David Hunter Hubel

Photo from the Nobel foundation archive

Date of birth: 27 February, 1926. Windsor, Canada.

Date of death: 22 September, 2013. Lincoln, USA.

Nobel Prize awardee in Physiology or Medicine 1981.

Prize motivation: “for their discoveries concerning information processing in the visual system.”


Hubel obtained his doctorate in 1951, by McGill University, in Montreal. He initially worked in the Neurology Institute in Montreal, and he will later move to the University Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. In 1960, he becomes a member of the department of Neurophysiology in Harvard University.


During the 60s, Torsten Wiesl and his colleague David Hubel established a detailed model of how the visual system works, from his studies on the cat’s visual cortex.
They explained, how the light is captured by the retina, then travels to the thalamus, and reaches the visual cortex, where the information is reassembled and contrasted with other areas of the brain.
They characterized the optic cortex as a organized area, where modules where present, and were groups of different types of neurons were specialized and coordinated in specific functions, like processing of contrast, orientation and patterns. They also explained that the ability to see develops in a critic period after birth.

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