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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 71:620 doi:10.1136/jnnp.71.5.620
  • Historical note

Emil Heinrich Du Bois-Reymond (1818–96)

  1. J M S PEARCE
  1. 304 Beverley Road, Anlaby, Hull HU10 7BG, UKjmspearce@freenet.co.uk

      This distinguished physiologist is remembered for two dissimilar contributions: he was a founder of electrophysiology of nerve and muscle; and he described his own migraine.  Du Bois-Reymond first discovered that the peripheral passage of a nerve impulse was accompanied by an electrical discharge,1 the action potential. After Matteucci, whose work he disparaged, he is often regarded as the founder of electrophysiology.  Du Bois-Reymond was born and studied medicine in Berlin. His father was a watchmaker in the Swiss canton Neuchatel but then moved to Berlin as a civil servant. Emil became a student of Johannes Müller, working with him from 1841 until Müller's death in 1858. After years of industrious study, he succeeded him to the Chair of Physiology. At that time he was in close contact with Helmholtz, Brücke, and Ludwig, liaisons that culminated in the foundation of a new institute of physiology in Berlin in 1877. Du Bois-Reymond was the chief for 20 years.  He was described in somewhat antiquated terms, a materialistic, and a mechanical physiologist. Du Bois-Reymond invented a refined sensitive nerve galvanometer and a stimulus producing induction coil. …