Pioneers of Neurobiology: My Brilliant Eccentric Heroes

John G. Nicholls, International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), Trieste, Italy

John G. Nicholls, International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), Trieste, Italy

Pioneers of Neurobiology: My Brilliant Eccentric Heroes

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This new memoir recounts stories gleaned from many years in the laboratory with students, postdoctoral fellows, and fellow scientists. Through these narratives, the author shares the amusing oddities and quirks of those friends, some of them Nobel Prize winners, others students or technicians. These informal chats give the reader a glimpse into the backsides of laboratories, the peculiar practical jokes perpetrated by supposedly serious...

This new memoir recounts stories gleaned from many years in the laboratory with students, postdoctoral fellows, and fellow scientists. Through these narratives, the author shares the amusing oddities and quirks of those friends, some of them Nobel Prize winners, others students or technicians. These informal chats give the reader a glimpse into the backsides of laboratories, the peculiar practical jokes perpetrated by supposedly serious scientists, and the joy and sheer fun of doing experiments.

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John Nicholls is Professor of Neurobiology at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste, Italy. Born in London in 1929, he received a medical degree from Charing Cross Hospital and a Ph.D. from the Department of Biophysics at University College London, where he did research under the direction of Sir Bernard Katz. He has worked at Oxford, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford Universities, and at the Biocenter in Basel. His great friend Stephen Kuffler created the first department of Neurobiology in the world. Together, they did many experiments and conceived From Neuron to Brain, a textbook on the nervous system. Dr. Nicholls has given courses in neurobiology at Woods Hole and Cold Spring Harbor, and in universities throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America. His work, widely recognized and published in leading journals, concerns repair of the nervous system after injury and the origin of the respiratory rhythm.

“John Nicholls' book is an unalloyed delight. It fills a niche in that it gives lay readers a great insight into the human side of science; research is done by real people, each with their own agenda, fancies and foibles. John has done a great service here in revealing the depth and breadth of ‘characters’ that inhabit the research world to which he himself has made such notable contributions. For those of us also in science, many will read this fine book and kick themselves for not having catalogued their own acquaintances and anecdotes. But really, John’s cast of characters and stories will trump anything. He writes beautifully with a sense of wonder and pleasure at the strangeness that he has encountered in so many colleagues and collaborators, students and technicians.”
—David Miller, Physiology News

“Proper scientific training has long been rooted in organized course work and structured laboratory practice. However, a considerable amount of education occurs beyond the classroom and work bench. In his short memoir, John G. Nicholls regales his readers with stories dating from his undergraduate studies in London to his experiences working abroad with international scientists. … Pioneers of Neurobiology is not only a wonderful book for any student interested in pursuing a degree in neuroscience, but also a heartwarming read for the seasoned scientist. ”
—Danielle Gerhard, Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine