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Much of the original historical data behind the greatest discoveries in neuroscience are now lost. However, a recently rediscovered box of histological slides belonging to Sir Charles Sherrington, a pioneer in spinal cord and motor control research, has survived at the University of Oxford since 1936. Sherrington coined the term 'synapse', developed the concept of inhibition in neuronal function, demonstrated the integration of sensory and motor actions of the nervous system, and examined the synaptic activity of single neurons and their integration into neuronal circuits. Here, we explore Sherrington's lifetime of discoveries, with reference to histological specimens from his box of slides.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Rev Neurosci

Publication Date





429 - 436


Animals, Brain, History, 19th Century, History, 20th Century, Humans, Neurons, Neurosciences, Spinal Cord, Synapses