via her representative Dr Elizabeth Walser who cleared up her house and her papers at the Institute in Babraham.

Allied Materials

Related material:

See also the papers of Edith Bülbring (PP/BUL); Hermann Blaschko (PP/HKB); Sir John Gaddum (GC/213); Derek Richter (GC/175); Sir Henry Dale (PP/HHD); Professor E Basil Verney (PP/EBV)

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Copied from the Wellcome Library catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, December 2001; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Jan 2009

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