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Wednesday
Dec242008

Late homage: Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel becomes honorary citizen of Vienna

Austrian Federal Chancellery (10/20/08)

Late homage: Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel becomes
honorary citizen of Vienna

7 October 2008 the Municipal Council Committee on Culture and Science adopted a unanimous decision to appoint 79-year-old neuro-scientist and Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel “honorary citizen of the City of Vienna“. He was born into a Jewish family in this city in 1929, who was driven out by the Nazis to the USA in 1939. He spent his remaining elementary school years at the Yeshiva in New York’s neighbourhood Flatbush, until he changed to Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn in 1944, where he became interested in history and literature – the subjects he later studied at Harvard University. In 1952 he started to study psychiatry at New York University. He became increasingly interested in the biological processes of the brain and started to work in the lab of neurobiologist Harry Grundfest at Columbia University. Kandel became a pioneering brain researcher, after gaining fundamental insights in tests with the Califonia sea slug, a marine mollusk, in Paris in 1962. Later he became active at the Department of Physiology and Psychiatry of the New York Medical School, where he helped to establish the Department of Neurobiology and Behavioural Sciences. He conducted epoch-making research on the short and long-term memory. Evidence was finally provided for Eric Kandel’s assumption that specific learning mechanisms may be observed in all living beings.

In 2000 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine together with the Swede Arvid Carlsson and the American Paul Greengard for pioneering “discoveries concerning the signal transmission in the nervous system“.

Vice-Mayor and Research City Councillor Renate Brauner stated on the occasion of the homage in Vienna: “The title awarded is a tribute to the life-time achievements of Eric Kandel. Despite the irremediable and painful expulsion from Vienna, his activities have been and are being influenced by the idea of understanding and the things in common . For this we pay him the deepest respect in his native city“. In the past years many steps have been taken to strengthen the ties between Eric Kandel and Vienna. He participates regularly in Vienna’s academic life; since 2007 he has been a member of the board of trustees of the newly founded Institute of Science and Technology Austria. The German-Austrian TV documentary “Auf der Suche nach dem Gedächtnis – Der Hirnforscher Eric Kandel“ (“Searching for the Memory – Brain Researcher Erich Kandel”) had been subsidised substantially by the Vienna Film Fund and was premiered in Vienna.