John Carew Eccles
Australia Crest

Neurophysiologist born in Melbourne in 1903.

Eccles won a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford in 1925 and after holding posts at Exeter and Magdalen colleges he became director of the Kanematsu Institute of Pathology in Sydney in 1937.

Eccles was made professor of physiology at the University of Otago, New Zealand in 1943.

In 1951 he returned to Australia to the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra.

Eccles shared the Nobel prize for physiology and medicine in 1963 with Britons Andrew Fielding Huxley and Alan Hodgkin, a descendant of Thomas Hodgkin, who diagnosed the disease named after him.

Hodgkin and Huxley, using the giant nerve fibres of squids, devised a system of mathematical equations describing the nerve impulse. Using their results, Eccles showed what happened when the nerve impulse arrived at the synapse, or contact point, of the next cell. The 3 Nobel laureates explained that 'animal electricity' currents were the means by which the nerves pass information to the brain. This discovery clarified how a person's every action, experience and sensation depended on the pulse of signals through the nerve cells.

Eccles served as president of the Australian Academy of Science in 1957.

Eccles was knighted in 1958 and was Australian of the Year in 1963.

In 1966, faced with compulsory retirement, he left the Australian National University for the Institute of Biomedical Science in Chicago, leaving behind some ill feeling.

He continued to work in America and Europe and has had many books published in the fields of science and philosophy.

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