Milestones in Neuroscience Research
0 to 1500 AD | 1500 to 1600 AD | 1600 to 1700 AD | 1700 to 1800 AD

1800 to 1850 AD | 1850 to 1900 AD | 1900 to 1950 AD | 1950 to present

The following dates and events were gathered from several sources. These events are certainly not all of the important events to take place in neuroscience...just some of the ones that I have selected.

4000 B.C. to 0 A.D

ca. 4000 B.C. - Euphoriant effect of poppy plant reported in Sumerian records
ca. 4000 B.C. - Clay tablets from Mesopotamia discuss how to use alcohol to dilute medicine
ca. 2700 B.C. - Shen Nung originates acupuncture
ca. 1700 B.C. - Edwin Smith surgical papyrus written. First written record about the nervous system
ca. 1400-1200 B.C. - Ayuvedic system of Hindu medicine develops
ca. 600 B.C. - Indian physician Sushruta describes surgery for cataracts in Sushruta Samhita
ca. 500 B.C. - Alcmaion of Crotona dissects sensory nerves
ca. 500 B.C. - Alcmaion of Crotona describes the optic nerve
ca. 500 B.C. - Empedocles suggests that "visual rays" cause sight
460-379 B.C. - Hippocrates discusses epilepsy as a disturbance of the brain
460-379 B.C. - Hippocrates states that the brain is involved with sensation and is the seat of intelligence
387 B.C. - Plato teaches at Athens. Believes brain is seat of mental process
335 B.C. - Aristotle writes about sleep; believes heart is seat of mental process
335-280 B.C. - Herophilus (the "Father of Anatomy"); believes ventricles are seat of human intelligence
280 B.C. - Erasistratus of Chios notes divisions of the brain


Image courtesy of the Blocker History of Medicine Collections, Moody Medical Library, Univ. Texas Med. Branch, Galveston

0 A.D. to 1500

177 - Galen lecture On the Brain
ca. 100 - Marinus describes the tenth cranial nerve
ca. 100 - Rufus of Ephesus describes and names the optic chiasm
ca. 390 - Nemesius develops the doctrine of the ventricular localization of all mental functions
ca. 900 - Rhazes describes seven cranial nerves and 31 spinal nerves in Kitab al-Hawi Fi Al Tibb
ca. 1000 - Ammar ibn Ali of Mosul extracts cataract from the eye
ca. 1000 - Alhazen compares the eye to a camera-like device
ca. 1000 - Al-Zahrawi (also known as Abulcasis or Albucasis) describes several surgical treatments for neurological disorders
1021 - Ibn Al-Haytham (Alhazen) publishes Book of Optics
1025 - Avicenna writes about vision and the eye in The Canon of Medicine
1088 - Abu Ruh writes The Light of the Eyes describing several eye operations
1260 - Louis IX founds the Hopital des Quinze-Vingts, the first institution for the blind
1284 - Salvino D'Armate constructs eyeglasses
1316 - Mondino de'Luzzi writes the first European anatomy textbook (Anothomia)
1402 - St. Mary of Bethlehem Hospital is used exclusively for the mentally ill
1410 - Institution for the mentally ill established in Valencia, Spain

Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine,
History of Medicine Collection

1500 - 1600

1501 - Magnus Hundt uses the word "cerebellum" to describe the posterior division of the brain in Anthropologia
1504 - Leonardo da Vinci produces wax cast of human ventricles
1536 - Nicolo Massa describes the cerebrospinal fluid
1538 - Andreas Vesalius publishes Tabulae Anatomicae
1542 - Jean Fernel publishes De naturali parte Medicinae that contains the term "physiology" for the first time
1543 - Andreas Vesalius publishes On the Workings of the Human Body
1543 - Andreas Vesalius discusses the pineal gland and draws the corpus striatum
1549 - Jason Pratensis publishes De Cerebri Morbis, an early book devoted to neurological disease
1550 - Vesalius describes hydrocephalus
1550 - Bartolomeo Eustachio describes the brain origin of the optic nerves
1558 - Giambattista della Porta describes wooden hearing aids in his book Natural Magick
1561 - Gabriele Falloppio publishes Observationes Anatomicae and describes some of the cranial nerves. Separate trochlear and abducens nerves identified
1562 - Bartolomeo Eustachio publishes The Examination of the Organ of Hearing
1564 - Giulio Cesare Aranzi coins the term hippocampus
1573 - Constanzo Varolio names the pons
1573 - Constanzo Varolio is first to cut brain starting at its base
1573 - Girolamo Mercuriali writes De nervis opticis to describe optic nerve anatomy
1583 - Felix Platter states that the lens only focuses light and that the retina is where images are formed
1583 - Georg Bartisch publishes Ophthalmodouleia: das ist Augendienst with drawings of the eye
1586 - A. Piccolomini distinguishes between cortex and white matter
1587 - Guilio Cesare Aranzi describes ventricles and hippocampus. He also demonstrates that the retina has a reversed image
1590 - Zacharias Janssen invents the compound microscope
1596 - Sir Walter Raleigh mentions arrow poison in his book Discovery of the Large, Rich and Beautiful Empire of Guiana

Leonardo Da Vinci

Andreas Vesalius

Image courtesy of the Blocker History of Medicine Collections, Moody Medical Library, Univ. Texas Med. Branch, Galveston

