About the Human and Animal Physiology Group

The current chair group Human and Animal Physiology was established on 9 March 1918, at the establishment of Wageningen University (initially named Agricultural University, or in Dutch Landbouwhogeschool, the denomination for Technical University).

The first professor was H.C. Reimers, who was appointed as professor in Anatomy, Physiology and Diseases and Medicine of Domestic Animals. He was one of the 32 appointed professors of the new university. He saw himself mainly as teacher, learning his students on how to handle healthy and diseased animals.

In the history of Human and Animal Physiology the fully equipped respiration cells (indirect calorimetry rooms) for large animals were a milestone. These not only served to internationally position the chairgroup research, but also served as template for later facilities for large animals on the Wageningen Campus and internationally and for humans at Maastricht University and internationally. In the past 10 years, Human and Animal Physiology pioneered in extending mouse indirect calorimetry with sensors to detect microbial fermentation gasses (methane and hydrogen) in addition to the conventional Oxygen and Carbon dioxide. He current system also senses hydrogen sulfide and isotopic carbon dioxide, allowing for analysis of oxidation of specific non-radioactive labeled substrates. Human and Animal Physiology is also fully equipped, and further develops, oxygraphy for cells in culture. In addition, insect respiration cells are being implemented. The chairgroup thus extends a tradition which it pioneered in the 1950’s.

The research focus of Human and animal Physiology started with (nutritional) metabolism and extended to endocrinology as well es neurophysiology in the 1970s. While initially the research was translational, it shifted to production animals. Later again, model animal species, especially rats and insects were studied, were humans. The number of staff peaked in 1965 with 45 people and remained stable in the 1970s, but then gradually declined until 2008, when only two permanent staff member remained, all other personnel was temporary. Since then Human and Animal Physiology managed a continuous growth with currently 20 staff, one post doc and 18 PhD students (January 2024). This coincided with modernization and extension of its education portfolio, now covering many study programs, including Human Nutrition and Health, Biology, Animal Sciences, Biotechnology, Molecular Life Sciences and Food technology. It also coincided with a research focus on metabolism, integrating physiology with molecular and biochemical physiology. While the current fundamental goal is on understanding metabolism in humans as well as animals, the application goals is human preventive health.

Collaborative paintings of a Mitochondrion, a Cell and the human body by Human and Animal Physiology scientists. These paintings adorn the coffee corner of Human and Animal Physiology.

  • January 1, 1921
    Prof. Dr. Gerrit Grijns 1921 - 1935
    Prof. Reimers had a limited scientific interest and was therefore rapidly succeeded by Prof. Dr. Gerrit Grijns. Prof. Grijns had an international scientific reputation, firmly established already before he was appointed.
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  • January 1, 1938
    Prof. Dr. Ede Brouwer 1939 - 1964
    Dr. Ede Brouwer was appointed as professor in Animal Physiology in 1938. Prof. Dr. Ede Brouwer, a trained physician, also taught human physiology. His inaugural lecture was entitled, ‘the essential nutrients’. Prof. Ede Brouwer was active in the Wageningen University organization.
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  • January 1, 1964
    Prof.Dr. Anton Frens 1964 - 1975
    Prof. Brouwer was succeeded by Dr. Anton M. Frens who was appointed in 1964 as professor in Animal Physiology, including Metabolism of Humans and Animals.
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  • January 1, 1975
    Dr. Paul van Adrichem 1975 - 1989
    Prof. Frens was succeeded in 1975 by Dr. Paul W.M. van Adrichem who was first appointed in as Professor in General Physiology and Production Animal Physiology.
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  • January 1, 1988
    Dr. Daan van der Heide 1990 - 2004
    In 1990, right after the retirement of Prof. van Adrichem, he was succeeded by Dr. Daan van der Heide, who was also appointed as professor in General Human and Animal Physiology in 1990.
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  • January 1, 2008
    Dr.ir. Jaap Keijer 2008 -
    After few years, Dr.ir. Jaap Keijer, a Wageningen University graduate who obtained his PhD in biology from the University of Amsterdam, was appointed in 2008 as professor in Human and Animal Physiology.
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