(1) Mr. Campagna

At the urging of my history teacher, John Campagna, I applied to Harvard College….Mr. Campagna volunteered to cover from his own pocket the fifteen dollars required for my application. I was one of two students in our class of about 1,150 to be admitted. (p.37)

(2) Harry Grundfest

In 1953, Grundfest was [accused of Communism]and summoned by Senator Joseph McCarthy…Not a shred of evidence was ever produced by McCarthy…Nevertheless, Grundfest lost his funding…The reduction of his research capability at what proved to be the peak of his scientific career was devastating. Paradoxically, the the circumstances proved beneficial for me. Grundfest had more time available…and he devoted a substantial amount of it to teaching me…Grundfest was a leader in the biology of signaling. (p.57)

(3) Stanley Crain

In 1957, I returned to Grundfest’s lab and spent six weeks…Knowing my growing curiosity about invertebrate animals, particularly about the crayfish, Grundfest suggested that I set up an electrophysiological recording system with Stanley Crain’s help. Crain showed me how to manufacture glass microelectrodes for insertion into individual axons and how to obtain and interpret electrical recordings form them…I connected the output to a loudspeaker. Whenever I penetrated a cell, I could hear the crack of an action potential…I found the bang!bang! bang! Of action potentials intoxicating…I was becoming a true psychoanalyst: I was listening to the deep, hidden thoughts of my crayfish! (p.108)

(4) Wade Marshall

With Grundfest’s recommendation, I was accepted by Wade Marshall, chief of the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at NIMH, and was slated to arrive in July 1957. In the late 1930s Wade Marshall was probably the most promising and accomplished young scientist working on the brain in the United States…Marshall’s marvelous scientific achievements came at a price, however. The experiments were physically demanding, often lasting more than twenty-four hours at a time. Frequently deprived of sleep, he became exhausted. In addition, there was tension with [his lab partner] Bard. In 1942 Marshall collapsed with an acute psychotic paranoid episode after having actually threatened Bard physically….By the time I arrived at NIH, he had passed the peak of his brilliant career…He focused much of his energy and interest on administrative matters, which he did well. Although eccentric, moody, and somewhat suspicious in unpredictable ways, Marshall was a generous lab chief…Many young people who went on to have superb careers in science and I myself owe our start and much of our later success to the personal and professional example of Wade Marshall….Science gives one a structured opportunity to try out ideas…Marshall gave me the freedom to try to think creatively. (p.115)

(5) Stephen Kuffler

Stephen Kuffler, another scientist who left Europe to escape the Nazis, greatly influenced my thinking…Kuffler left Vienna in 1938 because, in addition to having one Jewish grandfather, he was a socialist. Kuffler was a junior tennis champion in Austria…He amazed with his surgical skills. He could dissect out individual muscle fibers to study the synaptic input from one motor axon to one muscle fiber, a real tour de force. (p.94)

Stephen Kuffler was to become one of my great neurobiological heroes. I learned from Kuffler's papers a new criterion for how good science is done - the importance of having a preparation suitable to testing the questions to be answered. Kuffler taught me to respect the power of invertebrate neurobiology. (Nobel prize essay)

Kuffler (center) and his famous lab

Kuffler had succeeded in forming the premier group of neural scientists in the country. Always a first-class experimentalist, he emerged as the most admired and effective leader of the American neuroscience community...He liked the work on Aplysia and was very supportive. Until his death in 1980, he proved a friend and counselor of immeasurable strength and generosity. He took an intense interest in people, their careers, and their families. Years after I left Harvard, he coulw call on an occasional weekend to discuss a paper of mine he had found interesting or simply to inquire about my family. (p.181)

Our group [at NYU] was very much influenced by Stephen Kuffler’s group at Harvard—not just by what it had done, but also by what it was not doing. Kuffler had developed the first unified department of neurobiology…Its focus was the single cell and the single synapse…As a result the Harvard group did not in its early days recruit anyone who specialized in the study of behavior or learning.

Occasionally, after he had had a glass or two of wine, Steve would talk freely about the higher functions of the brain, about learning and memory, but he told me that in sober moments he thought they were too complex to be tackled on the cellular level at the time…
Alden, Jimmy, and I differed with Kuffler on this point…In 1967 Alden and I announced this direction in a major review article entitled “Cellular Neurophysiological Approaches in the Study of Learning.” The impact of our review—perhaps the most influential one I have written, persists to this day. (p.184)

In 1980, he died of a heart attack…Like most of the neural science community, I was shattered when I heard the news. We were all indebted and in some ways dependent on him…I don’t think anyone on the American scene since then has been as influential or as beloved as Steve Kuffler…The death of Steve Kuffler marked the end of an era, an era in which the neural science community was still relatively small and focused on the cell as the unit of brain organization. Steve’s death coincided with the merger of molecular biology and neural science. (p.237)

Grundfest, Purpura, Crain, Marshall, and later Steve Kuffler influenced me greatly. They transformed my life. They and Mr. Campagna, who paved the way for me to go to Harvard, illustrate the importance of student-teacher relationships in one’s intellectual development….Young people must strive to have an open mind and seek out places where they will be surrounded by first-rate intellects. (p.115)