1600 - 1700

1601 - Hieronymus Fabricius ab Aquapendente publishes Tractatus de Oculo Visusque Organo describing the correct location of the lens relative to the iris
1604 - Johannes Kepler describes inverted retinal image
1609 - J. Casserio publishes first description of mammillary bodies
1611 - Lazarus Riverius textbook describing impairments on consciousness published
1621 - Robert Burton publishes The Anatomy of Melancholy about depression
1623 - Benito Daca de Valdes publishes the first book on vision testing and eyeglass-fitting
1627 - William Harvey demonstrates a role of the brain in frog movement
1641 - Franciscus de la Boe Sylvius describes fissure on the lateral surface of the brain (Sylvian fissure)
1644 - Giovanni Battista Odierna describes the microscopic appearance of the fly eye in L'Occhio della Mosca
1649 - Rene Descartes describes pineal as control center of body and mind
1650 - Franciscus de la Boe Sylvius describes a narrow passage between the third and fourth ventricles (the aqueduct of Sylvius)
1658 - Johann Jakof Wepfer theorizes that a broken brain blood vessel may cause apoplexy (stroke)
1661 - Thomas Willis describes a case of meningitis
1662 - Rene Descartes De homine is published (He died in 1650)
1664 - Thomas Willis publishes Cerebri anatome (in Latin)
1664 - Thomas Willis describes the eleventh cranial nerve (accessory nerve)
1664 - Thomas Willis suggests that cerebrospinal fluid is produced by the choroid plexus
1664 - Gerardus Blasius discovers and names the "arachnoid"
1664 - Jan Swammerdam causes frog muscle contraction by mechanical stimuation of nerve
1665 - Robert Hooke details his first microscope
1667 - Robert Hooke publishes Micrographia
1668 - l'Abbe Edme Mariotte discovers the blind spot
1670 - William Molins names the trochlear nerve
1671 - Franciscus de la Boe Sylvius describes the septum pellucidum
1673 - Joseph DuVerney uses experimental ablation technique in pigeons
1681 - English edition of Thomas Willis' Cerebri anatome is published
1681 - Thomas Willis coins the term Neurology
1684 - Raymond Vieussens publishes Neurographia Universalis
1684 - Raymond Vieussens uses boiling oil to harden the brain
1686 - Thomas Sydenham describes a form of chorea in children and young adults
1695 - Humphrey Ridley describes the restiform body
1695 - Humphrey Ridley publishes The Anatomy of the Brain
1696 - John Locke writes Essay Concerning Human Understanding
1697 - Joseph G. Duverney introduces the term "brachial plexus"

Thomas Willis

Image courtesy of the Blocker History of Medicine Collections, Moody Medical Library, Univ. Texas Med. Branch, Galveston

1700 - 1800

1704 - Antonio Valsalva publishes On the Human Ear
1705 - Antonio Pacchioni describes arachnoid granulations
1709 - Domenico Mistichelli describes the pyramidal decussation
1709 - George Berkeley publishes New Theory of Vision
1717 - Antony van Leeuwenhoek describes nerve fiber in cross section
1721 - The word "anesthesia" first appears in English (in Dictionary Britannicum)
1727 - Edward Scarlett develops eyeglasses held by arms that hook over the ears
1736 - Jean Astruc coins the term reflex
1740 - Emanuel Swedenborg publishes Oeconomia regni animalis
1749 - David Hartley publishes Observations of Man, the first English work using the word "psychology"
1750 - Jacques Daviel performs the first cataract extraction on a living human eye
1752 - The Society of Friends establishes a hospital-based environment for the mentally ill in Philadelphia
1755 - J.B. Le Roy uses electroconvulsive therapy for mental illness
1760 - Arne-Charles Lorry demonstrates that damage to the cerebellum affects motor coordination
1764 - Domenico F.A. Cotugno describes spinal subarachnoid cerebrospinal fluid; shows that ventricular and spinal fluids are connected
1764 - The interventricular foramen (Foramen of Monroe) is named after Alexander Monroe; it was described earlier by Vieussens
1766 - Albrecht von Haller provides scientific description of the cerebrospinal fluid
1772 - John Walsh conducts experiments on torpedo (electric) fish
1773 - John Fothergill describes trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux, Fothergill's syndrome)
1773 - Sir Joseph Priestley discovers nitrous oxide
1774 - Franz Anton Mesmer introduces "animal magnetism" (later called hypnosis)
1776 - M.V.G. Malacarne publishes first book solely devoted to the cerebellum
1777 - Philip Meckel proposes that the inner ear is filled with fluid, not air
1778 - Samuel Thomas von Soemmerring presents the modern classification of the twelve cranial nerves
1779 - Antonius Scarpa describes Scarpa's ganglion of the vestibular system
1780 - Etienne Bonnot de Condillac publishes the first figure of "reflex action"
1781 - Felice Fontana describes the microscopic features of axoplasm from an axon
1782 - Francesco Gennari publishes work on "lineola albidior" (later known as the stripe of Gennari)
1782 - Francesco Buzzi identifies the fovea
1783 - Alexander Monro describes the foramen of Monro
1784 - Benjamin Rush writes that alcohol can be an addictive drug
1784 - Benjamin Franklin mentions bifocal eyeglasses in a letter to George Whatley
1786 - Felix Vicq d'Azyr discovers the locus coeruleus
1786 - Samuel Thomas Sommering describes the optic chiasm
1786 - Georg Joseph Beer founds the first eye hospital in Vienna
1790 - Johannes Ehrenritter describes the glossopharygeal nerve ganglion
1791 - Luigi Galvani publishes work on electrical stimulation of frog nerves
1791 - Samuel Thomas von Soemmering names the macula lutea of the retina
1792 - Giovanni Valentino Mattia Fabbroni suggests that nerve action involves both chemical and physical factors
1796 - Johann Christian Reil describes the insula (island of Reil)
1798 - John Dalton, who was red-green colorblind, provides a scientific description of color blindness

Antony van Leeuwenhoek

Franz Anton Mesmer

Images courtesy of the Blocker History of Medicine Collections, Moody Medical Library, Univ. Texas Med. Branch, Galveston

