Who's Who in Neuroscience

last updated 15 May 2004 at 10:03 am

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-427-347 B. C. Believed that the brain is the seat of the mental process, and that the soul, which is eternal and responsible for all consciousness, is temporarily imprisoned in the human body. Also believed that the soul had three parts: 1. reason 2. is the spirited element, which initiates action 3. drives the appetites Will


Writing circa 335 B.C. as one of the first philosophers, Aristotle was one of the first to begin a systematic exploration of the mind and its dreams. He separated the body and soul, believing that the soul controlled the workings of the body. Dreams were not sent by gods, but were merely a collection of memories from experiences while awake. Emily


Galen Galen was born in 129 AD into a wealthy family. From a young child, he wished to pursue the study of medicine and philosophy. While he learned and practiced these fields, he accomplished a lot in the way of discovery on the brain and the nervous system. He was able to view the anatomy of brains of many different animals by looking at cross-sections. This enabled future doctors and others to see the various parts of the brain. He also studied the effects of damage to certain areas of the nervous system. Around 177AD, he gave a speech that discussed many of his findings on the brain.
In addition to all of this, Galen made the important contribution of discovering seven of the twelve cranial nerves and also discovering many of their functions. He made observations about spinal nerves as well. He was able to determine that different spinal nerves were involved in the movement of different muscles in the body. This was of great importance as well because if a person had problems moving certain parts of their body, a cranial or spinal nerve could be damaged. Galen's work was considered to be of renowned importance and was not questioned for many centuries that followed.

Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes was born in France in 1596. He came from a wealthy family and was interested in mathematics, medical science and philosophy. The starting point for his philosophy was, "I think therefore I am." He developed a dualistic view of the human mind, in which the soul and the body were separate entities. The soul then communicated with the body through the pineal gland in the brain. He chose the pineal gland because it was not bilaterally duplicated and at the time it was thought this gland was only found in humans.



Johannes Muller

Johannes Muller explored voice, speech, and auditory mechanisms in the early 1800s. He was the first to recognize that perceived sensations depend on the type of sensory organ receiving stimulation not the type of stimulation received. He most known for this "law of specific energy" as he called it. He realized that sensory systems not the stimuli themselves produce sensations. He also studied human and comparative anatomy, physiology and chemistry. His explorations of the nervous system led to the discovery of more information on reflexes and reaffirmed Bell and Magendie's idea anterior roots of the spinal cord regulate motor function while posterior roots regulate sensory inflow to the central nervous system. His published work called the "Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen" inspired further research in the late 1800s. Josh

Franz Joseph Gall

Born in Baden Germany, but did most of his studying in Vienna, Austria. Most of his studies were directed towards the localization of mental functions of the brain. He was a pioneer in phrenology, which he originally called Cranioscopy. This was a practice of explaining someone's personality, moral values, and mental capabilities based on the shape of their skull. This practice offended many religious leaders and scientists alike to the point that Gall was forced to leave Austria in 1805. However in England, this practice was most graciously accepted because the ruling class could use it to justify the inferiority of the colonial subjects and the Irish. Will

Johannes Purkinje (alternate spelling: Purkyne)

A Czech, Purkinje became a professor in Germany, shining light upon the necessity of increased lab training in universities. He is best known for discovery of sweat gland apertures (holes) as well as the cerebellum nerve cells which bear his name. In addition to these, he also discovered the neuron nucleus as well as its processes, investigated color sensitivity in eyes, and coined the term protoplasm. Emily

Pierre Flourens

Pierre Flourens- He was born in 1794 and was a physiologist who lived and studied in France. His contributions were of tremendous importance to the medical field and to neuroscience. They are still considered of great importance today. He made the discovery of the function of particular areas of the brain. He determined that the primary center for respiration was located in the medulla. In 1823, he also discovered that the cerebellum is largely responsible for one's coordination. This information was very important in being able to diagnose the area of damage if a person suffered problems in any of these areas.
Flourens also made other contributions to the medical field. While not making discoveries about the nervous system, he studied the formation of bones.

J. Hughlings Jackson

John Hughlings Jackson was born in the UK in 1835. He was one of three founders and an editor of the neurology journal Brain. He extensively studied epilepsy and demonstrated that certain lesions caused by epilepsy could be safely removed. These studies lead him to postulate the theory of localization of function. He also wrote extensively on the hierarchy of the brain, and developed his ideas on the evolution of the brain. He split this evolution into three levels from simple to most complex: spino-medullary level, the cortical level, and the prefrontal level.



Pierre Paul Broca

Pierre Paul Broca is most known for discovering the speech center in the brain often referred to as Broca's area. In 1861 he discovered a lesion in the left frontal lobe of an aphasic (unable to talk) patient's brain. He has also been referred to as the "founder of modern brain surgery" due to his contributions to the understanding of the localization of brain functions. His discovery of the lesion on the 1861 patient's brain provided the firs anatomical proof that functions of the brain were localized to certain areas of the cortex. He also experimented with hypnotism as surgical anesthesia and helped introduce the microscope as an aid to diagnosing cancer. Josh

Carl Wernicke

1874 He did most of his studying in Germany, concentrating in the areas of psychiatry, anatomy, and most importantly neurobiology. He is best known for his discovery of the area of the brain (specifically along the superior gyrus of the temporal lobe) which is responsible for producing the speech pattern (Wernicke's area). Wernicke's aphasia is a disorder resulting from damage to this area of the brain. It results in a "word salad", which are jumbled words that don't make sense. Will

Korbinian Brodmann

Influenced by a colleague in the late 1800's, Brodmann began his work in neurology and psychology; but after associating with Alois Alzheimer, he focused his interests on neuroanatomy. Devising much of the brain's nomenclature, he also provided a foundation for the modern comparisons of cytoarchitectonics (cellular composition of a bodily structure) of the mammalian cortex (which he argued was the same throughout all mammals). The numbering system which divided the cortex into six layers was his creation and he described fifty-two discrete cortical regions. Emily

Camillo Golgi

Golgi- Golgi was born in Italy in 1843. He studied psychiatry and pathology. One of his beliefs was that mental disorders were caused by damage to the major centers of the nervous system, like the brain and spinal cord. This was an important finding due to the horrid ways mentally ill patients were treated centuries ago.
Outside of this, Golgi devoted a lot of his time in trying to find a more suitable technique that could be used to view neurons in the laboratory. In 1873, he developed the Golgi stain, which is the process of " impregnating" neurons with silver nitrate. This was a very important step. Students and others still use the Golgi stain to view neurons in labs today.

Santiago Ramon y Cajal

Santiago Ramon y Cajal was born in 1852 in Spain. The belief at the time was the nervous tissue was continuous but he established the neuron as a single unit and the basis of the nervous system. Also he established the "law of dynamic polarization" which stated that neurons communicate with each other through the polarization of the membranes of their dendrites and cell bodies and that this signal is then conducted down the axon. He shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1906 with Golgi. His contributions changed the way that scientists viewed the brain as a whole.



K.S. Lashley

K.S. Lashley played a major role during the early 1900s in establishing the fact that brain functions were indeed localized on the cerebral cortex. He was an advocate of the idea the brain functions were separated into specific regions. He rejected suggestion that brain function was "holistic" or spread out over the whole brain. In his studies of learning and memory in rats revealed that "selective neurons" are used for specific tasks. The amount of tissue destroiyed in a rat's brain was found to be proportional to the decrease in the animal's ability to perform tasks. Lashley's discoveries helped to disprove "neural network theories" of brain function that suggest that the brain functions as single network not individual parts. Josh

Charles Bell

In 1821, he did research on a specific facial paralysis due to a lesion of the Facial Nerve (CN VII). This specific paralysis today is referred to as Bell's palsy. In 1811, Bell did research in determining the functional differences between dorsal and ventral roots of the spinal cord. Will

Francois Magendie

Acknowledged as a founder of experimental physiology, Magendie particularly studied drug uses and their effects. Other vital studies include the results of air in arteries, the function of veins, and the characteristics of the motor and sensory areas of peripheral nerves. Emily

Theodor Schwann

Schwann- Schwann was born in 1810 in Germany. He studied mostly cytology and physiology. He made many of important discoveries that are still considered important and brilliant today. Outside of neuroscience, Schwann was the discoverer of the enzyme pepsin, which aids in the digestive process. A very important contribution that he made to neuroscience was in his discovery of the Schwann cells in 1838. They make up the myelin sheath surrounding axons. This discovery was of great importance due to the fact that myelin plays such a key role in signal conduction.
Many people still see Theodor Schwann as the main contributor to the understanding of cells and in the development of the cell theory.

