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Honorary degree citation - Bengt Saltin

By: Robert Boushel, June 2005

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Dr. Bengt Saltin, international leader in human exercise physiology, whose advances in understanding the human body have led to better health for millions, and enhanced performance for elite athletes worldwide.

What happens to our bodies when we spend long hours at our desks and never exercise? What is the effect on the body of hiking up high mountains? Should a person recover from injury in bed or walking? Are astronauts in danger of shrinking when they huddle in their restrictive spacecraft, free from the forces of gravity? Is it the heart or the skeletal muscle that limits athletic performance? Why does inactivity lead to diabetes? What is it about exercise that optimizes gene expression and health?

These are the kinds of questions Bengt Saltin has asked-and answered-from the level of the gene, to whole-body function, for the benefit of society in his years as one of the world's leading human physiologists.

Le D'Saltin a permis aux médecins de traiter plus efficacement leurs patients atteints de maladies du coeur, de diabète et d'autres affections. Grâce à lui, des millions de personnes sont aujourd'hui en meilleure santé et vivent pleinement leur existence. Tout ceci, il l'a accompli dans la fidélité aux principes qu'il préconise en menant une vie de sportif accompli, d'amateur de plein air actif et de citoyen engagé dans de nombreux organismes sportifs et médicaux.

Bengt Saltin earned his medical degree in Stockholm in 1964, and immediately began investigating how the human body responds to exercise, or the lack of it. As Assistant Professor of Applied Physiology at the Karolinska Institute, he helped maintain Stockholm in its position as a leader in the field. But the birthplace of modern exercise physiology is Copenhagen, and it was there that Bengt Saltin has done his most significant work as Professor of physiology, continuing the scientific lineage of revered scientists such as Nobel laureate, August Krogh. Recently he was selected by the Danish National Science Foundation to act as Director of the Copenhagen Muscle research Centre, where for the last decade he conducted some of the most important and innovative work ever done on the human body; and which has established the Copenhagen group as the leading research institute in human physiology.

His leadership and vision has markedly advanced our knowledge of the effects of exercise on the human body. He defined and proved the expression 'humans were meant to move'. His list of important publications is extraordinary. No one has done more-and recognizing this, the International Olympic Committee awarded him the IOC Olympic Prize (an Olympic Gold Medal) the highest honour in movement, exercise and sports sciences, for his contribution to the understanding of the benefits of physical activity on health. To this honour have been added many more: honourary degrees, the highest prizes in the field of physiology and medicine, and prestigious grants.

At the last World Scientific Congress for the Athens Olympics, he was called the 'Aristotle' of exercise physiology. Of equal importance is the gift of his brilliant mentors hip, and inspirational guidance to a vast number of younger scientists. On behalf of them, I would like to express deep gratitude to Bengt for his remarkable example of a life.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of the Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you Bengt Saltin, so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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