Homeostasis, Bernard (1865), Cannon (1926), Barcroft (1932)

The concept of the regulation of the internal environment was described by French physiologist Claude Bernard in 1865, and the word homeostasis was coined by Walter Bradford Cannon in 1926.[5][6] In 1932, Joseph Barcroft a British physiologist, was the first to say that higher brain function required the most stable internal environment. Thus, to Barcroft homeostasis was not only organized by the brain—homeostasis served the brain.[7] Homeostasis is an almost exclusively biological term, referring to the concepts described by Bernard and Cannon, concerning the constancy of the internal environment in which the cells of the body live and survive.[5][6][8] The term cybernetics is applied to technological control systems such as thermostats, which function as homeostatic mechanisms, but is often defined much more broadly than the biological term of homeostasis.[4][9][10][11]


Source: Homeostasis – Wikipedia

Cannon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Bradford_Cannon

Bernard https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Bernard

Barcroft https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Barcroft

(Extracts from) self-regulation of the body (Cannon, 1939) http://www.cybsoc.org/cannon.pdf

Walter Cannon and Self-Regulation in Animals (Hagen) http://shipseducation.net/db/cannon.pdf


Good core references: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/homeostasis



Some alternative points:

Claude Bernard, The “Milieu Intérieur”, and Regulatory Physiology

Frederic L. Holmes
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Vol. 8, No. 1 (1986), pp. 3-25


Claude Bernard’s idea of the ‘milieu intérieur’ has been incorporated into modern physiology as a fundamental unifying concept. Bernard developed his conception, however, with a framework of nineteenth century concerns that differ in important ways from those of the present. This article summarizes the origins of Bernard’s idea, the contemporary issues in physiology to which it was a response, and the gradual evolution of the idea in his thought up until the end of his career. Only in the late stages of development did Bernard make regulatory mechanisms central to the idea of the internal environment, even though he had himself much earlier made important discoveries concerning specific physiological regulatory systems. The paper discusses Bernard’s views on physiological regulation, comparing them to the views of other pioneers in this field particularly those of Carl Bergmann.



Research review
From Claude Bernard to Walter Cannon. Emergence of the concept of homeostasis
Steven J. Cooper

Roots of current conceptions of the regulation of states of the body through negative feedback mechanisms are traced back to Bernard’s ideas on active stabilisation of bodily states against disturbances from the outside, revived by Henderson and Haldane, and crystallised in Cannon’s concept of homeostasis.

Click to access cooper2008.pdf


A. Querido and J. van Gijn
‘The Wisdom of the Body’: the Usefulness of Systems Thinking for Medicine

An attempt is made to evaluate the application of system thinking to medical
problems. Two examples clarify the difference between the atomistic
approach and considering the organism as a whoIe. After elucidation of the
roots of system thinking – especially in connection with natural systems –
some consequences of the integrative approach for both the theory and the
practice of medicine are discussed, as weIl as its significance for medical

Click to access PU00011604.pdf


Reference in cybernetics: a new management tool (Clemson, 1984)



Adaptive Homeostasis

Homeostasis is a central pillar of modern Physiology. The term homeostasis was invented by Walter Bradford Cannon in an attempt to extend and codify the principle of ‘milieu intérieur,’ or a constant interior bodily environment, that had previously been postulated by Claude Bernard. Clearly, ‘milieu intérieur’ and homeostasis have served us well for over a century. Nevertheless, research on signal transduction systems that regulate gene expression, or that cause biochemical alterations to existing enzymes, in response to external and internal stimuli makes it clear that biological systems are continuously making short-term adaptations both to set-points, and to the range of ‘normal’ capacity. These transient adaptations typically occur in response to relatively mild changes in conditions, to programs of exercise training, or to sub-toxic, non-damaging levels of chemical agents; thus the terms hormesis, heterostasis, and allostasis are not accurate descriptors. Therefore, an operational adjustment to our understanding of homeostasis suggests that the modified term, Adaptive Homeostasis may be useful especially in studies of stress, toxicology, disease, and aging. Adaptive Homeostasis may be defined as follows: ‘The transient expansion or contraction of the homeostatic range in response to exposure to sub-toxic, non-damaging, signaling molecules or events, or the removal or cessation of such molecules or events.”

Keywords: Homeostasis, Adaptation, Stress, Hormesis, Nrf2, Aging




. 2015 Dec; 39(4): 259–266.
PMCID: PMC4669363
PMID: 26628646

A physiologist’s view of homeostasis


Homeostasis is a core concept necessary for understanding the many regulatory mechanisms in physiology. Claude Bernard originally proposed the concept of the constancy of the “milieu interieur,” but his discussion was rather abstract. Walter Cannon introduced the term “homeostasis” and expanded Bernard’s notion of “constancy” of the internal environment in an explicit and concrete way. In the 1960s, homeostatic regulatory mechanisms in physiology began to be described as discrete processes following the application of engineering control system analysis to physiological systems. Unfortunately, many undergraduate texts continue to highlight abstract aspects of the concept rather than emphasizing a general model that can be specifically and comprehensively applied to all homeostatic mechanisms. As a result, students and instructors alike often fail to develop a clear, concise model with which to think about such systems. In this article, we present a standard model for homeostatic mechanisms to be used at the undergraduate level. We discuss common sources of confusion (“sticky points”) that arise from inconsistencies in vocabulary and illustrations found in popular undergraduate texts. Finally, we propose a simplified model and vocabulary set for helping undergraduate students build effective mental models of homeostatic regulation in physiological systems.

Keywords: homeostasis, negative feedback, regulation, core concepts

in 2007, a group of 21 biologists from a wide range of disciplines agreed that “homeostasis” was one of eight core concepts in biology (). Two years later, the American Association of Medical Colleges and Howard Hughes Medical Institute in its report () on the scientific foundations for future physicians similarly identified the ability to apply knowledge about “homeostasis” as one of the core competencies (competency M1).

From our perspective as physiologists, it is clear that homeostasis is a core concept of our discipline. When we asked physiology instructors from a broad range of educational institutions what they thought the “big ideas” (concepts) of physiology were, we found that they too identified “homeostasis” and “cell membranes” as the two most important big ideas in physiology (). In a subsequent survey (), physiology instructors ranked homeostasis as one of the core concepts critical to understanding physiology.

If, as these surveys indicate, the concept of homeostasis is central to understanding physiological mechanisms, one would expect that instructors and textbooks would present a consistent model of the concept. However, an examination of 11 commonly used undergraduate physiology and biology textbooks revealed that this is not necessarily the case ().