Augustus Waller

Augustus Waller was born in Paris in 1856. He studied nerve degeneration, which is now known as Wallerian degeneration. He was trained in the field of physiology and his interest was in electro-physiology. He recorded one of the first human electrocardiograms, a term which he invented, and also expanded on the technique by using the body as a conductor. He used different methods that did not require the electrodes to be placed directly on the heart, such as standing in saline or placing a metal spoon in his mouth. His efforts contributed to the understanding of the role electrical signals play in heartbeat.



Herman von Helmholtz

Herman von Helmholtz is best known for inventing the ophthalmoscope, an instrument used to look at the interior of the eye, especially the retina. Through investigating the speed of nerve impulses, he obtained the first empirical measurement of nerve conduction velocity using a frog leg muscle. In 1852, von Helmholtz researched and expanded Thomas Young's theory of color vision. He also researched auditory processes and in 1862 studied the physiology of how we perceive combinations tones such as those in music or vocal sounds. Josh

Otto Friederick Karl Dieters

In 1865, he did research in differentiating between axons and dendrites both functionally and structurally. Also, in 1865, Dieters described the lateral vestibular nucleus (Dieter's Nucleus). Will

Ernst von Bergmann

A German surgeon during the mid- to late- 1800s, von Bergmann composed the first textbook concerning nervous system surgery. His surgical contributions include the introduction of steam sterilization of instruments and dressings as well encouraging aseptic surgical methods. Emily

Vladimir Betz

Betz- Betz was born in 1834 in Russia and died in 1894. He studied mostly anatomy. His contribution to the field of neuroscience was his discovery in 1874 of the pyramid-shaped cells that are found in the motor-region of the nervous system. The cells that he discovered were later named after him and were called" Great cells of Betz". The discovery of these cells was of great importance due to the fact that they are the upper motor neurons of the primary motor cortex of the brain and they send information to the lower motor neurons in the spinal cord. Carrie

Franz Nissl

Franz Nissl was born in Germany in 1860. He developed stain that showed a granular substance characteristic of neurons, later named Nissl substance. The Nissl substance is composed of rRNA and nucleoproteins, which are associated with the dendrites and cell bodies of neurons. The Nissl substance does not appear in axons. He also experimented with the cause of mental illness, establishing connections between the nerves and the symptoms. His later experiments involved neuronal connections between the cortex and the thalamus.




Carl Weigert

Carl Weigert's major contribution to neurobiology was his development of cell staining techniques that enhanced the science of histology. He was the first to stain bacteria in 1871. His techniques enabled scientists to gain insight into details of nervous system structure. He developed specific stains for the histological observation of myelin and glial cells. He explored a variety of other areas of pathology such as inflammation and tuberculosis. Josh

Max von Frey

He was born in 1852. He is best know for his studies in determining discrete pain spots on the body by using human hairs or other bristles and touching them to the skin, all while mapping where the skin is most sensitive. Today, these tests are conducted using "Von Frey" hairs. Will

Charles Scott Sherrington

Co-winner of a Nobel Prize for his identification and study of neuron function, Sherrington endowed the concepts of proprioceptive and synapse to the field of neurophysiology. Throughout the late 1800's and into the next century, his discoveries ("stretch reflex") and explanations (particularly in describing the relationship of the cerebellum to the proprioceptive system) placed him in the position of one of the most prestigious neuroscientists of the period. Emily

Ross Granville Harrison

Harrison- Harrison studied anatomy in the United States of America and he taught anatomy at Yale University. He is most remembered for his discoveries and work in the development of nerves in the human embryo. This was of great importance because it helped in the understanding of possible problems in development. He also studied a great deal on the process of regeneration in nerve cells.
While doing experiments with a colleague, Harrison was able to see a growing axon in developing embryos though he did not yet have any clue as to what guided their movement. His discovery prompted further research by others to learn what exactly guided to movement of the axons. He also developed new methods of culturing tissues around 1907.

