Every year, on the third Sunday of June, we dedicate the day to showing appreciation for the male figures who have made countless contributions and sacrifices on our behalves. Whether it’s work in an office, at home, in a lab, or elsewhere, it’s important to acknowledge their diligence and commitment to serving others. In most academic disciplines, there are also significant individuals who have dedicated their lives to pursuing particular ideas that eventually led to major breakthroughs in that field.
In the world of brain science, these individuals became mentors to younger neuroscientists who have gone on to make their own considerable contributions in various disciplines, and two examples of those individuals are Vernon Mountcastle and Michael Gazzaniga.
Mountcastle, who passed away in January at the age of 96, is widely considered the “Father of Neuroscience.” He made the groundbreaking discovery of understanding how brain cells in the cerebral cortex are organized. His passion for science led him to become the first elected president of the Society for Neuroscience, which held its first annual meeting in 1971.
Not long before then, a young Gazzaniga, who is credited with being the “Father of Cognitive Neuroscience,” was conducting research as a summer intern under the direction of neurobiologist Roger Sperry. This collaboration contributed to the discovery of the “split-brain” phenomenon. He later founded the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, and has since contributed greatly to our understanding of how the two brain hemispheres communicate with one another.
Gazzaniga, author of the recently published, Tales from Both Sides of the Brain, recently did an interview with National Geographic, where he reflects on the span of his career in neuroscience as well as his personal hobbies. When asked about what he considers his most important achievement in life, he answered, “the right side [of my brain] would just list the names of my six children; my left side would tell you their glorious life history.”
Earlier this year, in a recent Cerebrum article, fellow colleagues and DABI members shared their own stories in remembrance of Mountcastle and his passion for science and discovery. According to an article for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, “Mountcastle, already a legend for his discoveries in neurophysiology, foresaw a future for neuroscience that transcended the traditional disciplines.” That vision helped pave the way for countless leaps from others to the forefront of cognitive science.
Happy Father’s Day!
– Seimi Rurup