Anat Cell Biol 2020; 53(4): 385-392
Published online December 31, 2020
Copyright © Korean Association of ANATOMISTS.
Department of Anatomy, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Phulwarisharif, Patna, India
Correspondence to:Sanjib Kumar Ghosh
Department of Anatomy, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Phulwarisharif, Patna-801507, Bihar, India
Camillo Golgi was an extraordinary scientist whose contributions in the domain of neuroanatomy proved to be critical for emergence of neuroscience as a sovereign scientific discipline. Golgi’s invention of the Black Reaction (La reazione nera) was a watershed event as it allowed remarkable visualization of the organizational pattern of elements of nervous system among complex puzzle of close knit interconnections. Till this time thin filamentary extensions of neural cells (axon and dendrites) could not be visualized with available staining techniques because of their slender and transparent nature. However invention of
Keywords: Golgi, Black reaction, Cajal, Neurology, Neuron doctrine, Nobel prize
Camillo Golgi (1843–1926) was an Italian pathologist (Fig. 1) whose contributions in the domain of neuroanatomy proved to be landmark events towards the emergence of neuroscience as a discipline . His discovery of the staining technique, which is known as the ‘
The present review was attempted to detail a brief outline of the life and achievement of this exemplary scientist who significantly contributed towards the evolution of neuroscience as a sovereign discipline. It may be opined that this review would be relevant in present times when neuroscience being empowered with the details regarding living anatomy and advances at molecular level has established itself as a prominent scientific speciality.
An extensive literature search was undertaken for this study and indexed databases such as Medline, PubMed, Scopus, EMBASE, CINAHL, Google Scholar as well as popular search platforms such as Wikipedia and standard Google search engine were referred to for relevant published materials. The following terms were used during literature search: “Camillo Golgi”, “Golgi”, “Camillo Golgi Biography”, “Golgi and Nervous System”, “Golgi and Neuroanatomy”, “Golgi and Anatomy”, “Golgi’s Staining”, “Black Reaction”, “La Reazione Nera’’, “Neuron Doctrine”, “Neuroscience in 19th Century”, “Advances in Neurology” “Golgi and Staining Technique” and “Golgi and Nobel Prize”. Published texts of Golgi and their translations in English were consulted from online libraries while conducting the present study and wherever applicable have been appropriately referenced. The images used in the text were procured from the internet and it was ensured that all the figures included in this study are in public domain i.e. free from copyright issues. Nevertheless the source of these images have been duly acknowledged in their respective legends.
Camillo Golgi was born on 7th July, 1843 at Corteno, which is a picturesque village (in present times often referred with Golgi suffixed to its name) situated in Brescia province of Italy . His father, Alessandro Golgi, was a physician who practiced in Corteno. Under his father’s tutelage, Golgi studied medicine at the University of Pavia (which is close to his native village) and completed his graduation in 1865 . It may be mentioned here that the University of Pavia was more than 1,000 years old (being established in the year 825 AD) and was associated with famous scholars from various academic fields . However Golgi had registered himself for the medicine course with the solo vision of supporting his father, who had taken great hardship to run his family . However his destiny would unfold in a different manner, as he came under the influence of noted Italian psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso (1835–1909), under whose able guidance Golgi authored his dissertation for his university degree. Golgi’s work was on the etiology of mental illness and being reputed for his inclination towards originality and fundamental research, Lombroso remarkably changed the academic orientation of young Golgi. Under the influence of Lombroso, Golgi started to take scholarly pursuits more seriously . During this period, Golgi embarked on his studies on human brain, which was fast emerging as the most popular research area in medical domain. In academic field, human brain was previously considered as the ‘seat of human soul’, now with a more pragmatic approach from the academic front, it was being referred to as ‘organ of human psyche’ . Although Lombroso was responsible for igniting the spark, pertaining to the study of brain in young Golgi’s mind, however his interest in analysing brain tissue under microscope (which eventually earned Golgi the Nobel Prize) was aroused by Italian physician Giulio Bizzozero (1846–1901). Bizzozero was a noted exponent of the use of microscopic studies (microscope was an extremely popular scientific instrument in those days due to emergence of advanced histological preparation methods) for exploring the truth within the domain of medical science . It would be a prudent statement that Golgi’s career was shaped by the works of two extraordinary scientists, whom he came across during his formative years in academics. Lombroso introduced Golgi to the study of human nervous system and Bizzozero guided him towards the histological studies of human brain.