1800 - 1850

1800 - Alessandro Volta invents the wet cell battery
1800 - Humphrey Davy synthesizes nitrous oxide
1800 - Samuel von Sommering identifies black material in the midbrain and calls it the "substantia nigra"
1801 - Thomas Young describes astigmatism
1801 - Adam Friedrich Wilhelm Serturner crystalizes opium and obtains morphine
1801 - Philippe Pinel publishes "A Treatise on Insanity"
1802 - Thomas Young suggests the three types of retinal receptors are sufficient for color vision
1808 - Franz Joseph Gall publishes work on phrenology
1809 - Johann Christian Reil uses alcohol to harden the brain
1809 - Luigi Rolando uses galvanic current to stimulate cortex
1811 - Julien Jean Legallois discovers respiratory center in medulla
1811 - Charles Bell discusses functional differences between dorsal and ventral roots of the spinal cord
1812 - Benjamin Rush publishes Medical Inquiries and Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind
1813 - Felix Vicq d'Azyr discovers the claustrum
1817 - James Parkinson publishes An Essay on the Shaking Palsy
1818 - Library of the Surgeon General's Office established (later to become the Army Medical Library and then the National Library of Medicine)
1820 - Galvanometer invented
1821 - Charles Bell describes facial paralysis ipsilateral to facial nerve lesion (Bell's palsy)
1821 - Francois Magendie discusses functional differences between dorsal and ventral roots of the spinal cord
1822 - Friedrich Burdach names the cingular gyrus
1822 - Friedrich Burdach distinguishes lateral and medial geniculate
1823 - Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens states that cerebellum regulates motor activity
1824 - John C. Caldwell publishes Elements of Phrenology
1824 - Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens details ablation to study behavior
1824 - F. Magendie provides first evidence of cerebellum role in equilibration
1825 - John P. Harrison first argues against phrenology
1825 - Jean-Baptiste Bouillaud presents cases of loss of speech after frontal lesions
1825 - Robert B. Todd discusses the role of the cerebral cortex in mentation, corpus striatum in movement and midbrain in emotion
1825 - Luigi Rolando describes the sulcus that separates the precentral and postcentral gyri
1826 - Johannes Muller publishes theory of "specific nerve energies"
1827 - E. Merck & Company market morphine
1832 - Justus von Liebig discovers chloral hydrate
1832 - Jean-Pierre Robiquet isolates codeine
1832 - Massachusetts establishes a "State Lunatic Hospital" for the mentally ill
1832 - Sir Charles Wheatstone invents the stereoscope
1833 - Philipp L. Geiger isolates atropine
1834 - Ernst Heinrich Weber publishes theory of "Just Noticeable Difference" or "Weber's Law"
1836 - Marc Dax reads paper on left hemisphere damage effects on speech
1836 - Gabriel Gustav Valentin identifies neuron nucleus and nucleolus
1836 - Robert Remak describes myelinated and unmyelinated axons
1836 - Charles Dickens (the novelist) describes obstructive sleep apnea
1837 - Jan Evangelista Purkyne (Purkinje) describes large cerebellar cells with many branching dendrites Purkinje cells; identifies neuron nucleus and processes
1837 - The American Physiological Society is founded
1838 - Robert Remak suggests that nerve fiber and nerve cell are joined
1838 - Theordor Schwann describes the myelin-forming cell in the peripheral nervous system ("Schwann cell")
1838 - Jean-Etienne-Dominique Esquirol publishes Des Maladies Mentales, possibly the first modern work about mental disorders
1838 - Napoleonic Code leads to the requirement of facilities for the mentally ill
1838 - Eduard Zeis publishes study about dreams in people who are blind
1839 - Theodor Schwann proposes the cell theory
1839 - C. Chevalier coins the term microtome
1839 - Francois Leuret names the Rolandic sulcus for Luigi Rolando
1840 - Filippo Pacini describes the Pacinian corpuscle
1840 - Moritz Heinrich Romberg describes a test for conscious proprioception (Romberg test)
1840 - Adolph Hannover uses chromic acid to harden nervous tissue
1840 - Jules Gabriel Francois Baillarger discusses the connections between white and gray matter of cerebral cortex
1840 - Adolphe Hannover discovers the ganglion cells of the retina
1841 - Dorothea Lynde Dix investigates brutality within mental hospitals in the United States
1842 - Benedikt Stilling is first to study spinal cord in serial sections
1842 - Crawford W. Long uses ether on man
1842 - Francois Magendie describes the median opening in the roof of the fourth ventricle (foramen of Magendie)
1843 - James Braid coins the term "hypnosis"
1844 - Robert Remak provides first illustration of 6-layered cortex
1844 - Horace Wells uses nitrous oxide during a tooth extraction
1845 - Ernst Heinrich Weber and Edward Weber discover that stimulation of the vagus nerve inhibits the heart
1846 - William Morton demonstrates ether anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital
1847 - Chloroform anesthesia used by James Young Simpson
1847 - Chloroform anesthesia used by Marie Jean Pierre Flourens
1847 - American Medical Association is founded
1847 - The American Association for the Advancement of Science is founded
1848 - Phineas Gage has his brain pierced by an iron rod
1848 - Richard Owen coins the word "notochord"
1849 - Hermann von Helmholtz measures the speed of frog nerve impulses

