April 8, 1902-April 2, 1990
BY THOMAS A. WOOLSEY
AT THE BEGINNING OF the twentieth century, studies of the nervous system were still in their infancy. After much difficulty, the principal elements of the nervous system were known to be separate cells—neurons and glia, the components for communication identified as synapses and substrates for simple behaviors understood through electrical stimulation, reflex activity, and careful analysis of brain lesions. The mechanisms by which these elements work were not known. How these elements work together to perform complex behaviors is the question still facing scientists in the new millennium. For most of the twentieth century, Rafael Lorente de Nó was a significant figure in crucial areas of what is now called neuroscience and neurobiology.
When he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1950, Rafael Lorente de Nó was one of the premier neurophysiologists in the United States. While Lorente de Nó pioneered discoveries in many areas, he wished foremost to be remembered for his work in neurophysiology. He contributed to understanding mechanisms of nerve cell communication, potassium channel function, functional organization of the brain stem, neuronal activation through multiple reentrant and parallel pathways, the hippocampus, and