Camillo Golgi (Italian: [kaˈmillo ˈɡɔldʒi]; 7 July 1843 –
21 January 1926) was an Italian physician and pathologist known for
his works on the central nervous system. He studied medicine at the
Pavia (where he later spent most of his professional
career) between 1860 and 1868 under the tutelage of Cesare Lombroso.
Inspired by pathologist Giulio Bizzozero, he pursued research in
nervous system. His discovery of a staining technique called black
reaction (sometimes called
Golgi's method or Golgi's staining in his
honour) in 1873 was a major breakthrough in neuroscience. Several
structures and phenomena in anatomy and physiology are named for him,
including the Golgi apparatus, the
Golgi tendon organ
Golgi tendon organ and the Golgi
tendon reflex. He is recognized as the greatest neuroscientist and
biologist of his time.
Golgi and a Spanish biologist
Santiago Ramón y Cajal
Santiago Ramón y Cajal were jointly
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1906 "in recognition
of their work on the structure of the nervous system".
1.1 Personal life
2.1 Black reaction or Golgi's staining
2.2 Nervous system
2.5 Cell organelle
3 Awards and legacy
3.1 Monuments in Pavia
5 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
Camillo Golgi was born in July 1843 in the village of Corteno, in the
province of Brescia (Lombardy), Italy. The village is now named
Corteno Golgi in his honour. His father Allessandro Golgi was a
physician and district medical officer, originally from Pavia. In
1860, he entered the University of
Pavia to study medicine, and earned
his medical degree in 1865. He did an internship at the San Matteo
Hospital (now IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo Foundation). During his
internship he briefly worked as a civil physician in the Italian Army,
and as assistant surgeon at the Novara Hospital (now Azienda
Ospedaliero Universitaria Maggiore della Carità di Novara). At the
same time he was also involved in the medical team for investigating
cholera epidemic in villages around Pavia.
In 1867, he resumed his academic study under the supervision of Cesare
Lombroso. Lombroso was a renowned scientist in medical psychology such
as genius, madness and criminality. Inspired by Lombroso, Golgi wrote
a thesis on the etiology of mental disorders, from which he obtained
his M.D. in 1868. He became more interested in experimental
medicine, and started attending the Institute of General Pathology
headed by Giulio Bizzozero. Three years his junior, Bizzozero was an
eloquent teacher and experimenter, who specialised in histology of the
nervous system and the properties of bone marrow. The most important
research publications of Golgi were directly or indirectly influenced
by Bizzozero. The two became so close that they lived in the same
building; and Golgi later married Bizzozero's niece, Lina Aletti.
By 1872, Golgi was an established clinician and histopathologist. He,
however, had no opportunity as a tenured professor in
Pavia to pursue
teaching and research in neurology.
Financial pressure prompted him to join the Hospital of the
Chronically Ill (Pio Luogo degli Incurabili) in Abbiategrasso, near
Milan, as Chief Medical Officer in 1872. To continue research, he set
up a simple laboratory on his own in a refurbished hospital kitchen,
and it was there that he started making his most notable discoveries.
His major achievement was the development of staining technique for
nerve tissue called the black reaction (later the Golgi's method). He
published his major works between 1875 and 1885 in the journal Rivista
sperimentale di Freniatria e di medicina legale. In 1785, he joined
the faculty of histology at the University of Pavia. In 1879, he was
appointed Chair of
Anatomy at the University of Siena. But the next
year, he returned to the University of
Pavia as full Professor of
histology. From 1879 he also became Professor of General Pathology
as well as Honorary Chief (Primario ad honorarem) at the San Matteo
Hospital. He served as Rector of the University of
Pavia twice, first
between 1893 and 1896, and second between 1901 and 1909. During the
First World War
First World War (1914-1917), he directed the military hospital
Collegio Borrmeo at Pavia. He retired in 1918 and continued to
research in his private laboratory till 1923. He died on 21 January
Golgi and his wife Lina Aletti had no children, and they adopted
Golgi's niece Carolina.
Golgi was irreligious in his later life and became an agnostic
atheist. One of his former students attempted an unsuccessful deathbed
conversion on him.
Black reaction or Golgi's staining
The first illustration by Golgi of the nervous system. Vertical
section of the olfactory bulb of a dog (in 1875).
