Torsten N. Wiesl

Photo from the Nobel foundation archive

Date of birth: 3 June, 1924. Uppsala, Sweden.

Nobel Prize awardee in Physiology or Medicine 1981.

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


Torsten Wiesel graduated in medicine in 1954. He completed his studies in the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. He worked as a professor in the same institute, until he moved to the United States to be a professor of physiology in Harvard and Johns Hopkins. In 1983 he takes a position in the University of Rockefeller, in New York, where he is the president since 1992.


During the 60s Torsten Wiesl and his collegue 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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