1850 - 1900

1850 - Augustus Waller describes appearance of degenerating nerve fibers
1850 - Marshall Hall coins the term spinal shock
1850 - Emil Du Bois-Reymond invents nerve galvanometer
1851 - Jacob Augustus Lockhart Clarke describes the nucleus dorsalis, an area in the intermediate zone of the spinal cord gray matter
1851 - Heinrich Muller is first to describe the colored pigments in the retina
1851 - Marchese Alfonso Corti describes the cochlear receptor organ in the inner ear (organ of Corti)
1851 - Hermann von Helmholtz invents ophthalmoscope
1851 - Andrea Verga describes the cavum vergae
1852 - A. Kolliker describes how motor nerves originate from the neurons in the anterior horn of the spinal cord
1852 - George Meissner and Rudolf Wagner describe encapsulated nerve endings later known as "Meissner's corpuscles"
1853 - William Benjamin Carpenter proposes "sensory ganglion" (thalamus) as seat of consciousness
1854 - Louis P. Gratiolet describes convolutions of the cerebral cortex
1855 - Bartolomeo Panizza shows the occipital lobe is essential for vision
1855 - Richard Heschl describes the transverse gyri in the temporal lobe (Heschl's gyri)
1856 - Albrecht von Graefe describes homonymous hemianopia
1857 - Charles Locock observes the anticonvulsive effects of potassium bromide
1858 - Joseph von Gerlach stains brain tissue with a carmine solution
1859 - Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species
1859 - Rudolph Virchow coins the term neuroglia
1860 - Albert Niemann purifies cocaine
1860 - Gustav Theodor Fechner develops "Fechner's law"
1860 - Karl L. Kahlbaum describes and names "catatonia"
1861 - Paul Broca discusses cortical localization
1861 - T.H. Huxley coins the term calcarine sulcus
1862 - William Withey Gull describes clinical signs of syringomyelia
1862 - Hermann Snellen invents the eyechart with letters to test vision
1862 - Wilhelm Friedrich Kuhne demonstrates how motor nerves terminate in muscle cells
1863 - Foramen of Luschka named after Hubert von Luschka
1863 - Ivan Mikhalovich Sechenov publishes Reflexes of the Brain
1863 - Nikolaus Friedreich describes a progressive hereditary degenerative CNS disorder (Friedreich's ataxia)
1864 - John Hughlings Jackson writes on loss of speech after brain injury
1865 - Otto Friedrich Karl Deiters differentiates dendrites and axons
1865 - Otto Friedrich Karl Deiters describes the lateral vestibular nucleus (Deiter's nucleus)
1866 - John Langdon Haydon Down publishes work on congenital "idiots"
1866 - Julius Bernstein hypothesized that a nerve impulse is a "wave of negativity"
1866 - Max Schultze discovers the two retinal receptors, rods and cones
1866 - Leopold August Besser coins the term "Purkinje cells"
1867 - Hermann von Helmholtz publishes Handbook of Physiological Optics
1867 - Joseph Lister reports his concept of antisepsis
1867 - Theodore Meynert performs histologic analysis of cerebral cortex
1868 - Julius Bernstein measures the time course of the action potential
1868 - Friedrich Goll describes the fasciculus gracilis
1869 - Francis Galton claims that intelligence is inherited (publication of Hereditary Genius)
1869 - Johann Friedrich Horner describes eye disorder (small pupil, droopy eyelid) later to be called "Horner's syndrome"
1870 - Eduard Hitzig and Gustav Fritsch discover cortical motor area of dog using electrical stimulation
1870 - Ernst von Bergmann writes first textbook on nervous system surgery
1871 - Gustav Fechner publishes work about synesthesia
1871 - Silas Weir Mitchell coins the term "phantom limb."
1872 - George Huntington describes symptoms of a hereditary chorea
1872 - Sir William Turner describes the interparietal sulcus
1872 - Charles Darwin publishes The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals
1872 - Silas Weir Mitchell provides a clinical description of phantom limb pain
1873 - Camillo Golgi publishes first work on the silver nitrate method
1874 - Jean Martin Charcot describes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
1874 - Vladimir Alekseyevich Betz publishes work on giant pyramidal cells
1874 - Roberts Bartholow electrically stimulates human cortical tissue
1874 - Carl Wernicke publishes Der Aphasische Symptomencomplex on aphasias
1875 - Sir David Ferrier describes different parts of monkey motor cortex
1875 - Richard Caton is first to record electrical activity from the brain
1875 - Wilhelm Heinrich Erb and Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal describe the knee jerk reflex
1876 - David Ferrier publishes The Functions of the Brain
1876 - Franz Christian Boll discovers rhodopsin
1876 - Francis Galton uses the term "nature and nurture" to explain "heredity and environment"
1877 - Jean-Martin Charcot publishes Lectures on the Diseases of the Nervous System
1878 - W. Bevan Lewis publishes work on giant pyramidal cells of human precentral gyrus
1878 - Claude Bernard describes nerve/muscle blocking action of curare
1878 - The first Ph.D. with "psychology" in its title is given to Granville Stanley Hall at Harvard University
1878 - Paul Broca publishes work on the "great limbic lobe"
1878 - W.R. Gowers publishes Unilateral Gunshot Injury to the Spinal Cord
1878 - Harmon Northrop Morse synthesized acetaminophen (paracetamol)
1878 - Louis-Antoine Ranvier describes regular interruptions in the myelin sheath (nodes of Ranvier)
1876 - David Ferrier publishes The Localization of Cerebral Disease
1879 - Camillo Golgi describes the "musculo-tendineous organs" (later to be know as the "Golgi tendon organs")
1879 - Mathias Duval introduces an improved method of embedding tissue using collodion
1879 - Hermann Munk presents detailed anatomy of the optic chiasm
