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Famous brain researchers

October 21, 2009

40 - Ramon Y Cajal

… “Who are the most famous musicians in the history?” , more or less we all come up with a list where we all almost agree on. Depending on your taste on music, you might say “Michael Jackson, Madonna..” first, or if you are a big classic music fan ; you can still give these names, but first you start with your favorite composer. Here is a list; my on list of famous brain researchers. There are several web pages where one can find the history of neuroscience; brain research, and a nice one is here. Here is a list of brain researchers who won the Nobel Prize.

The humankind will always be grateful for their hard work and days and nights spent on brain research.

Here is my list with 15 famous brain researchers in the history according to their birth dates.

(A 16th one would be Julius Caesar Aranzi who defined hippocampus, the structure important in memory and emotion regulation, and the structure I spent studying my last 12 years).

1- Claudius Galenus, better known as Galen of Pergamum (AD 129 – 200/217)

497px-Galen_detailGreek.He was a physician and philosopher and probably the most accomplished medical researcher of the Roman period. His theories dominated and influenced Western medical science for well over a millennium. He was very interested in human anatomy. His account of medical anatomy was based on monkeys as human dissection was not permitted in his time, but it was unsurpassed until the printed description and illustrations of human dissections by Andreas Vesalius in 1543. Galen developed many nerve ligation experiments that supported the theory, which is still believed today, that the brain controls all the motions of the muscles by means of the cranial and peripheral nervous systems.

2- 382px-Leonardo_selfLeonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519)

Italian.He had more than one profession in his business card.He was a polymath, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer.

Leonardo’s pioneering research into the brain led him to make discoveries in neuroanatomy (such as the maxillary antrum) and neurophysiology (he was the first to pith a frog). His injection of hot wax into the brain of an ox provided a cast of the ventricles and represents the first known use of a solidifying medium to define the shape and size of an internal body structure. Leonardo developed an original, mechanistic model of sensory physiology. He undertook his research with the broad goal of providing physical explanations of how the brain processes visual and other sensory input, and integrates that information via the soul. Leonardo da Vinci joined a long list of other explorers in the search for the soul.

3-441px-Vesalius_Portrait_pg_xii_-_c Andreas Vesalius (December 31, 1514 -October 15, 1564)

He was born in Brussels. He was was an anatomist, physician, and author of one of the most influential books on human anatomy; De humani corporis fabrica (On the Workings of the Human Body). Vesalius is often referred to as the founder of modern human anatomy (yes, he is our beloved father).

Vesalius’ most significant contribution to the study of the brain was his trademark illustrations in which he depicts the corpus callosum, the thalamus, the caudate nucleus, the lenticular nucleus, the globus pallidus, the putamen, the pulvinar, and the cerebral peduncles for the first time.

4) Paul_BrocaPaul Broca (June 28, 1824 – July 9, 1880)

French. He was a physician, anatomist, and anthropologist.He is best known for his research on Broca’s area, a region of the frontal lobe that has been named after him. The production of language has been linked to the Broca’s area since Paul Pierre Broca reported impairments in two patients.

5- Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (September 14, 1849 – February 27, 1936)

Ivan_Pavlov_(Nobel)Russian. He was a physiologist, psychologist, and physician. Pavlov is widely known for first describing the phenomenon of classical conditioning. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904 for research pertaining to the digestive system.

6- 40 - Ramon Y CajalSantiago Ramon y Cajal (1 May 1852 – 17 October 1934)

Spanish. He was a histologist, physician, pathologist. His pioneering investigations of the microscopic structure of the brain were so original and influential that he is considered by many to be the greatest neuroscientist of all time. His skills as an artist allowed him to make hundreds of drawings still used for educational purposes today. He has two types of cells named after him; Cajal–Retzius cell (establish early neuronal circuitry in the developing brain) and
Interstitial cell of Cajal (a type of cell found in the gastrointestinal tract which serves as a pacemaker that triggers gut contraction). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine -shared with Camillo Golgi in 1906 in the recognition of their work on the structure of the nervous system.

7- Emil Kraepelin (February 15, 1856 – October 7, 1926)

Emil_KraepelinGerman. He was a psychiatrist. He is considered as the founder of contemporary scientific psychiatry, as well as of psychopharmacology and psychiatric genetics. Kraepelin believed the chief origin of psychiatric disease to be biological and genetic malfunction. His theories dominated the field of psychiatry at the start of the twentieth century and, despite the later psychodynamic incursions of Sigmund Freud and his numerous influential disciples, renegade and otherwise, appeared to enjoy something of a revival at the century’s end.

