James A. Shannon buildingOFFICE OF NIH HISTORY

The Office of NIH History at the National Institutes of Health exists to advance historical understanding of biomedical research within the NIH and the world. Through preserving records of significant NIH achievements, innovative exhibits, and educational programs, the Office of NIH History explores the past to enhance present understanding of the health sciences and the National Institutes of Health.



Changes are in store for the Santiago Ramón y Cajal Exhibition in the Porter Center

Everyone working in the Porter Neuroscience Research Center is very grateful to the Instituto Cajal in Madrid, for the loan of seven original Cajal drawings—which have been a great source of inspiration over this past year.  

These original works on paper are among the most sensitive of museum assets, and must be protected from even low light levels.  And it is for that reason, that the first set of seven drawings, on short-term loan from the Cajal Institute, will soon be returned to Spain (in early October).  

However, take heart, because shortly thereafter (by October 25, 2015), a new set of seven original Cajal drawings will arrive to take their place—
and just in time to celebrate a partnership and symposium that will unite Neuroscience researchers from the Cajal Institute with our own.  

Your patience, during the few weeks that the exhibition will be without Cajal originals, is very much appreciated! 

This presence for Ramon y Cajal is most appropriate, as many of the researchers now working in this new multi-Institute neuroscience facility refer to his research as the very beginning of modern neuroscience.  The plaque was sculpted, molded, and cast by the New Arts Foundry in Baltimore; its orange patina fits nicely near the Porter building's orange "sky box" conference room on the first floor.

Now, anyone wishing to visit the exhibition to take a selfie with the life-size sepia photo mural of Ramon y Cajal (in his lab/studio) can also take a photo with his dimensional likeness in bronze.

A New Exhibition Celebrates the Origins of Modern Neurobiology

The NIH honored Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience, with an exhibit of scientist's original neural cell illustrations. The exhibit opened ,on November 6, 2014, in the new Porter Neuroscience Research Center, Building 35 on the NIH Bethesda campus.

The illustrations, from the turn of the 20th century, never have been exhibited in North America and will be on loan from Cajal Institute in Madrid, Spain.

Cajal was the first to describe the nervous system in exquisite detail.  He found that the individual cells (later termed "neurons") typically comprise three distinct structures.  He posited that these cells function as information processing units that employ electrical impulses to communicate within networks.

To reveal these cell structures in his tissue slides, Cajal employed a variety of staining techniques-including silver chromate-pioneered by Camillo Golgi, with whom he shared the 1906 Nobel Prize.

The Porter Center houses more than 800 scientists from 10 NIH institutes in laboratories literally without walls to enhance collaboration among the NIH's diverse community of neuroscientists.  The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the NIH Stetten Museum spearheaded the Cajal exhibit.  There is great hope that the cross-pollination within the Porter facility will encourage shifts in understanding as radical as those introduced by Cajal.

In addition to Cajal's original drawings, floor tiles will reproduce tissue slides, as Cajal saw them through his microscope, and visitors will be greeted by an almost life-size photomural that captures Cajal as the artist-scientist in his studio laboratory.



The Santiago Ramón y Cajal exhibit is located in the Porter Neuroscience Research Center atrium


Oral histories are added on a regular basis.

John Sherman
Interview date: June 21, 2005

Justin M. Andrews
Interview date: July 27, 1964

The Office of NIH History holds photograph collections cataloged and uncataloged. Many can be found in Search Our Collections. To request images for use in publications or presentations contact the Office of NIH History. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.


Recent publications by former fellows, based partly on their work as Stetten Fellows

David Cantor
, Stress, Shock, and Adaptation in the Twentieth Century. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2014.


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Office of History and Stetten Museum | Bldg 60 | Suite 230 | National Institutes of Health | Bethesda, MD 20814-1460
Phone: 301.496.6610 | Email: history@nih.gov

Last updated: 1 October 2015
First published: 2 February 2005
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Permanent: Dynamic Content