Central nervous system
Central nervous system was difficult to study during Golgi's time
because the cells were hard to identify. The available tissue staining
techniques were useless for studying nervous tissue. While working as
chief medical officer at the Hospital of the Chronically Ill, he
experimented with metal impregnation of nervous tissue, using mainly
silver (silver staining). In the early 1873, he discovered a method of
staining nervous tissue that would stain a limited number of cells at
random in their entirety. He first treated the tissue with potassium
dichromate to harden it, and then with silver nitrate. Under
microscope, the outline of the neuron became distinct from the
surrounding tissue and cells. The silver chromate precipitate, as a
reaction product, only selective stains some cellular components
randomly, sparing other cell parts. The silver chromate particles
create a stark black deposit on the soma (nerve cell body) as well as
on the axon and all dendrites, providing an exceedingly clear and
well-contrasted picture of neuron against a yellow background. This
makes it easier to trace the structure of the nerve cells in the brain
for the first time. Since cells are selective stained in black, he
called the process la reazione nera ("the black reaction"), but today
it is called
Golgi's method or the Golgi stain. On 16 February
1873, he wrote to his friend Niccolò Manfredi:
I am delighted that I have found a new reaction to demonstrate, even
to the blind, the structure of the interstitial stroma of the cerebral
His discovery was published in the Gazzeta Medica Italiani on 2 August
Camillo Golgi of a hippocampus stained with the silver
In 1871, a German anatomist
Joseph von Gerlach
Joseph von Gerlach postulated that the
brain is a complex "protoplasmic network", in the form of a continuous
network called the reticulum. Using his black reaction, Golgi could
trace various regions of the cerebro-spinal axis, clearly
distinguishing the different nervous projections, namely axon from the
dendrites. He drew up a new classification of cells on the basis of
the structure of their nervous prolongation. He described an extremely
dense and intricate network, composed of a web of intertwined branches
of axons coming from different cell layers ("diffuse nervous
network"). This network structure, which emerges from the axons, is
essentially different from that hypothesized by Gerlach. It was the
main organ of the central nervous system according to Golgi. Thus,
Golgi presented the reticular theory which states that the brain is a
single network of nerve fibres, and not of discrete cells.
Although Golgi's earlier works between 1873 and 1885 clearly depicted
the axonal connections of cerebellar cortex and olfactory bulb as
independent of one another, his later works including the Nobel
Lecture showed the entire granular layer of the cerebellar cortex
occupied by a network of branching and anastomosing nerve processes.
This was due to his strong conviction in the reticular theory.
Golgi's theory was challenged by Ramón y Cajal, who used the same
technique developed by Golgi. According to Ramón y Cajal's neurone
theory, the nervous system is but a collection of individual cells,
the neurones, which are interconnected to form a network.
In addition to this, Golgi was the first to give clear descriptions of
the structure of the cerebellum, hippocampus, spinal cord, olfactory
lobe, as well as striatal and cortical lesions in a case of chorea. In
1878, he also discovered a receptor organ that senses changes in
muscle tension, and is now known as
Golgi tendon organ
Golgi tendon organ or Golgi
receptor; and Golgi-Mazzoni corpuscles (pressure transductors). He
further developed a stain specific for myelin (a specialised portion
of axon) using potassium dichromate and mercuric chloride. Using this
he discovered the myelin annular apparatus, often called the horny
funnel of Golgi-Rezzonico.
Golgi studied kidney function during 1882 to 1889. In 1882, he
published his observations on the mechanism of renal hypertrophy,
which he understood to be due to renal cell proliferation. In 1884, he
described tubular cell mitoses in the kidney of a person suffering
from tubulointerstitial nephritis, and he noted that the process was
an essential part of repairing the kidney tissue. He was the first to
dissect out intact nephrons, and show that the distal tubulus (loop of
Henle) of the nephron returns to its originating glomerulus, a finding
that he published in 1889 ("Annotazioni intorno all'Istologia dei reni
dell'uomo e di altri mammifieri e sull'istogenesi dei canalicoli
oriniferi". Rendiconti R. Acad. Lincei 5: 545–557, 1889).
