How the 1906 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was shared between Golgi and Cajal.

Research paper by Gunnar G Grant

Indexed on: 20 Feb '07Published on: 20 Feb '07Published in: Brain Research Reviews


In 1906 the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was shared between Camillo Golgi and Ramón y Cajal in recognition of their work on the structure of the nervous system. Golgi's most impressive contribution was his method, described in 1873. This was applied in studies of the cerebellum, the olfactory bulb, hippocampus and the spinal cord. These studies together with his earlier work were included in his Opera Omnia, published in 1903. His method was highly praised by Cajal. His adherence to the reticular theory was opposed by Cajal, however, who had spelled out the neuron theory already in the late 1800s. Cajal's extraordinary contributions to the structure of the nervous system, based largely on the Golgi method and Ehrlich's methylene blue stain, were published in his Textura del Sistema Nerviosa de Hombre y de los Vertebrados, three volumes published from 1897 to 1904. Documents from the Nobel Archives reveal that Kölliker, Retzius and Fürst were the ones who proposed Golgi and Cajal for a shared prize. Golgi was nominated by Hertwig, as well. Cajal was proposed by Ziehen and Holmgren, and also by Retzius, as an alternative to a shared prize. Holmgren, who was commissioned to write the report to the Nobel Committee, found Cajal far superior to Golgi. Sundberg, asked for another evaluation, was more positive to Golgi's contributions than Holmgren. Gadelius supported Holmgren's views. The final vote gave a majority for a shared prize. The prize ceremony and the lectures were described in detail in Cajal's autobiography.