Sir John Carew Eccles
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1963
Born: 27 January 1903, Melbourne, Australia
Died: 2 May 1997, Contra, Switzerland
Affiliation at the time of the award: Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries concerning the ionic mechanisms involved in excitation and inhibition in the peripheral and central portions of the nerve cell membrane."
Prize share: 1/3
The nervous system in people and animals consists of many different cells. In cells, signals are conveyed by small electrical currents and by chemical substances. By measuring small variations in electrical charges at contact surfaces between nerve cells, or synapses, in the early 1950s John Eccles showed how nerve impulses are conveyed from one cell to another. The synapses are of different types, which has either a stimulating or inhibiting effect. A nerve cell receives signals from many different synapses, and the effect is determined by which type prevails.