Lecture 1 – Peak performance

Life on Earth may have begun 4 billion years ago, but humans appeared only 130,000 years from the present day. With such a long period in development, the human body has been shaped into an amazingly complex piece of biological machinery.

In the first lecture of his series, Dr Hugh Montgomery (now Professor) explores how the human body uses oxygen to burn fuels and release energy to power the function of its cells. He looks at how the respiratory system has adapted to draw air in from the atmosphere and how the lungs operate to move oxygen into the blood.

He uncovers how our heart works to deliver a continuous supply of oxygenated blood to all the cells in the body and, more importantly, reveals how the cells utilise this oxygen to release the energy they require.

Finally, Hugh hears from mountaineers who have climbed Mount Everest, where there is three-times less oxygen than at sea level, and finds out what happens to their bodies when they stand at the very top of the world.


Being human


© The Royal Institution




Hugh Montgomery



All lectures in the series