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The impossible interview with the man of the neuron doctrine. Interview by Edward G Jones.

Research paper by Santiago Ramon Y SR Cajal

Indexed on: 26 Sep '06Published on: 26 Sep '06Published in: Journal of the history of the neurosciences



Abstract

This paper follows the form of that by Mazzarello that precedes it (Mazzarello, 2006) and presents an imaginary interview with Santiago Ramón y Cajal in December 1906. A few days earlier Cajal had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, an award that he shared equally with Professor Camillo Golgi. Golgi had been recognized for his work as a pioneer into investigations of the nervous system, primarily on account of his discovery of the "black reaction" of silver chromate impregnation of whole nerve cells and their processes. Cajal had been recognized for his implementation of that method and for laying with it the foundations of what was to become modern neuroanatomical science. Paradoxically, the two awardees had been led by their researches to diametrically opposed views of the organization of the nervous system. Golgi believed in a continuous network of axons that formed the basis of all the integrative properties of the nervous system, while Cajal had provided the information that led to the formulation of the neuron doctrine that saw the nervous system as being made up of chains of discontinuous cells joined by polarized functional contacts that we now call synapses. The paper takes the form of an interview with Professor Cajal in the Grand Hotel Stockholm. His responses to questions posed by the imaginary interviewer are all taken from Cajal's own writings.