Vogt, Dr Marthe Louise (1903-2003)

  • Vogt, Dr Marthe Louise (1903-2003)
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The collection relates both to Vogt's scientific career and her personal life, although it gives the impression that her work was the pre-dominating factor in her life.

Personal material is found in section A and includes a rare set of publications by her distinguished scientist parents Oskar and Cécile Vogt (A/1/2-6), a bibliography of Oskar Vogt (A/1/1), and more personal records about Vogt's parents (A/1/7-15) and sister (A/4). There is also biographical information on Marthe Vogt, including her birth certificate, bible, CV, financial documents, diaries, lists of publications (A/2) and 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).

Section F comprises of personal correspondence from Vogt to her family (F/1), friends, colleagues and officials (F/2), including clandestine correspondence between Vogt in Britain and her family in Germany during World War II. Section G contains newspaper cuttings which were received alongside her personal papers.



Physical description

42 boxes, 4 oversize items


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

A/4 Marguerite Vogt

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: Professional 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, c.1960-1987

D/4 Other Miscellaneous Research-Related Items, 1929-1983

Section E: Photographs, c.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, c.1902-c.1980

Section F: Personal Correspondence, 1933-1960

F/1 Correspondence with Family, 1935-1959

F/2 Correspondence with Friends, Colleagues and Officials, 1933-1960

F/3 Letters and Reports from the Immediate Post-War Period, 1946-1948

Section G: Newspaper Cuttings and Other Papers, 1930s-1950s

Acquisition note

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

Biographical note

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.

Sources and Further Reading:

Obituaries in: Physiology News Issue 54, Spring 2004, by Susan Greenfield, Director, Royal Institution of Great Britain; Telegraph 3 Oct 2003; La Jolla Light 16 Oct 2003.

Entry in Who's Who 1984; Marthe Vogt's own CVs (see file PP/MLV/A/2/1)

Letter from Augosto Juorio to Elizabeth Walser, 14 Feb 1991 (depositer's file)

Related material

At Wellcome Collection:

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)

Copyright note

Information on the depositor file shows that copyright was assigned to the Wellcome Trust by Marthe Vogt. Copyright in her published papers was NOT assigned.

Terms of use

This collection has been partially catalogued and the catalogued part is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact collections@wellcomecollection.org for more details.

Accruals note

Five boxes of important additional material was received in September 2007 (acc.1542), consisting of: correspondence, publications, newspaper cuttings, diaries and photographs, relating to the scientific work and personal life of Marthe Vogt and also that of her parents Oskar and Cecil (in Germany) and sister Marguerite (in Germany and later in the USA). This accrual was catalogued in large part in May 2017, however the photographs remain uncatalogued.


Note on ABBREVIATIONS List of Abbreviations used in this catalogue: AChE - Acetylcholinesterase ACTH - Adrenocorticotropic Hormone BMJ - British Medical Journal CNS - Central Nervous System CSF - Cerebrospinal fluid CV - Curriculum Vitae GABA - Gamma Aminobutyric Acid LSD - Lysergic Acid Diethylamide MAOI - Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor MRC - Medical Research Council NGF - Nerve Growth Factor UCLA - University of California, Los Angeles 5-HT - 5 Hydroxytryptamine (also known as serotonin) 5-HIAA 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid (a serotonin metabolite) 6-OHDA 6 Hydroxydopamine Note on PHARMACOLOGICAL TERMS Terms used inter-changeably in this catalogue, reflecting language used by pharmacologists and other scientists in the correspondence and notebooks: 5-HT / 5 Hydroxytryptamine/ serotonin Acetylcholine / acetylcholine / ACh ACTH / Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / Corticotropin Adrenaline / epinephrine (the term epinephrine is most commonly used in the USA) Catecholamine / catechol amine / amine Noradrenaline / norepinephrine (the term norepinephrine is most commonly used in the USA) Note on CHEMICAL SYMBOLS Certain chemical symbols, namely the Greek symbols for alpha and gamma, have been transliterated since the ability to display Greek characters is not enabled on this database at the time of cataloguing. Note on SPELLINGS American (USA) spellings, e.g. center, pediatrics, anesthesia, have been retained where the organisation originates and exists in the USA. Note on NAMES OF COUNTRIES Geo-political historical accuracy has been maintained in the title and description fields, hence use of the terms USSR, West Germany, West Pakistan, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, etc.

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Accession number

  • 370
  • 381
  • 1542