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10Marthe Louise Vogt

September 8, 1903 in Berlin –
September 9, 2003 in San Diego, California, USA

Marthe Louise Vogt

Marthe Louise Vogt was a German pharmacologist and neuroscientist. She made important contributions to our understanding of neurotransmitters, particularly adrenaline, in the brain.

Marthe Vogt was the daughter of Oskar and Cécile Vogt and the older sister of Marguerite Vogt. She studied medicine and chemistry in Berlin from 1922 to 1927. She received her doctorate in medicine in 1928 and a second doctorate in chemistry in 1929. Until 1931 she worked as an assistant with Paul Trendelenburg at the Berlin Pharmacological Institute. After his death, she transferred to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research in Berlin-Buch, where she headed the neurochemistry department.

She stayed there until her parents retired – officially because of Oskar Vogt‘s connections to the Soviet Union, but in reality because they refused to dismiss Jewish employees. At that point, in 1935, Marthe Vogt also left the institute and Germany. Her first stop was the National Institute for Medical Research in Hampstead, London, on a Rockefeller grant. There she worked with Nobel Prize winner Henry Hallett Dale. Dale had demonstrated that signals in the autonomic nervous system involved chemical transmission; his work focused on acetylcholine. Vogt, Dale and Feldberg demonstrated that acetylcholine is also used as a neurotransmitter between motor neurons and skeletal muscle.

After stays in Cambridge and London, Marthe Vogt moved to Edinburgh in 1946 to head her first research group at the Department of Pharmacology. There, in 1954, she identified two more neurotransmitters in the central nervous system: noradrenaline and adrenaline. These joined acetylcholine as the first neurotransmitters ever identified.

From 1960 until 1966, Vogt headed the Pharmacology Department of the Agricultural Research Council Institute of Animal Physiology in Babraham near Cambridge. At that point she retired, but her work did not end. In 1974 she became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University. She continued to carry out research until finally her eyesight began to fail, and in 1990 she moved to California to live with her sister Marguerite. Marthe Vogt died there in 2003, one day after her 100th birthday.

Vogt’s work established an important basis for modern neuropharmacology. The effects of many psychotropic drugs or muscle relaxants could not be explained without the knowledge attained through her research.