Image of a cell

Detlev W. Bronk

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For his highly original research in the field of physiology and for his manifold contributions to the advance of science and its institution in the service of society.

At medical conventions, Detlev W. Bronk would unexpectedly broadcast sounds of gunshots.

Though it panicked his colleagues, the prank also served as a lesson about the human nervous system, which – when amplified – makes noises that sound like machine gun fire.

Bronk taught many lessons over a career spanning more than four decades.

An advocate for STEM education, the so-called “father of biophysics” pushed for neuroscience research as head of the Institute of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1949, Bronk became president of Johns Hopkins University, where he drafted the Hopkins Plan, which allowed students to choose their own rate of progress through undergraduate and graduate studies.

During his tenure, he also proved to be a staunch defender of academic freedom after Sen. Joseph McCarthy accused professor Owen Lattimore of being an active Communist.

Speaking at Congressional hearings, Bronk stood up for Lattimore, refusing to remove him from his position.