Stefan Gelineo

Stefan Gelineo was one of the first disciples and collaborators of Jean Giaja, one of the founders of the Belgrade school of physiology and one of the most prominent architects of its post-war development. He was born in June 1898 in Stari grad on the island of Hvar (Croatia), completed high school in Split and studied Biology in Wien, Leipzig and at Belgrade University. In 1929, he joined Djaja’s scientific team at the Chair of Physiology, where he soon defended his doctoral dissertation. In 1933, his dissertation was published as a separate edition of the Serbian Academy of Sciences, entitled “Adaptation of thermogenesis to thermal environment” (Gelineo, 1933). This book had great and far-reaching significance as a special and original contribution to classical bioenergetics. It also had decisive effect on Gelineo’s entire further scientific career, and the study of thermal adaptation soon became one of the major research trends in the Belgrade School of Physiology.

At Giaja’s Chair, where Gelineo earned the highest professorship title in 1945 and at which he remained until his premature retirement in 1959, he taught two subjects that were completely new for the Serbian and neighboring academic society: Comparative Physiology and Work Physiology. He was elected as a corresponding member of the Department of Natural Sciences of the Serbian Academy of Sciences early in his career, in 1946.

In the scientific world, Gelineo’s name is most closely linked to the physiology of thermal adaptation, the field in which he started his research career and to which he contributed most significantly. More clearly and more thoroughly than anyone before him, Gelineo proved that the intensity of heat production of a homeothermic organism depends not only on acute ambient temperature, to which an organism adjusts by reflex thermoregulatory mechanisms, but also on the thermal environment in which the organism had previously lived and to which it had adapted (Gelineo and Giaja, 1933). At identical environmental temperature, thermogenesis is significantly more intense in homeotherms that have previously been exposed to cold than in an organism that has lived in warm environment. This holds true both for thermogenesis that is realized under the conditions of basal metabolism and for heat production that is observed at any environmental temperature in the zone of chemical thermoregulation. In simple expression, within the entire temperature range at which homeothermy is possible, the relationship of thermogenesis to environmental temperature (defined by Giaja’s thermoregulation curve) depends on the thermal environment to which the organism has previously adapted.

Though Gelineo’s results in the field of thermal adaptation of homeotherms have cemented his fame, no overview of his work would be complete without addressing the evolutionary physiological aspects of his research. By analyzing the phenomenon of thermal adaptation through comparative physiological and ontogenic approaches, as well as by introducing a comparative physiology course (the first course that he ever taught in Serbia), he laid the foundation for the study of evolutionary physiology in his country. He contributed mostly to the introduction of the contemporary method of comparing organisms at different levels of individual development, which became one of the basic approaches to the experimental analysis of physiological processes in the Belgrade School. He also made a considerable contribution to the foundation of ecophysiology in his country (Gelineo, 1964; Gelineo, 1968).

The significance of Gelineo’s scientific work is bolstered by the fact that in 1963, the editors of the most significant and comprehensive textbook of contemporary physiology, the American Handbook of Physiology, turned to the Yugoslav physiologist to write a chapter on adaptation of thermogenesis to thermal environment. He published 141 scientific and 14 popular science works before he passed away in Belgrade in 1971.