On This Day … 06 February

People (Births)

  • 1839 – Eduard Hitzig, German neurologist and psychiatrist (d. 1907).
  • 1852 – C. Lloyd Morgan, English zoologist and psychologist (d. 1936).

People (Deaths)

  • 2012 – David Rosenhan, American psychologist and academic (b. 1929).

Eduard Hitzig

Eduard Hitzig (06 February 1838 to 20 August 1907) was a German neurologist and neuropsychiatrist of Jewish ancestry born in Berlin.

He studied medicine at the Universities of Berlin and Würzburg under the instruction of famous men such as Emil Du Bois-Reymond (1818-1896), Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), Moritz Heinrich Romberg (1795-1873), and Karl Friedrich Otto Westphal (1833-1890). He received his doctorate in 1862 and subsequently worked in Berlin and Würzburg. In 1875, he became director of the Burghölzli asylum, as well as professor of psychiatry at the University of Zurich. In 1885, Hitzig became a professor at the University of Halle where he remained until his retirement in 1903.

Hitzig is remembered for his work concerning the interaction between electric current and the brain. In 1870, Hitzig, assisted by anatomist Gustav Fritsch (1837-1927), applied electricity via a thin probe to the exposed cerebral cortex of a dog without anaesthesia. They performed these studies at the home of Fritsch because the University of Berlin would not allow such experimentation in their laboratories. What Hitzig and Fritsch had discovered is that electrical stimulation of different areas of the cerebrum caused involuntary muscular contractions of specific parts of the dog’s body. They identified the brain’s “motor strip”, a vertical strip of brain tissue on the cerebrum in the back of the frontal lobe, which controls different muscles in the body. In 1870, Hitzig published his findings in an essay called Ueber die elektrische Erregbarkeit des Grosshirns (On the Electrical Excitability of the Cerebrum). This experimentation was considered the first time anyone had done any localized study regarding the brain and electric current.

However this was not the first time Hitzig had experienced the interaction between the brain and electricity; earlier in his career as a physician working with the Prussian Army, he experimented on wounded soldiers whose skulls were fractured by bullets. Hitzig noticed that applying a small electric current to the brains of these soldiers caused involuntary muscular movement.

Hitzig and Fritsch’s work opened the door to further localised testing of the brain by many others including Scottish neurologist, David Ferrier.

C. Lloyd Morgan

Conwy Lloyd Morgan, FRS (06 February 1852 to 06 March 1936) was a British ethologist and psychologist.

He is remembered for his theory of emergent evolution, and for the experimental approach to animal psychology now known as Morgan’s Canon, a principle that played a major role in behaviourism, insisting that higher mental faculties should only be considered as explanations if lower faculties could not explain a behaviour.

David Rosenhan

David L. Rosenhan (22 November 1929 to 06 February 2012) was an American psychologist.

He is best known for the Rosenhan experiment, a study challenging the validity of psychiatry diagnoses.