Few scientists cast such a long shadow in their field as does Santiago Ramon y Cajal (1852-1934) in cellular neuroanatomy. He had no peer in appreciating the interrelationship of neurons in a specific region, and the retina was a favorite tissue for study. Its layered structure reinforced his concept of the neuron as an autonomous entity connecting with other neurons only at a physical discontinuity (later termed “synapsis” by Charles Sherrington). He had no compunction in drawing and emphasizing this hypothetical discontinuity although it was invisible in the light microscope and remained so until the electron microscope visualized the synapse in the 1950s. He had no idea of the valve-like function of the synapse with a receptive field encompassing both excitatory and inhibitory neurons. That concept was to be the work of Sherrington, and – decades later – Hartline, Kuffler, and Barlow.
REFERENCE: Fishman, RS. The Nobel Prize of 1906. Arch Ophthalmol 2007;125:690-694.
Submitted by Ron Fishman from the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society.