Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 192, Issue 3, pp 321–334 | Cite as

Three before their time: neuroscientists whose ideas were ignored by their contemporaries

  • Charles G. GrossEmail author


I discuss three examples of neuroscientists whose ideas were ignored by their contemporaries but were accepted as major insights decades or even centuries later. The first is Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) whose ideas on the functions of the cerebral cortex were amazingly prescient. The second is Claude Bernard (1813–1878) whose maxim that the constancy of the internal environment is the condition for the free life was not understood for about 50 years when it came to dominate the development of modern physiology. The third is Joseph Altman (1925–) who overturned the traditional dogma that no new neurons are made in the adult mammalian brain and was vindicated several decades later.


Emanuel Swedenborg Claude Bernard Joseph Altman Neurogenesis Internal environment Before their time 



I would like to thank Dr. Elizabeth Gould for her suggestions on the section on Joseph Altman. Portions of this article were published previously (Gross 1997, 1998b, 2000).


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© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Neuroscience InstitutePrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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