Joseph Erlanger (1874–1965)


Joseph Erlanger was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1944, and shared it with Herbert Gasser for research on the nerve impulse. They were the first to employ a cathode ray tube and thereby to obtain accurate recordings of the impulses (action potentials) in groups of vertebrate nerve fibres; later, Erlanger was able to record from single fibres. At the time of receiving the award Erlanger, who also had a strong background in cardiovascular physiology, was the Head of the Physiology Department at Washington University, St Louis. Erlanger's many honours included the Presidency of the American Physiological Society (1926 –1929).

Keywords: nerve impulse; action potential; cathode ray tube; nerve fibre groups; Herbert Gasser

Figure 1. Joseph Erlanger. Courtesy of Wellcome Library, London reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License.

Further Reading

Davis H (1970). Biographical memoirs. National Academy of Sciences (USA) 410: 111–139.

Erlanger J and Gasser HS (1936) Electrical Signs of Nervous Activity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.

Gasser HS and Erlanger J (1922) A study of the action currents of nerve with the cathode‐ray oscillograph. American Journal of Physiology 62: 496–524.

McComas AJ (2011) Galvani's Spark. New York: Oxford University Press.

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How to Cite close
McComas, Alan J(Mar 2015) Joseph Erlanger (1874–1965). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002780]