Robert Goetz: A pioneer of the study of the physiology of animals in the wild

Studying the physiology and behaviour of free-living wild animals was impossible until the technology to capture wild animals and to make measurements in the field was developed. A pioneer in this field was Robert H. Goetz who, having completed medical degrees in Germany and Switzerland, took up an appointment as a research scientist in the J.S. Marais Surgical Research Laboratory at the University of Cape Town in 1937. His expertise was in cardiovascular physiology and pathology and he became interested in giraffe physiology. The features of the giraffe cardiovascular system are unique and ensue from their long necks. In 1954 and 1956 Goetz organised two scientific "safaris" to the then Northern Transvaal to study giraffe physiology and showed that "taking the lab to the animal" was feasible and that the capture of wild animals using drugs carried by "darts" was possible. Since that time these technologies have become commonplace throughout the world and they can be regarded as amongst the most significant advances ever made in the biological sciences. Goetz emigrated to the USA in 1957 where, in 1960, he performed the first ever successful coronary bypass procedure, a procedure that is ranked as one of the ten greatest discoveries in cardiology.

Last Updated
January 27, 2021
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