A French Army physician
Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran
Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran discovered that
malaria was caused by microscopic parasite (now called Plasmodium
falciparum) in 1880. But scientists were sceptical until Golgi
intervened. It was Golgi who helped him prove that malarial parasite
was a microscopic protozoan. From 1885, Golgi studied the malarial
parasite and its transmission. He established two types of malaria,
tertian and quartan fevers caused by
Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium
malariae respectively. In 1886, he discovered that malarial fever
(paroxysm) was produced by the asexual stage in the human blood
(called erythocytic cycle, or Golgi cycle). In 1889-1890, Golgi
Ettore Marchiafava described the differences between benign
tertian malaria and malignant tertian malaria (the latter caused by P.
falciparum). By 1898, along with Giovanni Battista Grassi, Amico
Bignami, Giuseppe Bastianelli,
Angelo Celli and Marchiafava, he
confirmed that malaria was transmitted by Anopheline mosquito.
An organelle in eukaryotice cells now known as
Golgi apparatus or
Golgi complex, or sometimes simply as Golgi, was discovered by Camillo
Golgi. Golgi modified his black reaction using osmium dichromate
solution with which he stained the nerve cells (Purkinje cells) of the
cerebellum of an owl. He noticed thread-like networks inside the
cells and named them apparato reticolare interno (internal reticular
apparatus). Recognising them to be unique cellular components, he
presented his discovery before the Medical-Surgical Society of Pavia
in April 1898. After the same was confirmed by his assistant
Emilio Veratti, he published it in the Bollettino della Società
medico-chirurgica di Pavia. However, most scientists disputed his
discovery as nothing but a staining artefact. Their microscopes were
not powerful enough to identify the organelles. By the 1930s, Golgi's
description was largely rejected. It was only firmly established
after 50 years of its discovery, when electron microscopes were
Awards and legacy
Golgi, together with Santiago Ramón y Cajal, received the Nobel Prize
Physiology or Medicine in 1906 for his studies of the structure of
the nervous system. In 1900 he was named senator by King Umberto
I. In 1913 he became foreign member of the Royal Netherlands
Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received honorary doctorate from
the University of Cambridge, University of Geneva, Kristiania
University College, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens,
and Paris-Sorbonne University. He was commemorated in stamp by
European Community in 1994.
Marble statue of Golgi at the University of Pavia
Pavia several landmarks stand as Golgi’s memory.
A marble statue, in a yard of the old buildings of the University of
Pavia, at N.65 of the central "Strada Nuova". On the basement, there
is the following inscription in Italian language: "
Camillo Golgi /
patologo sommo / della scienza istologica / antesignano e maestro / la
segreta struttura / del tessuto nervoso / con intenta vigilia /
sorprese e descrisse / qui operò / qui vive / guida e luce ai venturi
/ MDCCCXLIII – MCMXXVI" (
Camillo Golgi / outstanding pathologist /
of histological science / precursor and master / the secret structure
/ of the nervous tissue / with strenuous effort / discovered and
described / here he worked / here he lives / here he guides and
enlightens future scholars / 1843 – 1926).
"Golgi’s home", also in Strada Nuova, at N.77, a few hundreds meters
away from the University, just in front to the historical "Teatro
Fraschini". It is the home in which Golgi spent the most of his family
life, with his wife Lina.
Golgi’s tomb is in the Monumental Cemetery of
Pavia (viale San
Giovannino), along the central lane, just before the big monument to
the fallen of the First World War. It is a very simple granite grave,
with a bronze medallion representing the scientist’s profile. Near
Golgi’s tomb, apart from his wife, two other important Italian
medical scientists are buried:
Bartolomeo Panizza and Adelchi Negri.
Golgi's museum was created in 2012, in the ancient Palazzo Botta of
the University of
Pavia at N.10 of Piazza Antoniotto Botta
reconstructs the study of
Camillo Golgi and its laboratories with
furniture and original instruments.
Golgi apparatus or Golgi complex
The sensory receptor Golgi tendon organ
Golgi's method or Golgi stain, a nervous tissue staining technique
The enzyme Golgi alpha-mannosidase II
Golgi cells of the cerebellum
Golgi I nerve cells (with long axons)
Golgi II nerve cells (with short or no axons)
List of pathologists
^ Gerd Kempermann MD (2001). Adult Neurogenesis (2nd ed.). Oxford
University Press. p. 616. ISBN 978-0199729692.
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1906".
www.nobelprize.org. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
^ a b c d Mazzarello, Paolo (1999). "Camillo Golgi's Scientific
Biography". Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. 8 (2):
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period that Golgi became agnostic (or even frankly atheistic),
remaining for the rest of his life completely alien to the religious
^ Rapport, Richard L. Nerve Endings: The Discovery of the Synapse. New
York: W.W. Norton, 2005. Print.
^ Chu, NS (2006). "[Centennial of the nobel prize for Golgi and
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^ DeFelipe, Javier (2015). "The dendritic spine story: an intriguing
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doi:10.1016/j.brainresrev.2010.09.005. PMID 20840856.
^ Marina Bentivoglio (20 April 1998). "Life and Discoveries of Camillo
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^ Dal Canton, Ilaria; Calligaro, Alessandro L.; Dal Canton, Francesca;
Frosio-Roncalli, Moris; Calligaro, Alberto (1999). "Contributions of
Camillo Golgi toRenal Histology and Embryology". American Journal of
Nephrology. 19 (2): 304–307. doi:10.1159/000013465.
^ Golgi C. (1889). "Sul ciclo evolutivo dei parassiti malarici nella
febbre terzana : diagnosi differenziale tra i parassiti
endoglobulari malarici della terzana e quelli della quartana" [On the
cycle of development of malarial parasites in tertian fever:
differential diagnosis between the intracellular parasites of tertian
and quartant fever]. Archivio per le Scienza Mediche. 13:
^ Antinori, Spinello; Galimberti, Laura; Milazzo, Laura; Corbellino,
Mario (2012). "Biology of human malaria plasmodia including Plasmodium
knowlesi". Mediterranean Journal of Hematology and Infectious
Diseases. 4 (1): 2012013. doi:10.4084/MJHID.2012.013.
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^ Cox, Francis EG (2010). "History of the discovery of the malaria
parasites and their vectors". Parasites & Vectors. 3 (1): 5.
doi:10.1186/1756-3305-3-5. PMC 2825508 .
^ Bentivoglio, Marina (1999). "The Discovery of the Golgi Apparatus".
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. 8 (2): 202–208.
doi:10.1076/jhin.126.96.36.1993. PMID 11624302.
^ a b Dröscher, Ariane (1998). "The history of the golgi apparatus in
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doi:10.1016/S0361-9230(98)00080-X. PMID 9865850.
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Italian senate website
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Camillo Golgi.
Life and Discoveries of Camillo Golgi
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1906
Some places and memories related to Camillo Golgi
The museum in Corteno, now called Corteno Golgi, dedicated to Golgi.
Includes a gallery of images of his birthplace.
Camillo Golgi in Pavia
Biography at Encyclopædia Britannica
Biography at Encyclopedia.com
Profile at Whonamedit?
Laureates of the Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine
1901 Emil Behring
1902 Ronald Ross
1903 Niels Finsen
1904 Ivan Pavlov
1905 Robert Koch
Camillo Golgi / Santiago Ramón y Cajal
1907 Alphonse Laveran
Élie Metchnikoff / Paul Ehrlich
1909 Emil Kocher
1910 Albrecht Kossel
1911 Allvar Gullstrand
1912 Alexis Carrel
1913 Charles Richet
1914 Róbert Bárány
1919 Jules Bordet
1920 August Krogh
Archibald Hill / Otto Meyerhof
Frederick Banting / John Macleod
1924 Willem Einthoven
1926 Johannes Fibiger
1927 Julius Wagner-Jauregg
1928 Charles Nicolle
Christiaan Eijkman / Frederick Gowland Hopkins
1930 Karl Landsteiner
1931 Otto Warburg
Charles Scott Sherrington
Charles Scott Sherrington / Edgar Adrian
1933 Thomas Morgan
George Whipple /
George Minot / William Murphy
1935 Hans Spemann
1936 Henry Dale / Otto Loewi
1937 Albert Szent-Györgyi
1938 Corneille Heymans
1939 Gerhard Domagk
Henrik Dam / Edward Doisy
Joseph Erlanger / Herbert Gasser
Alexander Fleming /
Ernst Chain / Howard Florey
1946 Hermann Muller
1947 Carl Cori /
Gerty Cori / Bernardo Houssay
1948 Paul Müller
1949 Walter Hess / António Egas Moniz
1950 Edward Kendall /
Tadeusz Reichstein / Philip Hench
1951 Max Theiler
1952 Selman Waksman
1953 Hans Krebs / Fritz Lipmann
1954 John Enders / Thomas Weller / Frederick Robbins
1955 Hugo Theorell
1956 André Cournand /
Werner Forssmann / Dickinson W. Richards
1957 Daniel Bovet
George Beadle /
Edward Tatum / Joshua Lederberg
Severo Ochoa / Arthur Kornberg
1960 Frank Burnet / Peter Medawar
1961 Georg von Békésy
Francis Crick /
James Watson / Maurice Wilkins
1963 John Eccles / Alan Hodgkin / Andrew Huxley
1964 Konrad Bloch / Feodor Lynen
François Jacob / André Lwoff / Jacques Monod
1966 Francis Rous / Charles B. Huggins
Ragnar Granit / Haldan Hartline / George Wald
Robert W. Holley
Robert W. Holley / Har Khorana / Marshall Nirenberg
Max Delbrück /
Alfred Hershey / Salvador Luria
Bernard Katz /
Ulf von Euler
Ulf von Euler / Julius Axelrod
1971 Earl Sutherland Jr.
Gerald Edelman / Rodney Porter
Karl von Frisch
Karl von Frisch /
Konrad Lorenz / Nikolaas Tinbergen
Albert Claude /
Christian de Duve
Christian de Duve / George Palade
David Baltimore /
Renato Dulbecco / Howard Temin
1976 Baruch Blumberg / Daniel Gajdusek
Roger Guillemin /
Andrew Schally / Rosalyn Yalow
Werner Arber /
Daniel Nathans / Hamilton O. Smith
1979 Allan Cormack / Godfrey Hounsfield
Baruj Benacerraf /
Jean Dausset / George Snell
1981 Roger Sperry /
David H. Hubel
David H. Hubel / Torsten Wiesel
Sune Bergström /
Bengt I. Samuelsson / John Vane
1983 Barbara McClintock
1984 Niels Jerne / Georges Köhler / César Milstein
1985 Michael Brown / Joseph L. Goldstein
1986 Stanley Cohen / Rita Levi-Montalcini
1987 Susumu Tonegawa
1988 James W. Black /
Gertrude B. Elion
Gertrude B. Elion / George H. Hitchings
J. Michael Bishop
J. Michael Bishop / Harold E. Varmus
Joseph Murray / E. Donnall Thomas
Erwin Neher / Bert Sakmann
1992 Edmond Fischer / Edwin G. Krebs
Richard J. Roberts
Richard J. Roberts / Phillip Sharp
Alfred G. Gilman
Alfred G. Gilman / Martin Rodbell
Edward B. Lewis
Edward B. Lewis /
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard / Eric F.
Peter C. Doherty
Peter C. Doherty / Rolf M. Zinkernagel
1997 Stanley B. Prusiner
Robert F. Furchgott
Robert F. Furchgott /
Louis Ignarro / Ferid Murad
1999 Günter Blobel
Arvid Carlsson /
Paul Greengard / Eric Kandel
Leland H. Hartwell /
Tim Hunt / Paul Nurse
Sydney Brenner /
H. Robert Horvitz / John E. Sulston
Paul Lauterbur / Peter Mansfield
Richard Axel / Linda B. Buck
Barry Marshall / Robin Warren
Andrew Fire / Craig Mello
Mario Capecchi /
Martin Evans / Oliver Smithies
Harald zur Hausen
Harald zur Hausen /
Luc Montagnier / Françoise Barré-Sinoussi
Elizabeth Blackburn /
Carol W. Greider
Carol W. Greider / Jack W. Szostak
2010 Robert G. Edwards
Bruce Beutler /
Jules A. Hoffmann / Ralph M. Steinman
John B. Gurdon
John B. Gurdon / Shinya Yamanaka
James Rothman /
Randy Schekman / Thomas C. Südhof
2014 John O'Keefe /
May-Britt Moser / Edvard Moser
2015 William C. Campbell /
Satoshi Ōmura / Tu Youyou
2016 Yoshinori Ohsumi
2017 Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, Michael W. Young
ISNI: 0000 0001 1856 2501
BNF: cb13746673x (data)