Henry H. Dale

Henry H. Dale was born in 1875 in London. He was the first scientist to isolate acetylcholine in 1914. In the 1930s he established acetylcholine as a neurotransmitter and proved its use as a chemical messenger between neurons. In 1932 he was knighted. His theories on neurotransmitters lead to new ideas in the role of the chemistry of the brain contributing to excitation or inhibition of neurons and the propagation of action potentials.



Ulf Svante von Euler

Ulf Svante von Euler's major contribution to neurobiology was his 1946 discovery of noradrenaline (norepinephrine) as the adrenergic neurotransmitter in the body. He studied noradrenaline's distribution in nerves and organs as well as its physiological and pathological excretion patterns. He established that noradrenaline is stored in "subcellular" particles, probably vesicles. This discovery gave redirected the study of neurotransmission towards the uptake, storage, and release of neurotransmitter vesicles or granules. Josh

Otto Loewi

Born in Germany in 1873. He is best known for his studies conducted in 1920 that led him to the discovery of the first neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. His experiment for the study was conducted using two frog hearts, one which was still connected to the Vagus Nerve (CN X). The two hearts were placed in two separate but connected chambers that were filled with a saline solution. When he electrically stimulated the Vagus nerve of heart #1, it began to slow down. After a short delay, heart #2 began to slow down as well. Loewi hypothesized that the stimulated Vagus nerve released some type of chemical that flowed into chamber #2 and effected heart #2. He originally called the chemical Vagusstoff. Will

Stephen Kuffler

Meticulously studying synapses in particular from the 1950's on, Kuffler thoroughly analyzed single nerve-muscle fiber detail - this was highly useful as much of the technology available then did not allow such an intricate and complete view. His revolutionary studies with the eye-brain pathways (using the optic nerves of individual ganglia) led to the conclusion that it was moving stimuli and contrast to which response occurs, and not from diffuse light. Emily

Kenneth Cole

Cole- Cole made tremendous advancements in the field of neuroscience when he developed the voltage clamp in 1949. He helped to further the understanding of action potentials across membranes. It is still used many places today. This allowed for researchers to be able to control the membrane potentials at their desire.
The new technology also provided insight into how the membrane potential plays a key role in the flow of current across the membrane. This helped in the understanding of how problems with signal transduction can be associated with the membrane potentials of nerve cells.

A.L. Hodgkin and A.F. Huxley

A.L. Hodgkin and A.F. Huxley made use of the giant squid axon to test action and membrane potential in the early 1950s. They pioneered the use of the voltage clamp to change and measure the potential inside the action. Using this method they manipulated the potentials to artificially cause action potentials. From their data they developed a model for activation and threshold energies. Also they created an equation making use of previously known physics equations to measure this potential. They shared the Nobel Prize in 1952 for their work in this area.

Rita Levi-Montalcini

Rita Lei-Montalcini performed much research on nerve fiber growth. She studied the growth pattern and characteristic especially in relation to early nerve fiber development. Her most important contribution to neurobiology came n 1946 when she helped discover nerve growth factor (NGF) while working at Washington University. NGF is substance found in malignant tumors that causes rapid nerve fiber growth. She also discovered trophic factor which aids in the spreading of new nerve fibers in the peripheral nervous system. Josh

Stanley Cohen

He is best known for his studies conducted in the 1950's along with Rita Levi-Montalcini. Together, they are credited with discovering and characterizing the first Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) and Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF). These growth factors were the first of several growth regulating substances to be discovered, and they are very important in development. Cohen and Levi-Montalcini were rewarded with the Nobel Prize in 1986 for their discoveries. Will

Wilder Penfield

The first neurosurgeon in Montreal, Penfield performed many revolutionary neurosurgeries, particularly on epilepsy patients, as well as forming the Montreal Neurological Institute in 1934. His work with epilepsy patients aimed at preventing seizures by first locating and then destroying the source. From these surgeries, he revealed functions of the temporal lobes, only when stimulation occurred here would "meaningful, integrative responses" result - what he called an "engram" (physical foundation for memory). After creating his own map of the human mind, he attempted, until his death, to discover if there were any scientific evidence of a soul. Emily

Victor Hamburger

Hamburger- Hamburger studied the development of the nervous system in the period of the embryo. He made major contributions to the field of neuroscience regarding this development. He was the discoverer of the nerve growth factor (NGF), in the 1950's. This revealed that surrounding tissues secrete certain factors and in the absence of such factors, leads to abnormal development.
Hamburger did experiments with chicken embryos that showed the effects of the absence and presence of nerve growth factor. He revealed that the absence of NGF led to very slowed and abnormal nerve development.

