Professor Bengt Saltin is a world leading human physiologist. As a medical doctor he has devoted his life to researching the effects of physical exercise on health and performance. No single scientist in modern times has covered more or has such a significant impact on discovering the nature of human function. He has published over 500 papers covering vast areas of physiology. He coined and proved the term ‘humans were meant to move’ from the level of gene expression to heart and muscle function. His famous ‘bed rest’ study transformed medical practice on how people recover from heart attacks, general surgery, or injury. He proved the importance and limits of the heart in athletes and cardiac patients, described and explained the genetic basis for why world-class marathoners and sprinters run so fast. He provided the scientific basis for determining if an athlete is using performance-enhancing drugs. Most importantly, his emphasis on gene-environment interaction has extended our fundamental scientific knowledge of human physiology by clarifying the importance of the environment for optimizing gene expression. He is now exploring the ways how inactivity causes diabetes. Bengt Saltin has extended the scientific lineage of the Nobel laureate August Krogh by acting as Director of the Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre, the leading human physiology institute in the world.
He has served as Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, directed multiple national and international governmental health and medical organizations, and currently serves on the scientific board of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). He has received the highest international honours in his field. In 2002, he was awarded the IOC Prize, an Olympic Gold Medal, for having made the greatest contribution to our understanding of exercise for health and performance. By consensus of his peers, at the last World Scientific Congress in Athens in 2004, he was introduced for his keynote address as the “Aristotle of Human Physiology”




Bengt Saltin was born in Sweden on June 3rd, 1935, and grew up near Stockholm with his mother Margaret and father Sven Saltin who were public school teachers.  He was raised in close contact with nature, and in his formative years was an athlete but interested in forestry as a career.  However, his mother swayed his professional focus towards medicine and so he went on to study at Karolinska Institute where Ulf van Euler recruited him as an assistant. van Euler (1970, Nobel laureate) had already discovered several vasoactive substances, including noradrenaline. Bengt expressed interest in sport, so he was introduced to the Danish Professor Erik Hohwü Christensen, who after working with August Krogh and Johannes Lindhard in Copenhagen, was appointed director of the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics in Stockholm (now The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences). In the summer of 1959, Bengt began his academic training in Exercise Physiology, and his first research study on the physiology of intermittent exercise was published in 1960.

Prof Bengt Saltin, ECSS founding member, ECSS Patron
03.06.1935 - 12.09.2014

In 1964, Bengt defended his doctorate with Hohwü Christensen and Per-Olof ?strand as mentors and then embarked on a prodigious span of research in the field of exercise physiology in which he was to become a world leader. During the 60’s Bengt was fortunate to work with some of the leading exercise physiologists producing several classical articles, mostly dealing with factors limiting exercise performance and adaptations to training. In the mid-sixties, he worked with Jonas Bergstrom and Erik Hultman starting a new line of research focusing on muscle adaptations to exercise which he pursued during the decades to follow. In the late 60’s his work in Dallas on “Response to exercise after bed rest and after training” had a major impact in both physiology and medicine, and contributed to him being awarded the International Olympic Committee Prize in Sport Sciences in 2002, -the highest recognition a scientist can receive from the international sports world. In 1973 he was appointed professor at the University of Copenhagen where he continued his career first at the August Krogh Institute and later as Director of the Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre (CMRC). At the CMRC several Danish groups with diverse expertise and methodologies made it possible to investigate cardiovascular and muscle physiology from the systemic to the most advanced molecular levels, and the rich research environment Bengt nurtured there brought both international interest and collaboration. Bengt led several field expeditions to the Himalayas, Andes, North Greenland and Kenya, where several aspects of human adaptation to environment were studied. He also led some comparative physiology studies in horses and camels, which became classics in the field.

Bengt had a tremendous curiosity about diverse scientific areas, and an enormous capacity for work; he published more than 500 works,  mentored many students from around the world and also served a term as Dean of the Faculty of Science while at the University of Copenhagen. He was a Knight of the Dannebrog (Royal Danish Decoration) and was honoured with the Swedish king's gold medal. He was a member of Danish Academy of Sciences, received honorary doctorates from 12 universities, and received numerous honorary awards throughout his life, including Novo Nordisk Prize.

Amongst the numerous achievements of his remarkable career, he was the first President of the European College of Sport Science (1995-1997) of which he was one of the founding fathers. He brought to the College his extensive experience and knowledge in exercise physiology and actively promoted the value of an empirical approach to sport science. His strong background in biomedical sciences and close interest in the Arts disciplines were instrumental for developing the ECSS as a strong, multidisciplinary, international scientific organisation.

He was an exceptionally talented scientist, capable of covering almost every aspect of exercise physiology. His work contributed significantly to advance the understanding of muscle metabolism, regulation of the circulation and the mechanisms of adaptation to exercise training. When asked about what is the secret of a successful research career, he replied “a good question”. He enjoyed discussions probing hypotheses on physiological mechanisms and he was thrilled by the challenge of seemingly impossible experiments, which he often made real. His scientific contributions in the field of exercise physiology have had a major impact in the field of public health, which he remained devoted to as a physician. Bengt took great interest in literature, history and the arts, and gravitated to nature when he had time. He had an impeccable memory, which combined with his sharp intellect and humble humour made him a fascinating storyteller. Bengt Saltin died peacefully, surrounded by his family in Stockholm. He was 79. He will be deeply missed by those close to him and by many colleagues and students around the world who knew him personally. He was not only a brilliant scientist, he was a truly remarkable human being.

Jose A L Calbet, Robert Boushel & Marco Narici



??? Bengt Saltin, pionero de la fisiología deportiva

José Antonio L. Calbet / Roberto Boushel / Marco Narici
José Antonio L. Calbet es catedrático en la Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Robert Boushel es catedrático en la Universidad de Estocolmo y Marco Narici catedrático en la Universidad de Notingham y presidente del European College of Sport Science.

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