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David Hunter Hubel

        Science | American Biologists

Hubel, David Hunter (1926-) is a Canadian-born American neurobiologist and neurophysiologist. He and his research partner, the Swedish neurobiologist Torsten Nils Wiesel, won the 1981 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their studies of the visual cortex, the part of the brain that receives messages from the eyes. The two scientists shared the prize with the American neurologist Roger Wolcott Sperry, who worked separately on the functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Hubel was born on Feb. 27, 1926, in Windsor, Canada, to American parents. Hubel received a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and physics in 1947 and a medical degree in 1951, both from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. From 1952 to 1955, he did residencies in neurology at the Montreal Neurological Institute and then at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

In 1953, Hubel became a United States citizen. Also that year, he married Shirley Ruth Izzard. They had three sons. From 1955 to 1958, Hubel served in the U.S. Army at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, D.C.

In 1958, Hubel went to Johns Hopkins University Medical School. He met Wiesel there, and the two scientists transferred in 1959 to Harvard University, where they began their research collaboration. Hubel continues to teach physiology and neurobiology at Harvard.

In their research, Hubel and Wiesel analyzed the nerve impulses sent from the retina of the eye to certain areas of the brain. They implanted tiny electrodes made of tungsten into the brains of animals such as cats or monkeys and then studied the responses of individual cortical cells (cells of the cortex of the brain) to different stimuli. They also conducted extensive research into the structure of the visual cortex.