Knut Schmidt-Nielsen
Knut Schmidt-Nielsen was a prominent figure in the field of comparative physiology
Comparative physiology
Comparative physiology is a subdiscipline of physiology that studies and exploits the diversity of functional characteristics of various kinds of organisms. It is closely related to evolutionary physiology and environmental physiology. Many universities offer undergraduate courses that cover...

 and Professor of Physiology Emeritus at Duke University
Duke University
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco industrialist James B...



Born in Trondheim
Trondheim , historically, Nidaros and Trondhjem, is a city and municipality in Sør-Trøndelag county, Norway. With a population of 173,486, it is the third most populous municipality and city in the country, although the fourth largest metropolitan area. It is the administrative centre of...

, Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

. He was educated in Oslo
Oslo is a municipality, as well as the capital and most populous city in Norway. As a municipality , it was established on 1 January 1838. Founded around 1048 by King Harald III of Norway, the city was largely destroyed by fire in 1624. The city was moved under the reign of Denmark–Norway's King...

 and Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

. He became a
student in the laboratory of August Krogh
August Krogh
Schack August Steenberg Krogh FRS was a Danish professor of Romani background at the department of zoophysiology at the University of Copenhagen from 1916-1945...

 in Copenhagen in 1937. Schmidt-Nielsen moved to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, where he studied at Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College is a private, independent, liberal arts college in the United States with an enrollment of about 1,500 students. The college is located in the borough of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia....

, Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

, and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.


Schmidt-Nielsen published over 275 scientific papers, received the International Prize for Biology and wrote the authoritative text on animal physiology. Schmidt-Nielsen is widely recognized as having made significant contributions to ecophysiology
Ecophysiology or environmental physiology is a biological discipline which studies the adaptation of organism's physiology to environmental conditions...

. He has been referred to as "the father of comparative physiology and integrative biology" and "one of the all-time greats of animal physiology". He came to Duke University
Duke University
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco industrialist James B...

 in 1952 and became a James B. Duke Professor
James B. Duke Professor
At Duke University, the title of James B. Duke Professor is given to a small number of the faculty with extraordinary records of achievement. At some universities, titles like "Distinguished Professor," "Institute Professor," or "Regents Professor" are counterparts of this title.- Some current...

 in the Department of Biology.

In 1980, Knut Schmidt-Nielsen was elected President of the International Union of Physiological Sciences. He was the founding editor of News in Physiological Sciences. He was a
member of the Royal Society of London, the French Academy of Sciences
French Academy of Sciences
The French Academy of Sciences is a learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research...

 and the United States National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

. Next to the Biological Science building on Duke's campus is a statue of Schmidt-Nielson looking at a camel, honoring his discovery that a camel stores fat in its hump to serve as a water and energy supply.


  • 1972 How Animals Work Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521096928
  • 1979 Desert animals: Physiological problems of heat and water Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0486238500
  • 1984 Scaling: Why is Animal Size so Important? Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-31987-0
  • 1997 Animal Physiology: Adaptation and Environment Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521570985
  • 1998 The Camel's Nose: Memoirs Of A Curious Scientist Washington, D.C: Island Press. ISBN 978-1559635127
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