Torsten Wiesel

Torsten Wiesel

Infobox Scientist
name = Torsten Wiesel
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caption = Torsten Wiesel
birth_date = June 3, 1924 (age 84)
birth_place = Uppsala, Sweden
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nationality = Swedish
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known_for = visual system
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prizes = 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
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Torsten Nils Wiesel (b. June 3, 1924) was a Swedish co-recipient with David H. Hubel of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for their discoveries concerning information processing in the visual system; the prize was shared with Roger W. Sperry for his independent research on the cerebral hemispheres.


Wiesel was born in Uppsala, Sweden. In 1954, he began his scientific career in Carl Gustaf Bernhard's laboratory at the Karolinska Institute. One year later, he moved to the United States to work at Johns Hopkins University under Stephen Kuffler. In 1958, he met Hubel, beginning a collaboration that lasted over twenty years. In 1959 they moved to Harvard University. Wiesel joined the faculty of Rockefeller University in 1983 and became president of the university in 1991. He stepped down to become president emeritus in 1998.

In the 2000 presidential campaign Wiesel was a supporter of and donor to Bill Bradley for President, according to the FEC. In 2001, Wiesel was nominated to a panel in the National Institutes of Health to advise on assisting research in developing countries. Wiesel was rejected by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson. This incident was cited by the Union of Concerned Scientists as part of a report detailing their allegations of President George W. Bush's abuse of science.


The Hubel and Wiesel experiments greatly expanded the scientific knowledge of sensory processing. In one experiment, done in 1959, they inserted a microelectrode into the primary visual cortex of an anesthetized cat. They then projected patterns of light and dark on a screen in front of the cat. They found that some neurons fired rapidly when presented with lines at one angle, while others responded best to another angle. They called these neurons "simple cells." Still other neurons, which they termed "complex cells," responded best to lines of a certain angle moving in one direction. These studies showed how the visual system builds an image from simple stimuli into more complex representations. cite book | author=Goldstein, B. | year=2001 | title=Sensation and Perception | edition=6th | publisher=Wadsworth]

In 1978,Wiesel and Hubel were awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University.

Hubel and Wiesel received the Nobel Prize 1981 for their work on ocular dominance columns in the 1960s and 1970s. By depriving kittens from using one eye, they showed that columns in the primary visual cortex receiving inputs from the other eye took over the areas that would normally receive input from the deprived eye. These kittens also did not develop areas receiving input from both eyes, a feature needed for binocular vision. Hubel and Wiesel's experiments showed that the ocular dominance develops irreversibly early in childhood development. These studies opened the door for the understanding and treatment of childhood cataracts and strabismus. They were also important in the study of cortical plasticity.

Human rights

Wiesel has written about abuse of science and encouraged collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian scientists.cite web | title=Freedom of Scientific Communication Under Siege | author=Torsten Wiesel | url=] He has also edited (with Carol Corillon) a short volume on the assassination of Myrna Mack in Guatemala. [ Guatemala: Human Rights and the Myrna Mack Case] ]

ee also

*David H. Hubel
*Single-unit recording


id = PMID:16997764
publication-date=2006 Dec
title=Revisiting the 1981 Nobel Prize to Roger Sperry, David Hubel, and Torsten Wiesel on the occasion of the centennial of the Prize to Golgi and Cajal.
periodical=Journal of the history of the neurosciences
doi = 10.1080/09647040600639013

id = PMID:7967753
first=M A
first2=R A
publication-date=1994 Nov
title=Torsten Wiesel--Swedish neurobiologist wins Nobel Prize.
periodical=Mayo Clin. Proc.

id = PMID:7042494
publication-date=1981 Dec 15
title= [Nobel prize winners in medicine--1981 (Torsten Wiesel, David Hubel)]

External links

* [ Nobel Prize Biography]
* [ The Official Site of Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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