Drawing on his long-term research, and using the criteria of course, outcome and prognosis, he developed the concept of dementia praecox, which he defined as the “sub-acute development of a peculiar simple condition of mental weakness occurring at a youthful age.”

Kraepelin also demonstrated specific patterns in the genetics of these disorders and specific and characteristic patterns in their course and outcome. Generally speaking, there tend to be more schizophrenics among the relatives of schizophrenic patients than in the general population, while manic-depression is more frequent in the relatives of manic-depressives.

8- Alois Alzheimer (14 June 1864 – 19 December 1915)

alois-alzheimerGerman. He was a psychiatrist and neuropathologist and a colleague of Emil Kraepelin. Alzheimer is credited with identifying the first published case of “presenile dementia”, which Kraepelin would later identify as Alzheimer’s disease.

9- Korbinian_BrodmannKorbinian Brodmann (17 November 1868 – 22 August 1918)

German. He was a neurologist. He became famous for his definition of the cerebral cortex into 52 distinct regions from their cytoarchitectonic (histological) characteristics. These areas are now referred to as Brodmann areas.

10- James Papez (1883-1958)

papez American. He was a neuroanatomist. He is most famous for his 1937 description of the Papez circuit which is a neural pathway in the brain thought to be involved in the cortical control of emotion.

11- Wilder_PenfieldWilder Penfield (January 25/26, 1891 – April 5, 1976)

He was an American born Canadian.He was a neurosurgeon.During his life he was called “the greatest living Canadian”. It must be an NHL or Raptors player for the time-being 🙂 He devoted much thinking to the functionings of the mind, and continued until his death to contemplate whether there was any scientific basis for the existence of the human soul.

Penfield was a groundbreaking researcher and highly original surgeon. With his colleague, Herbert Jasper, he invented the Montreal procedure, in which he treated patients with severe epilepsy by destroying nerve cells in the brain where the seizures originated. Before operating, he stimulated the brain with electrical probes while the patients were conscious on the operating table (under only local anesthesia), and observed their responses. In this way he could more accurately target the areas of the brain responsible, reducing the side-effects of the surgery.

Wilder Penfield was the subject of a memorable Heritage Minute, dramatizing his development of the Montreal procedure. His epileptic patient’s cry when he stimulates the seizure-producing part of her brain (“I can smell burnt toast!”) is famous.

12- 478px-Paul_D_MacLeanPaul D. MacLean (May 1, 1913 – December 26, 2007)

American. He was a physician and neuroscientist . He made significant contributions in the fields of physiology, psychiatry, and brain research through his work at Yale Medical School and the National Institute of Mental Health. Papez described the (anatomical) circuit of “emotion”, and MacLean expanded this into a system which is called the “limbic system“. We now know that this system is wider than he first described.

13- grajkowska_aGrazyna Rajkowska

Polish American.

Chief, Laboratory of Quantitative Neuroanatomy

Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior
The University of Mississippi Medical Center
Jackson, Mississippi

We owe most of our knowledge on the prefrontal cortex ; a brain region which is related to different cognitive processes (e.g., decision-making, social behavior, expression of personality) thanks to her work in post-mortem brains, which is rare in the world.

14- 8_2008_helen_maybergHelen S. Mayberg

American. She was born in 1956 in California.She is a professor of Neurology and Psychiatry.Dr. Mayberg is known in particular for her work delineating abnormal brain function in patients with major depression using functional neuroimaging. She described several circuits in the brain in patients with major depression after her P.E.T. and fMRI studies. She works at Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, Canada.

15- SapolskyRobert Sapolsky born in 1957.

American. He is a biologist and author. He is currently professor of Biological Sciences, and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, and by courtesy, Neurosurgery, at Stanford University. In addition, he is a research associate at the National Museums of Kenya studying primate behavior. His proposal on the biological trauma due to depression with high cortisol levels opened a new era in the research of major depression.

I do have the privilege of knowing Bob. Actually, I owe him my career in North America, him being my support and reference. Thanks, again Bob.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2012 10:39 am

    Didn’t find what I was looking for

  2. February 21, 2012 10:39 am



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