J Physiol 596.6 (2018) pp 959–960
The Journal of Physiology
Professor John H. Coote
physiologist and mountaineer
David J. Paterson
Department of Physiology Anatomy and
Genetics, Parks Road, Oxford, UK
Edited by: Kim Barrett
John Coote was Bowman Professor of Phy-
siology in autonomic neuroscience and
cardiovascular control at the University of
Birmingham until his retirement, and also a
keen mountaineer (Fig. 1).
In 1969 after scaling the Bolivar Peak, one
of the highest mountains in Venezuela, he
lay badly injured on the snow-swept peak
for 10 h after his rope snapped minutes
into the descent. This also resulted in
the death of his two Venezuelan climbing
companions who rested beside him. He
was eventually rescued and went on to
partake in many more expeditions to Nepal
and Peru with the Birmingham Medical
Figure 1. John Coote on a cycle ergometer during the Birmingham Medical Research Expeditionary
Society trip to Nepal in October 1984
Research Expeditionary Society, and later
with colleagues at Oxford where he made
several major discoveries on processes
As a medical student at the Royal Free
Hospital in 1954, he registered as a paciﬁst
and became a Conscientious Objector, and
was sentenced to 3 years agricultural and
hospital work in lieu of National Service.
He returned to medical school but never
completed his training.
Instead physiology enthralled him, fol-
lowing an intercalated degree before comp-
leting his PhD in 1964. Here he developed
an interest in the neural control of the
circulation that would lead him to become
one of the great cardiovascular autonomic
neurophysiologists of his generation.
In 1967 he joined Sidney Hilton’s de-
partment at Birmingham as a lecturer.
During his time there Birmingham became
a powerhouse in autonomic neuroscience
and trained several generations of leading
Gilbey J. R. F. Paton and A. Ng – to whose
acclaim he undoubtedly contributed.
Coote published many seminal studies,
although he will be widely remembered for
his classic paper in The Journal of Physio-
logy in 1971, which has been cited nearly
500 times since publication. Together with
Perez-Gonzalez and Hilton he conclusively
established the neurophysiological basis
of the muscle pressor reﬂex. In elegant
experiments they demonstrated that cutting
the dorsal root from the cat gastrocnemius
muscle abolished the increase in blood
pressure that had been caused by ventral
root-induced muscle stimulation (Coote
et al. 1971).
A yearlater in Oxford, J. M. Mitchell and D.
I. McCloskey described the ﬁbres involved
in the reﬂex – a paper that would become a
citation classic in The Journal of Physiology.
Mitchell returned to Dallas, where he fully
exploited these observations and had an
outstanding career. Coote’s paper laid the
foundation for this work, although it never
received the same acclaim and citations in
America (McCloskey & Mitchell, 1972).
During his career at Birmingham, Coote
developed a thriving department and
went on to write leading monographs on
2018 The Authors. The Journal of Physiology
2018 The Physiological Society DOI: 10.1113/JP275884