Eugen Steinach: the first neuroendocrinologist

Endocrinology. 2014 Mar;155(3):688-95. doi: 10.1210/en.2013-1816. Epub 2013 Dec 3.


In 1936, Eugen Steinach and colleagues published a work that brought steroid biochemistry to the study of sexual behavior and, using synthetic androgens and estrogens, foreshadowed by an astonishing 4 decades the discovery of the central role of estrogen in the sexual behavior of male rats. We offer an English translation of that paper, accompanied by historical commentary that presents Steinach as a pioneer in reproductive neuroendocrinology. His work 1) established the interstitial cells as the main source of mammalian gonadal hormones; 2) launched the hypothesis that steroid hormones act on the brain to induce sexual behavior and that chronic gonadal transplants produce sexual reversals in physiology and behavior; 3) demonstrated the influence of sensory stimulation on testicular function; and finally 4) spearheaded the development of synthetic commercial hormones for clinical use in humans. Although its applications were controversial, Steinach's research was confirmed by many, and his concepts were applied to fields such as oncology and vascular disease. His contemporaries lauded his research, as indicated by his 7 Nobel Prize nominations. But Steinach's basic research was rarely acknowledged as the field flourished after 1950. The translation and our commentary attempt to reverse that neglect among behavioral neuroendocrinologists and clarify his central role as a founder of the neuroendocrinology of sexual behavior and reproduction.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Classical Article
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Austria
  • Female
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Hormones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuroendocrinology / history*
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Steroids / physiology


  • Hormones
  • Steroids

Personal name as subject

  • Eugen Steinach