1879 - William Crookes invents the cathode ray tube
1879 - Wilhelm Wundt sets up lab devoted to study human behavior
1879 - Scottish surgeon William Macewen performs successful surgery to treat a brain abscess
1880 - Jean Baptiste Edouard Gelineau introduces the word "narcolepsy"
1880 - Friedrich Sigmund Merkel describes free nerve endings later known as "Merkel's corpuscles"
1880 - Thomas Graydon invents the "Dentaphone," a bone conduction hearing device
1881 - Hermann Munk reports on visual abnormalities after occipital lobe ablation in dogs
1883 - Sir Victor Horsley describes effects of nitrous oxide anesthesia
1883 - Emil Kraepelin coins the terms neuroses and psychoses
1883 - George John Romanes coins the term "comparative psychology"
1883 - The Journal of the American Medical Association is founded
1884 - Franz Nissl describes the granular endoplasmic reticulum ("Nissl Substance")
1884 - Karl Koller discovers anesthetic properties of cocaine by testing it on his own eye
1884 - Georges Gilles de la Tourette describes several movement disorders
1884 - Theodor Meynert publishes A Clinical Treatise on the Diseases of the Forebrain
1884 - English surgeon Richman John Godlee performs surgery to remove a brain tumor
1885 - Paul Ehrlich notes that intravenous dye does not stain brain tissue
1885 - Carl Weigert introduces hematoxylin to stain myelin
1885 - Ludwig Edinger describes nucleus that will be known as the Edinger-Westphal nucleus
1885 - Hermann Ebbinghaus publishes On Memory
1885 - Louis Pasteur successfully vaccinates a boy who was bitten by a rabid dog
1886 - Joseph Jastrow earns the first Ph.D. from the first formal PhD program in psychology at Johns Hopkins University
1886 - V. Marchi publishes procedure to stain degenerating myelin
1887 - Sergei Korsakoff describes symptoms characteristic in alcoholics
1887 - The National Institutes of Health established
1887 - Alfred Binet and C. Fere publish Animal Magnetism, a study on hypnosis
1887 - Adolf Eugen Fick makes the first contact lens out of glass for vision correction
1887 - G. Stanley Hall publishes the first issue of the American Journal of Psychology
1887 - English surgeon Victor Horsley successfully removes a spinal cord tumor
1888 - William Gill describes anorexia nervosa
1888 - William W. Keen, Jr. is first American to remove intracranial meningioma
1888 - Hans Chiari introduces the term "syringomyelia"
1888 - Giovanni Martinotti describes cortical cells later known as "Martinotti cells"
1888 - J. Madison Taylor, working for S. Weir Mitchell, designs the firest reflex hammer
1889 - Santiago Ramon y Cajal argues that nerve cells are independent elements
1889 - William His coins the term dendrite
1889 - Sir Victor Horsley publishes somatotopic map of monkey motor cortex
1889 - Carlo Martinotti describes cortical neuron with ascending axon (this neuron now bears his name, Martinotti cell)
1889 - F.C. Muller-Lyer discovers the Muller-Lyer illusion
1890 - Wilhelm Ostwald discovers the membrane theory of nerve conduction
1890 - William James publishes Principles of Psychology
1890 - James Cattell coins the term "mental tests"
1891 - H. Quincke introduces the lumbar puncture
1891 - Wilhelm von Waldeyer coins the term neuron
1891 - Luigi Luciani publishes manuscript on the cerebellum
1891 - Heinrich Quinke develops the lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
1892 - Santiago Ramon y Cajal publishes Structure of the Retina
1892 - Salomen Eberhard Henschen localizes vision to calcarine fissure
1892 - American Psychological Association formed
1892 - Arnold Pick first describes "Pick's disease"
1893 - Paul Emil Flechsig describes myelinization of the brain
1893 - Charles Scott Sherrington coins the term proprioceptive
1894 - Franz Nissl stains neurons with dahlia violet
1894 - Margaret Floy Washburn is the first woman to receive a Ph.D. (Cornell University) in psychology
1894 - Recognizes that neuromuscular junction transmission requires calcium ions
1895 - William His first uses the term hypothalamus
1895 - Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen invents the X-ray
1895 - Heinrick Quincke performs lumbar puncture to study cerebrospinal fluid
1895 - Formalization of the cranial nerve number system published in Basle Nomina Anatomica
1896 - Max von Frey details "stimulus hairs" to test the somatosensory system
1896 - Rudolph Albert von Kolliker coins the term axon
1896 - Camillo Golgi discovers the Golgi apparatus
1896 - Joseph Babinski describes the Babinski Sign
1896 - Emil Kraeplein describes dementia praecox
1896 - John William Strutt publishes The Theory of Sound
1897 - Ivan Petrovich Pavlov publishes work on physiology of digestion
1897 - Karl Ferdinand Braun invents the oscilloscope
1897 - John Jacob Abel isolates adrenalin
1897 - Charles Scott Sherrington coins the term synapse
1897 - Ferdinand Blum uses formaldehyde as brain fixative
1897 - Acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) is synthesized by Felix Hoffmann
1898 - Charles Scott Sherrington describes decerebrate rigidity in cat
1898 - Edward Lee Thorndike describes the puzzle box
1898 - Bayer Drug Company markets heroin as nonaddicting cough medicine
1898 - John Newport Langley coins the term autonomic nervous system
1898 - Angelo Ruffini describes encapsulated nerve endings later known as Ruffini corpuscles
1899 - Francis Gotch describes a "refractory phase" between nerve impulses
1899 - Bayer AG markets aspirin
1899 - Miller Hutchison invents one of the first electric hearing aids called the "Akoulalion"
1899 - Karl Gustav August Bier uses cocaine for intraspinal anesthesia

