On This Day … 27 July

People (Births)

  • 1906 – Herbert Jasper, Canadian psychologist and neurologist (d. 1999).

People (Deaths)

  • 1931 – Auguste Forel, Swiss neuroanatomist and psychiatrist (b. 1848).

Herbert Jasper

Herbert Henri Jasper OC GOQ FRSC (27 July 1906 to 11 March 1999) was a Canadian psychologist, physiologist, neurologist, and epileptologist.

Born in La Grande, Oregon, he attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon and received his PhD in psychology from the University of Iowa in 1931 and earned a Doctor of Science degree from the University of Paris for research in neurobiology.

From 1946 to 1964 he was Professor of Experimental Neurology at the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University and then from 1965 to 1976 he was Professor of Neurophysiology, Université de Montréal. He did his most important research with Wilder Penfield at McGill University. He was a member of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was also a member of the Canadian Neurological Society and the Royal Society of Medicine. He wrote more than 350 scientific publications.

Auguste Forel

Auguste-Henri Forel (01 September 1848 to 27 July 1931) was a Swiss myrmecologist, neuroanatomist, psychiatrist and eugenicist, notable for his investigations into the structure of the human brain and that of ants. For example, he is considered a co-founder of the neuron theory. Forel is also known for his early contributions to sexology and psychology. From 1978 until 2000 Forel’s image appeared on the 1000 Swiss franc banknote.

Scientific Work

Forel’s prize essay on the ants of Switzerland was published in three parts in a Swiss scientific journal, beginning in 1874. The work was reissued as a single volume in 1900, at which time it was also translated into English. His myrmecological five-volume magnum opus, Le Monde Social des Fourmis, was published in 1923. In 1898, Forel was credited with discovering Trophallaxis among ants.

Forel’s predilection for finding in ants the analogues of human social and political behaviours was always controversial. In the foreword to his 1927 edition of British Ants: their life history and classification, Donisthorpe opined, “I should wish … to protest against the ants being employed as a supposed weapon in political controversy. In my opinion an entomological work is not the appropriate means for the introduction of political theories of any kind, still less for their glaring advertisement. But in 1937, the work was excerpted in Sir J.A. Hammerton’s Outline of Great Books with praise for its relevance to the study of human psychology and as “the most important contribution to insect psychology ever made by a single student.”

Forel realized from experiments that neurons were the basic elements of the nervous system. He found that the neuromuscular junction communicated by mere contact and did not require the anastomosis of fibres. This came to be called the Contact Theory of Forel. The word “neuron” was coined by Wilhelm von Waldeyer who published a review of the work of Forel and others in 1891. Waldeyer synthesized ideas without actually conducting any research himself and published it in Deutsche medizinische Wochenschrift a widely read journal which made him popular. Forel was very bitter about Waldeyer’s achievement of fame that it is thought to have contributed to the decline in his interest in neuroanatomy and neurology. Less controversially, Forel first described in 1877 the zona incerta area in the brain. He gave it this name as it a “region of which nothing certain can be said”.

Forel International School is named after him.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.