Georg von Bekesy

Georg von Bekesy was born in 1899 in Budapest, Hungary. In 1928, he was doing research on designing a telephone earphone when he stumbled into the research that he would later be known for, studying the mechanics of chemical transmission in the inner ear. He discovered a way to dissect the cochlea without destroying it, and using this he studied how the ear conducted sound waves and the amplitude and frequency of these waves. He won the Nobel Prize in 1961.

Ronald Melzak and Patrick D. Wall

Ronald Melzak and Patrick D. Wall contributed much information on the sensation of pain. They developed a theory called the "gate theory" to explain the way we perceive pain. Wall was considered an authority pain and contributed greatly to the understanding of the neurophysiology of pain. He emphasized that pain is based not on the severity of the injury or stimulus but on where we focus our attention. Pain, he says, is a whole body, whole brain motor response based on whether our attention is focused on the injury or on some other distraction that doesn't trigger thoughts that pain might exist. Josh

Julius Axelrod

He was born and raised in Manhattan in 1912, and earned a degree in Biology from the College of New York in 1933. In 1957, Axelrod made discoveries concerning neurotransmitters in nerve terminals and their mechanisms for storage, release, and inactivation. He also studied the effects of sympathemimetic amines on certain neurotransmitters. In the early 60's, his studies in neurotransmitters led him to the Pineal gland and its function in secreting melatonin in response to environmental lighting. Axelrod and his colleague Richard J. Wurtman called this the Melatonin Hypothesis. Will

Bernard Katz

After escaping Germany during the rise of Hitler in the 1930s, the biophysicist Katz continued his focus on nerve biochemistry. With illuminating work on the pineal gland and the fundamental properties of synapses, he continued on to study the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Winning a Nobel for his study revealing "guantal" neurotransmitter release (the amount of neurotransmitter released is always greater than a certain amount, but always increases an "integral number times this amount), this work later led others to discover the "pouches" which these neurotransmitters are housed in. Some of his later enzyme cycle work became the foundation of the studies surrounding nerve agents and pesticides. Emily

Soloman Snyder

Snyder- Solomon Snyder is a professor at John Hopkins School of Medicine where he teaches students in the field of neuroscience as well as many other fields of science. He has done a lot of research and made contributions in the important areas of neurotransmitters and the effects of drugs on the nervous system.
One discovery that he made was that nitric oxide and carbon monoxide may act as neurotransmitters. He also discovered that D-Serine might very well play a key role in the learning and memory functions. He was awarded the Sarnat Award in 2001 for his contributions to the further understanding of mental disorders.

Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann

Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann modified the voltage clamp method to develop the patch clamp technique in 1976. This method measures the flow of ions through a limited number of channels. Instead of piercing the membrane as was done in the past, they used a blunt tipped instrument to place pressure on the membrane and allow only the desired channels to function. This allowed them to measure only certain types of channels at one time. They first used this technique to study isolated nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in muscle cells.

David Hunter Hubel and Torsten N. Weisel

David Hunter Hubel and Torsten N. Weisel performed major investigations on brain function. Their major contributions concerned information processing in the visual system. Their research consisted of analyzing the flow of nerve impulses from the retina in the eye to the sensory and motor centers in the brain. They studied under Dr. Stephen Kuffler in the 1960s and 70s, who had just published his study of receptive fields of cat retinal ganglion cells. Hubel and Weisel continued to use cats in their research to track nerve impulses in the visual cortex associated with certain visual stimuli. Their studies have contributed greatly to our understanding of the neural pathways in the visual system. Josh







You may find the following links to be useful, although you should seek other sources, including at least one library book or journal article.

A very complete timeline of the History of Neuroscience

Weblinks consulted by Emily: