The renaissance of the neuron doctrine: Cajal rebuts the Rector of Granada

Research paper by Agesilaos M. Partsalis, Pablo M. Blazquez, Lazaros C. Triarhou

Indexed on: 07 Mar '13Published on: 07 Mar '13Published in: Translational Neuroscience


The Spanish histologist Santiago Ramón y Cajal and the Italian anatomist Camillo Golgi, who were jointly awarded the 1906 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries on the structure of the nervous system, are two of the most notable figures in neuroscience. It was the’ Golgi method’ that enabled Cajal to gather evidence and defend neuronism (the contiguity of neurons as independent cellular units) against his chief rival’s reticularism (the intracellular continuity of the cytoplasm among neurons in a widespread reticulum). Seven months after his Nobel lecture in Stockholm, Cajal wrote a powerful article which he titled’ El renacimiento de la doctrina neuronal’ (the rebirth, revival, or renaissance of the neuron doctrine) as a response to an insurrection of reticularist ideas. This new wave of reticularism was instigated in Spain by the pathologist Eduardo García Solá, Rector of the University of Granada at the time, and stemmed from the interpretation of nerve regeneration experiments conducted by the German physiologist Albrecht von Bethe in Strassburg (today Strasbourg, France) and the Hungarian histologist Stephan von Apáthy in Kolozsvár (today Cluj-Napoca, Romania). Cajal’s article was hosted by four different journals (three in Spain and one in Argentina). It constitutes an important testimony for the history of the neuron theory that has gone unheeded thus far. Therefore, we provide an English translation of Cajal’s Spanish paper, placing it in the context of evolving notions during that first decade of the twentieth century crucial for neurobiology.