John Hughlings Jackson
Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine, History of Medicine Collection

Charles Darwin

Hermann von Helmholtz

Jean-Martin Charcot

Claude Bernard
Images courtesy of the Blocker History of Medicine Collections, Moody Medical Library, Univ. Texas Med. Branch, Galveston

Camillo Golgi
Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

1900 - 1950

1900 - Sigmund Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams
1900 - Charles Scott Sherrington states that cerebellum is head ganglion of the proprioceptive system
1900 - M. Lewandowsky coins the term "blood-brain barrier" (Bluthirnschranke) [ref: Aschner and Kerper, Mol. Biol. and Tox. of Metals, 2000]
1902 - Julius Bernstein proposes membrane theory for cells
1902 - Physiologist Ida Hyde is the first woman elected to the American Physiological Society
1902 - Oskar Vogt and Cecile Vogt coin the term "neurophysiology"
1903 - Ivan Pavlov coins the term conditioned reflex
1903 - Alfred Walter Campbell studies cytoarchitecture of anthropoid cerebral cortex
1904 - Procaine is synthesized
1904 - Thomas Elliott suggests that autonomic nerves may release chemical transmitters
1905 - Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon have their first intelligence test
1905 - John Newport Langley coins the phrase "parasympathetic nervous system"
1905 - Austrian ophthalmologist Eduard Zinn performs the first successful human corneal transplant
1906 - Alois Alzheimer describes presenile degeneration
1906 - Golgi and Cajal-Nobel Prize-Structure of the Nervous System
1906 - Sir Charles Scott Sherrington publishes The Integrative Action of the Nervous system that describes the synapse and motor cortex
1907 - Ross Granville Harrison describes tissue culture methods
1907 - John Newport Langley introduces the concept of receptor molecules
1908 - Vladimir Bekhterew describes the superior nucleus of the vestibular nerve (Bekhterew's nucleus)
1908 - Victor Alexander Haden Horsley and Robert Henry Clarke design stereotaxic instrument
1908 - Willem Einthoven makes string galvanometer recordings from the vagus nerve
1908 - Oberga introduces the cisterna puncture, a method to access the cerebrospinal fluid through the cistena magna
1908 - Eugen Bleuler coins the term schizophrenia
1909 - Tetrodotoxin isolated from the pufferfish and named by Yoshizumi Tahara
1909 - Harvey Cushing is first to electrically stimulate human sensory cortex
1909 - Korbinian Brodmann describes 52 discrete cortical areas
1909 - Karl Jaspers publishes General Mental Illness
1910 - Emil Kraepelin names Alzheimer's disease
1911 - Allvar Gullstrand-Nobel Prize-Optics of the eye
1911 - George Barger and Henry Dale discover norepinephrine (noradrenaline)
1912 - Original formula for the intelligence quotient (IQ) developed by William Stern
1912 - Phenobarbital brought to market
1913 - Santiago Ramon y Cajal develops gold chloride-mercury stain to show astrocytes
1913 - Edwin Ellen Goldmann finds blood brain barrier impermeable to large molecules
1913 - Edgar Douglas Adrian publishes work on all-or-none principle in nerve
1913 - Walter Samuel Hunter devises delayed-response test
1914 - Robert Barany-Nobel Prize-Vestibular apparatus
1914 - Henry H. Dale isolates acetylcholine
1915 - J.G. Dusser De Barenne describes activity of brain after strychnine application
1915 - Walter B. Cannon coins the term "fight or flight" in his book Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage: An Account of Recent Researches into the Function of Emotional Excitement
1915 - Aspirin becomes available without a prescription
1916 - Richard Henneberg coins the term cataplexy
1916 - George Guillain, Jean Alexander Barre and Andre Strohl describe an acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (Guillain-Barre Syndrome)
1916 - Shinobu Ishihara publishes a set of plates to test color vision
1918 - Walter E. Dandy introduces the ventriculography
1918 - Ernst Moro describes a baby's defensive reflex to slapping the pillow on both sides of the infant's head ("Moro reflex")
1919 - Cecile Vogt describes over 200 cortical areas
1919 - Walter E. Dandy introduces the air encephalography
1919 - Gordon Morgan Holmes localizes vision to striate area
1919 - Pio del Rio Hortega divides neuroglia into microglia and oligodendroglia
1919 - Konstantin Tretiakoff describes changes in the substatia nigra in people with Parkinson's disease
1920 - Society of Neurological Surgeons is founded
1920 - Henry Head publishes Studies in Neurology
1920 - Stephen Walter Ranson demonstrates connections between the hypothalamus and pituitary
1920 - John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner publish experiments about classical conditioning of fear (Little Albert experiments)
1921 - Otto Loewi publishes work on Vagusstoff
1921 - Hermann Rorschach develops the inkblot test
1921 - John Augustus Larsen and Leonard Keeler develop the polygraph
1921 - del Rio Hortega describes microglia
1922 - Army Medical Library established (was the Library of the Surgeon General's Office)
1923 - Capgras syndrome described by Joseph Capgras
1924 - Charles Scott Sherrington discovers the stretch reflex
1925 - C. von Economo and G.N. Koskinas revise Brodmann's cortical nomenclature of the cerebral cortex
1926 - Percival Bailey and Harvey Cushing publish paper describing more the 2,000 neuroepithelial neoplasms
1927 - Chester William Darrow studies galvanic skin reflex in US
1928 - Philip Bard suggests the neural mechanism of rage is in the diencephalon
1928 - Walter Rudolph Hess reports "affective responses" to hypothalamic stimulation
1928 - John Fulton publishes his observations (made in 1926 and 1928) of the sounds of blood flowing over the human visual cortex
1929 - Hans Berger publishes his findings about the first human electroencephalogram
1929 - Karl Lashley defines "equipotentiality" and "mass action"
1927 - J. Wagner-Jauregg - Nobel Prize-Malaria to treat dementia paralyses
1928 - Edgar Douglas Adrian publishes The Basis of Sensation
1929 - Joseph Erlanger and Herbert Spencer Gasser publish work on the correlation of nerve fiber size and function
1929 - Walter B. Cannon coins the term homeostasis
1930 - John Carew Eccles shows central inhibition of flexor reflexes
1931 - Ulf Svante von Euler and J.H. Gaddum discover substance P
1932 - Max Knoll and Ernst Ruska invent the electron microscope
1932 - Jan Friedrich Tonnies develops ink-writing EEG machine
1932 - Edgar Douglas Adrian and Charles S. Sherrington share Nobel Prize for work on the function of neurons
1932 - Jan Friedrich Toennies and Brian Matthews design the differential amplifier
1932 - Smith, Kline and French introduce the first amphetamine, Benzedrine
1933 - Ralph Waldo Gerard describes first experimental evoked potentials
1934 - S. Howard Bartley performs studies on cortical visual evoked potentials in rabbits
1935 - Ward C. Halsted establishes the first clinical neuropsychological laboratory in the United States
1935 - Dexedrine (an amphetamine) introduced to treat narcolepsy
1935 - Frederic Bremer uses cerveau isole preparation to study sleep
1935 - Jan Friedrich Toennies develops a five-channel ink-writing EEG
1936 - Egas Moniz publishes work on the first human frontal lobotomy
1936 - Henry Hallett Dale and Otto Loewi share Nobel Prize for work on the chemical transmission between nerves
1936 - Walter Freeman performs first lobotomy in the United States
1937 - James Papez publishes work on limbic circuit
1936 - Massachusetts General Hospital has first EEG laboratory
1937 - Heinrich Kluver and Paul Bucy publish work on bilateral temporal lobectomies
1937 - James W. Papez develops "visceral theory" of emotion
1937 - John Zachary Young suggests that the squid giant axon can be used to understand nerve cells
1938 - Isador Rabi coins term "magnetic resonance"
1938 - B.F. Skinner publishes The Behavior of Organisms that describes operant conditioning
1938 - Albert Hofmann synthesizes LSD
1938 - Ugo Cerletti and Lucino Bini treat human patients with electroshock
1938 - Franz Kallmann publishes The Genetics of Schizophrenia
1938 - "Ames Room" designed by Adelbert Ames, Jr.
1939 - Carl Pfaffman describes directionally sensitive cat mechanoreceptors
1939 - Nathaniel Kleitman publishes Sleep and Wakefulness
1939 - The Eastern EEG Association (Society) was formed
1942 - Judith Graham develops a KCl-filled glass electrode for recording muscle fiber resting membrane potential
1942 - Stephen Kuffler develops the single nerve-muscle fiber preparation
1943 - John Raymond Brobeck describes hypothalamic hyperphasia
1944 - Joseph Erlanger and Herbert Spencer Gasser share Nobel Prize for work on the functions of single nerve fiber
1946 - Theodor Rasmussen describes the olivocochlear bundle (bundle of Rasmussen)
1946 - President Truman signs the National Mental Health Act
1947 - The American Society of Electroencephalography is founded
1947 - German neurologist Joachim Bodamer coins the term "prosopagnosia" (face blindness)
1948 - The World Health Organization is founded
1949 - Kenneth Cole develops the voltage clamp
1949 - A.C.A.F. Egas Moniz-Nobel Prize-Leucotomy to treat certain psychoses
1949 - Walter Rudolph Hess receives Nobel Prize for work on the "Interbrain"
1949 - Horace Winchell Magoun defines the reticular activating system
1949 - John Cade discovers that lithium is an effective treatment for bipolar depression
1949 - Giuseppi Moruzzi and Horace Winchell Magoun publish Brain Stem Reticular Formation and Activation of the EEG
1949 - The Journal of EEG and Clinical Neurophysiology begins publication
1949 - National Institute of Mental Health was formally established
1949 - Donald Olding Hebb publishes The Organization of Behavior: A Neuropsychological Theory

