The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1906
Born: 7 July 1843, Corteno, Italy
Died: 21 January 1926, Pavia, Italy
Affiliation at the time of the award: Pavia University, Pavia, Italy
Prize motivation: “in recognition of their work on the structure of the nervous system”
Prize share: 1/2
Golgi was born in the village of Corteno near Brescia, and received his education in medicine at the University of Pavia. He conducted his first studies of the nervous system as medical director of a mental hospital. Eventually, he became a professor in Pavia, and had a significant influence as a teacher for both graduate students and future physicians. His scientific work was soon noticed and, in addition to the Nobel Prize, he received other prizes and even monuments in his honor. In 1956 his native village changed its name to Corteno Golgi.
During the 19th century researchers learned to stain tissues to allow study under a microscope. In the 1870s Camillo Golgi discovered that nerve cells could be stained with silver nitrate. This led to groundbreaking studies of how the nervous system is structured and functions. Golgi maintained that all nerve cells in the nervous system constituted a continuous, interconnected network. This led to a protracted disagreement with Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the leading proponent of another opinion. Eventually, Cajal’s ideas prevailed.