Sabine Karam MD
Saint George Hospital University Medical Center, Beirut, Lebanon

Homer W. Smith (1895-1962), physiologist and medical writer, was a pioneer in renal physiology. He recognized the clinical importance of renal clearance methods, a concept initially introduced by Donald Van Slyke in 1928 (1). He introduced them as a tool for the precise measurement of renal function in medical practice and elaborated on the concepts of glomerular filtration, effective renal plasma flow, and intrarenal resistance(2). Smith also played an essential role in elucidating tubular transport capacity, the reabsorption and secretion of various substances such as urea and creatinine, as well as providing novel insights into the mechanisms of the excretion of water and electrolytes(3). Finally, he was instrumental in setting the perfect example of collaboration between basic scientists and clinicians, a model which has since been followed worldwide(2). Dr. Smith's studies of the kidney culminated in 1951 with the authoritative summary, "The Kidney, Structure and Function in Health and Disease". He also had a remarkable career in philosophy and literature, as illustrated by the reflective essay, “From Fish to Philosopher,” describing the evolutionary role of the kidney in enabling survival in both water and on land(4). Today, his legacy endures through the Homer W. Smith annual award in renal physiology established by the American Society of Nephrology in 1964.


      SE B. Clearance concept in renal physiology. In: GOTrSCHALK CW BR, GIEBISCH GH, editor. Renal Physiology, People and Ideas. Bethesda: American Physiological society; 1987.
      Baldwin DS, Neugarten J. Homer Smith: his contribution to the practice of nephrology. J Am Soc Nephrol. 1995;5(12):1993-9.
      Giebisch G. Homer W. Smith's contribution to renal physiology. J Nephrol. 2004;17(1):159-65.
      Fishman AP. Homer W. SMITH (1895-1962). Circulation. 1962;26:984-5.

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