Three before their time: neuroscientists whose ideas were ignored by their contemporaries

Exp Brain Res. 2009 Jan;192(3):321-34. doi: 10.1007/s00221-008-1481-y. Epub 2008 Jul 19.


I discuss three examples of neuroscientists whose ideas were ignored by their contemporaries but were accepted as major insights decades or even centuries later. The first is Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) whose ideas on the functions of the cerebral cortex were amazingly prescient. The second is Claude Bernard (1813-1878) whose maxim that the constancy of the internal environment is the condition for the free life was not understood for about 50 years when it came to dominate the development of modern physiology. The third is Joseph Altman (1925-) who overturned the traditional dogma that no new neurons are made in the adult mammalian brain and was vindicated several decades later.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mind-Body Relations, Metaphysical
  • Neurogenesis / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurosciences / history*
  • Peer Review*

Personal name as subject

  • Emmanuel Swedenborg
  • Claude Bernard
  • Joseph Altman