Charles Scott Sherrington
Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

Harvey Cushing
Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

Egas Moniz
Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

1950 - present

1950 - Karl Lashley publishes In Search of the Engram
1950 - Eugene Roberts and J. Awapara independently identify GABA in the brain
1950 - The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke established (it has gone through several name changes)
1950 - French chemist Paul Charpentier synthesizes chlorpromazine, an antipsychotic drug
1951 - MAO-inhibitors introduced to treat psychotics
1951 - B.F. Skinner describes shaping in a paper titled How to Teach Animals
1952 - The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was published by the American Psychiatric Association
1953 - Brenda Milner discusses patient HM who suffers from memory loss after hippocampal surgery
1953 - Eugene Aserinski and Nathaniel Kleitman describe rapid eye movements (REM) during sleep
1953 - H. Kluver and E. Barrera introduce Luxol fast blue MBS stain
1953 - Stephen Kuffler publishes work on center-surround, on-off organization of retinal ganglion cell receptive fields
1953 - James Watson and Francis Crick publish paper revealing the molecular structure of DNA
1954 - James Olds describes rewarding effects of hypothalamic stimulation
1954 - John Lilly invents the "isolation tank"
1954 - Chlorpromazine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
1956 - L. Leksell uses ultrasound to examine the brain
1956 - National Library of Medicine named (was the Army Medical Library)
1956 - Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen isolate and purify nerve growth factor
1957 - W. Penfield and T. Rasmussen devise motor and sensory homunculus
1957 - The American Medical Association recognizes alcoholism as a disease
1958 - Paul Janssen develops haloperidol as a neuroleptic drug
1959 - P. Karlson and M. Lusher coin the term "pheromone"
1960 - Oleh Hornykiewicz shows that brain dopamine is lower than normal in Parkinson's disease patients
1961 - Georg Von Bekesy awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on the function of the cochlea
1961 - Levadopa successfully treats parkinsonism
1962 - Eldon Foltz performs the first cingulotomy to treat chronic pain
1963 - John Carew Eccles, Alan Lloyd Hodgkin and Andrew Fielding Huxley share Nobel Prize for work on the mechanisms of the neuron cell membrane
1965 - Ronald Melzack and Patrick D. Wall publish gate control theory of pain
1965 - Drug Abuse Control Act
1967 - Ragnar Arthur Granit, Halden Keffer Hartline and George Wald share Nobel Prize for work on the mechanisms of vision
1968 - Alexander Romanovich Luria publishes The Mind of a Mnemonist; A Little Book About a Vast Memory
1968 - National Eye Institute is established
1969 - D.V. Reynolds describes the analgesic effect of electrical stimulation of the periaqueductal gray
1969 - The Society for Neuroscience is formed
1970 - Julius Axelrod, Bernard Katz and Ulf Svante von Euler share Nobel Prize for work on neurotransmitters
1971 - The first annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience is held in Washington, D.C.
1971 - Godfrey N. Hounsfield develops x-ray computed tomography
1972 - Jennifer LaVail and Matthew LaVail use horseradish peroxidase to study axonal transport
1973 - Candace Pert and Solomon Snyder demonstrate opioid receptors in brain
1973 - Sinemet is introduced as a treatment for Parkinson's disease
1973 - Konrad Z. Lorenz, Nikolaas Tinbergen and Karl von Frisch share Nobel Prize for work on ethology
1973 - Timothy Bliss and Terje Lomo describe long-term potentiation
1974 - National Institute on Drug Abuse established
1974 - International Association for the Study of Pain founded
1974 - John Hughes and Hans Kosterlitz discover enkephalin
1974 - M.E.Phelps, E.J.Hoffman and M.M.Ter Pogossian develop first PET scanner
1974 - First NMR image (a mouse) is taken
1975 - John Hughes and Hans Kosterlitz publish work on enkephalins
1976 - Choh Hao Li and David Chung publish work on beta-endorphin
1976 - Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann develop the patch-clamp technique
1977 - Roger Guillemin and Andrew Victor Schally share Nobel Prize for work on peptides in the brain
1981 - David Hunter Hubel and Torsten N. Wiesel-Nobel Prize-visual system
1981 - Roger Wolcott Sperry awarded Nobel Prize-functions brain hemispheres
1982 - Bengt Ingemar Bergstrom, John Robert Vane and Sune K. Bergstrom awarded Nobel Prize for the discovery of prostaglandins
1986 - Stanley Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini awarded Nobel prize for their work on the control of nerve cell growth
1987 - Fluoxetine (Prozac) introduced as treatment for depression
1990 - U.S. President George Bush declares the decade starting in 1990 the "Decade of the Brain"
1991 - Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann share the Nobel Prize for their work on the function of single ion channels
1992 - National Institute on Drug Abuse becomes part of the National Institutes of Health
1992 - Giacomo Rizzolatti describes mirror neurons in area F5 of the monkey premotor cortex
1993 - The gene responsible for Huntington's disease is identified
1994 - Alfred G. Gilman and Martin Rodbell share the Nobel Prize for their discovery of G-protein coupled receptors and their role in signal transduction
1997 - Stanley B. Prusiner awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of prions; a new biological principle of infection
2000 - Arvid Carlsson, Paul Greengard and Eric Kandel share the Nobel Prize for their discoveries concerning signal transduction in the nervous system
2004 - Linda B. Buck and Richard Axel share the Nobel Prize for their discoveries about odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system
2006 - The term "optogenetics" first appears in a publication
2013 - The start of the Human Brain Project was announced
2013 - James Rothman, Randy Schekman, and Thomas Sudhof share the Nobel Prize for their discoveries about the machinery regulating vesicle traffic
2013 - US President Barack Obama announces the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative
2014 - John O'Keefe, Edvard Moser, and May-Britt Moser share the Nobel Prize for their discoveries about cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain

