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Book and Media Reviews
October 19, 2011

Golgi: A Biography of the Founder of Modern Neuroscience

JAMA. 2011;306(15):1713-1714. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1513

Mazzarello's masterful biography of Italian histologist Camillo Golgi (1843-1926) is an updated English translation of Il Nobel dimenticato (The Forgotten Nobel Prize), originally published in Italian in 2006. This work from a scholar at the university at which Golgi spent his productive academic career is no uncritical provincial hagiography but rather a balanced and scholarly treatise likely to remain the definitive biography of Golgi.

Mazzarello shares a wide and deep understanding of both neuroscience and history as he insightfully outlines various discoveries and interpretations by opposing camps. Although parts of the story—including the titanic controversy between Golgi and the Spaniard Santiago Ramón y Cajal—are reasonably well known, Mazzarello provides the first full picture of Golgi throughout his career, including a wealth of scholarly detail about the man, his mentors, students, colleagues, and competitors, as well as about contemporary institutional and medical politics.