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  • The Guyton Biography

    Arthur Guyton was born in Oxford, Miss., on Sept. 8, 1919, to the late Dr. and Mrs. Billy S. Guyton. His father - an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist - was also dean of the two-year medical school on the Oxford campus. His mother, Kate, had taught mathematics and physics as a missionary in China.

    He graduated from University High School with the highest academic average in his class and entered Ole Miss in 1936, completed his undergraduate work in three years, and again graduated at the top of his class.

    Dr. Arthur C. and Ruth Guyton
    Dr. Arthur C. and Ruth Guyton

    As a medical student at Harvard, he attracted the attention of a biochemistry professor with his idea of a way to measure and differentiate ions in solutions. The professor turned over a small lab to the promising young scientists who spent his spare time thereafter pursuing experiments which caught his imagination.

    In the middle of his senior year in medical school, he and his future wife Ruth Weigle began a serious courtship which culminated in marriage on June 12, 1943. Ruth, whose father was dean of Yale University Divinity School, was a recent graduate of Wellesley College and taught at Pine Manor Junior College in Wellesley.

    He began a surgical internship at Massachusetts General Hospital shortly after his marriage. His training was interrupted by a call to serve in the U.S. Navy at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and later at Camp Detrick, Md., where his work earned him an Army Commendation Citation.

    After World War II ended, he returned to Massachusetts General to complete his residency. Less than a year later, he was stricken with polio which would leave his right leg and shoulder paralyzed.

    During a nine-month recovery at Warm Springs, Ga., he designed a special leg brace, a hoist for moving patients from bed to chair to bathtub, and a motorized wheelchair controlled by an electric "joy stick." For these devices he received a presidential citation.

    In 1947, the Guytons moved back to Oxford where he taught pharmacology in the two-year medical school. In 1948, he was named chairman of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics.

    His now famous and widely used textbook, "Textbook of Medical Physiology," had its beginnings in Oxford. He decided that the text the students were using was unsatisfactory, and he began reading in diverse areas of physiology. In summarizing his reading, he wrote handouts for each section of the course and realized he had the core of a complete textbook.

    In the decades since, it has become the best-selling physiology text in the world and quite possibly the most widely used medical textbook of any kind.