Wilder Penfield

Roger Sperry
Courtesy of the Archives
California Institute of Technology

Try it!

Do you like interactive word search puzzles? Make sure your browser is "java-enabled" and try these:


  1. Afifi, A.K. and Bergman, R.A., Functional Neuroanatomy, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998. The margins of this text are filled with historical facts about the origins of neuroanatomical structures and discoveries.
  2. Albert, D.M., Dates in Ophthalmology. A Chronological Record of Progress in Ophthalmology Over the Last Millennium, New York: Parthenon Publishing Group, 2002.
  3. Bennett, M.R., The early history of the synapse: From Plato to Sherrington, Brain Research Bulletin, 50:95-118, 1999.
  4. Brazier, M.A.B., A History of the Electrical Activity of the Brain, London: Pitman, 1961.
  5. Brazier, M.A.B., A History of Neurophysiology in the 19th Century, New York: Raven Press, 1988.
  6. Clarke, E. and Dewhurst, K., An Illustrated History of Brain Function, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972.
  7. Clarke, E. and C.D. O'Malley, C.D., The Human Brain and Spinal Cord, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968.
  8. Finger, S., Origins of Neuroscience, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
  9. Finger, S. Minds Behind the Brain: A History of the Pioneers and Their Discoveries, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  10. Francis, R.L., The Illustrated Almanac of Science Technology and Invention, New York: Plenum Press, 1997.
  11. Glickstein, M. Neuroscience. A Historical Introduction, Cambridge (MA): MIT Press, 2014.
  12. Gross, C.G., Brain, Vision, Memory. Tales in the History of Neuroscience, Cambridge, MIT Press, 1998.
  13. Harding, A.S., Milestones in Health and Medicine, Phoenix (AZ) Oryx Press, 2000.
  14. Kandel, E.R. and Squire, L.R., Neuroscience: Breaking Down Scientific Barriers to the Study of Brain and Mind, in Science, 290:1113-1120, 2000.
  15. Marshall, L.H. and Magoun, H.W., Discoveries in the Human Brain, Totowa; Humana Press, 1998.
  16. Martensen, R.L., The Brain Takes Shape. An Early History, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2004.
  17. Millon, T., Masters of the Mind. Exploring the Story of Mental Illness from Ancient Times to the New Millennium, Hoboken (NJ): John Wiley and Sons, 2004.
  18. Pickover, C.A., The Medical Book. From Witch Doctors to Robot Surgeons, 250 Milestones in the History of Medicine, New York: Sterling, 2012.
  19. Rose, F.C. and Bynum, W.F., Historical Aspects of the Neurosciences. A Festschrift for Macdonald Critchely, New York: Raven Press, 1982.
  20. Sebastian, A. Dates in Medicine. A Chronological Record of Medical Progress Over Three Millennia, New York: The Parthenon Publishing Group, 2000
  21. Shepherd, G.M., Foundations of the Neuron Doctrine, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
  22. Swartz, B.E. and Goldenshon, E.S., Timeline of the history of EEG and associated fields, Electroenceph. Clin. Neurophysiol., 106:173-176, 1998.
  23. Wickens, A.P., A History of the Brain: From Stone Age Surgery to Modern Neuroscience, New York: Psychology Press, 2015.
  24. The Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. Basic and Clinical Perspectives has some excellent papers in their "Neuroanniversary" series.

Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine

For more information, see: