Knut Schmidt-Nielsen, Ph.D.

AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2000
For identifying engineering principles in how animals work, organizing that knowledge, and communicating it in understandable, enjoyable language.

Obituary In memoriam Knut Schmidt-Nielsen 24 September 1915 – 25 January 2007

Via Biologists | April 15, 2007

In the early hours of 25 January 2007, Knut Schmidt-Nielsen, James B. Duke Professor of Physiology Emeritus at Duke University, passed away peacefully in his home in Durham, North Carolina, at the age of 91. This tall, handsome Norse with his notoriously straight back and a great vital force had become frail over the past few years, but he remained alert to the very last, still enjoying a daily walk in the Duke Gardens with his caring wife Margareta. A giant of biology has left this world, a leading biologist who has broken new ground in many fields, a soft but powerful voice who was able to tell us like no other how animals work.

Have you ever wondered why your nose drips in winter? Knut Schmidt-Nielsen explained this to me one day in his notoriously lucid way. When we inhale cold dry air through the nostrils, the mucous membrane of the nasal conchae cools off while it releases water to humidify the air; when we exhale, the now water-saturated warm air cools off while flowing over the – still cooled– nasal conchae, and some of the water condenses onto the surface to be reabsorbed by the well-vascularized mucous membrane, but some excess water may eventually drip out of the nose… Continue reading.