Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1944
Born: 5 January 1874, San Francisco, CA, USA
Died: 5 December 1965, St. Louis, MO, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries relating to the highly differentiated functions of single nerve fibres."
Prize share: 1/2
Our bodily functions are governed by our nervous system, which consists of many nerve cells with extensions, or nerve fibers, that form a system of connections between the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body. Signals in the nervous system are conveyed by weak electrical currents and by chemical substances. During the 1920s Joseph Erlanger and Herbert Gasser studied the properties and distribution of nerve fibers. They divided nerve fibers into two different types with different thicknesses and showed that the thicker fibers convey nerve impulses faster.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.