Camilo Golgi

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Date of birth: 7 July, 1843. Corteno, Italy.

Date of death: 21 January, 1926. Pavia, Italy.

Nobel Prize awardee in Physiology or Medicine 1906.

Prize motivation: “in recognition of their work on the structure of the nervous system.”

Biography

Camilo Golgi was born in 1843 in Corteno Golgi, a comune located in the north of Italy.
He graduated in Medicine at the University of Pavia in 1865. He worked at a psyquiatric clinic where he finished, in 1868, his thesis on the etiology of mental disorders, under the supervision of Cesare Lombroso. He was quickly interested in histology so he attended the Institute of General Pathology where he worked in close collaboration with Giulio Bizzozero. In 1872 he started working as a histopathologist in the unit of incurable diseases of the Hospital of the Chronically Ill in Abbiagategrasso.

Due to financial pressure he was prompted to set up his own laboratory in a refurbished hospital kitchen to continue his research, and it was here where his major achievement occurred. The black reaction.

He practiced as a professor in the Universities of Turín and Siena, and was the chair professor of histology in the Universitiy of Pavia, where he later, became dean and rector.

Camilo Golgi was married to Lina Aletti, they adopted Golgi’s niece, Carolina.

Work

One of the major challenges that scientists had to tackle during the 19th century, was to learn how to stain tissues to make them visible under the microscope.  

In the 1870s, Camillo Golgi, made his substantial contribution in the field, when he discovered that nerve cells could be stained with silver nitrate. As a consequence of this enrichment, several groundbreaking studies on how the nervous system is structured and functions started to arise.

Golgi proposed that nerve cells in the nervous system where a continuum, an interconnected network. The reticular theory. This idea was opposed to the one suggested by Santiago Ramón y Cajal. The two scientists shared the Nobel Prize in 1906. And Eventually, Cajal’s ideas were proven true.

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