Being spurred by the academic flair of his mentor Bizzozero, Golgi dedicated himself to scientific exploits in the field of histopathology. Between the period of 1870 and 1872, he published his noteworthy findings on the structure of neuroglia, which were appreciated within the scientific fraternity and widely cited in periodicals. However in spite of his rise in the academic front, he was not offered any professional position in the University of Pavia . Moreover, most of his meagre earnings were spent towards expenditures incurred in publishing his works. Subsequently, his father Alessandro urged upon him to search for a better position elsewhere . Hence by unfortunate turn of events, Golgi had to leave his academic passion for financial security at this point of time. On 1st June, 1872, he entered into medical service and joined as the Chief Physician at
Golgi’s invention of the
The invention of Golgi’s staining demystified the basic architecture of brain tissue which was now visible to the scholars in all its complexity in microscopic studies. Initially Golgi concentrated on unravelling the morphology of cerebral cortex through his new found technique, however over a period of time he documented details pertaining to other areas of the human brain. These details complimented with relevant illustrations were first serially published in order of discovery in
After assuming charge as the Professor of Histology in Pavia, Golgi devoted himself to academic research with renewed enthusiasm. In 1878, he described two types of sensory receptors in muscle tendons: Golgi tendon organ and Golgi-Mazzoni corpuscles . The Golgi tendon organ is a proprioceptive receptor (proprioceptor) which is located in the muscle tendons. In case of increased muscle tension, the receptor inhibits further muscle contraction and thus protects against muscle damage. Golgi-Mazzoni corpuscles are pressure receptors (pressoceptors) which encapsulates the sensory nerve endings in the subcutaneous tissue of fingertips. In 1879, Golgi invented another staining method with potassium dichromate and mercuric chloride, which was a corollary of his famed
From 1887 onwards, Golgi again focussed on histological studies and discovered the temporal relation between the vascular pole of glomerulus in kidney and distal tubule, which eventually came to be known as the site of formation of Juxtaglomerular Apparatus. Golgi observed that although the loops of Henle were situated in the renal medulla, however the terminal part of ascending loop (from where the distal renal tubule emerges) invariably enters the renal cortex and comes to lie in close relationship with the vascular pole of the renal glomerulus [28,29]. Later on this area was christened as the Juxtaglomerular Apparatus, which plays a significant role in blood pressure regulation. The portion of the distal tubule which lies at the vicinity of vascular pole (as observed by Golgi) forms specialized epithelial cells (macula densa), which in response to elevated sodium levels trigger contraction of afferent arteriole thus reducing blood flow to the glomerulus. The Juxtaglomerular Cells of afferent arteriole then secretes Renin (local hormone) which regulates blood pressure through Renin-Angiotensin pathway.
In 1893, Golgi discovered the extensive canalicular network of parietal cells of the gastric glands of stomach, through which secretions of these cells (hydrochloric acid/HCL) are transported . After a short administrative hiatus as the Rector of the University of Pavia, Golgi once again turned his attention towards research on nerve tissue based on the use of ‘
During the last decade of 19th century and the first of 20th century, Camillo Golgi and his contemporary Spanish scientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal were involved in a strong debate with regards to the basic architecture and organization of the nervous system . Golgi had proposed the “diffuse nervous net” theory based on this findings. According to this theory the axons and the dendrites are all connected in a diffuse network, which constitutes the nervous system. Thereby in Golgi’s opinion, the entire nervous system essentially comprises of a magnum communication network irrespective of the presence of individual organs . This theory implied that conduction of nerve impulse is chaotic in nature and could travel diffusely as well as to and fro. However since this is not the case, hence researchers envisioned an alternate theory. Among them, the pioneering concept was proposed by Cajal in 1894 while delivering a lecture at the Royal Society of London. Cajal used Golgi’s staining technique but was able to visualize the morphologic details of nervous system in a more refined manner. Cajal illustrated the entire structure of nerve cells, starting from the tips of dendritic branches right up to the tapering ends of axons. Thus he proposed the ‘
The entire academic community pertaining to neuroscience were embroiled in this ongoing debate as they got themselves aligned in a polarized scenario. One camp was referred to as ‘the reticulists’ and were led by Golgi himself and the other camp was christened as ‘the neuronists’, who were strong proponents of the theory proposed by Cajal . In due course of time and with availability of more in-depth research findings, the ‘
In recognition of their exemplary works in the field of neuroscience, Camillo Golgi and Santiago Ramón y Cajal were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1906 . As per the Nobel citation, Golgi and Cajal were honoured “in recognition of their work on the structure of the nervous system”. Golgi’s name was proposed for the Nobel Prize in 1906 by four standalone scholars: Oscar Hertwig, Professor of Comparative Anatomy from Berlin; Albert Kölliker, Professor of Anatomy from Würzburg; Gustaf Retzius, former Professor of anatomy from Stockholm and Carl Magnus Fürst, Professor of Anatomy from Lund . The prize ceremony was held at the Great Hall of the Royal Academy of Music, Sweden, on the 10th of December, 1906, which is the death anniversary of Alfred Nobel. The following day, Golgi delivered the Nobel Lecture (in French) which was titled, “
Camillo Golgi was an extraordinary scientist who was blessed with enduring vigour for academic research. He served mother science with utmost passion and unravelled the scientific details hitherto unknown from mankind as an ardent explorer. His invention of the “
The authors express heartfelt gratitude to all the residents and faculty members of the Department of Anatomy, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Phulwarisharif, Patna, India for their unconditional support throughout the study. We are grateful to the authorities of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Phulwarisharif, Patna, India for their kind cooperation during the course of this study.
Conceptualization: SKG. Data acquisition: SKG. Data analysis or interpretation: SKG. Drafting of the manuscript: SKG. Critical revision of the manuscript: SKG. Approval of the final version of the manuscript: all authors.
No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.