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, 30 (3), 284-91

Auguste Forel on Ants and Neurology


Auguste Forel on Ants and Neurology

André Parent. Can J Neurol Sci.


Auguste Forel was born in 1848 in the French part of Switzerland. He developed a lifelong passion for myrmecology in his childhood, but chose medicine and neuropsychiatry to earn his living. He first undertook a comparative study of the thalamus under Theodor Meynert in Vienna and then, from 1872 to 1879, he worked as Assistant Physician to Bernhard von Gudden in Munich. This led in 1877 to his seminal work on the organization of the tegmental region in which he provides the first description of the zona incerta and the so-called H (Haubenfeld) fields that still bear his name. In 1879, Forel was appointed Professor of Psychiatry in Munich and Director of the Burghölzli cantonal asylum. He became interested in the therapeutic value of hypnotism, while continuing his work on brain anatomy and ants. His neuroanatomical studies with Gudden's method led him to formulate the neuron theory in 1887, four years before Wilhelm von Waldeyer, who received most of the credit for it. Forel then definitively turned his back on neuroscience. After his retirement from the Burghölzli asylum in 1898. and despite a stroke in 1911 that left him hemiplegic, Forel started to write extensively on various social issues, such as alcohol abstinence and sexual problems. Before his death in 1931 at the age of 83, Forel published a remarkable book on the social world of the ants in which he made insightful observations on the neural control of sensory and instinctive behavior common to both humans and insects.

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