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Torsten N. Wiesel

Torsten N. WieselAKA Torsten Nils Wiesel

Born: 3-Jun-1924
Birthplace: Uppsala, Sweden

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist, Doctor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Neurophysiology of vision

Swedish-born American neurobiologist Torsten N. Wiesel was raised at Beckomberga Hospital, the mental institute where his father was chief psychiatrist. He described himself as a lazy student until his late teens, before embarking on a career of research into the physiology of vision. Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1981, along with his long-time collaborator David H. Hubel, for mapping the visual or striate cortex, the posterior section of the cerebral cortex. Roger W. Sperry shared that year's Nobel honors, for work conducted at CalTech. Wiesel also demonstrated the importance of early diagnosis of childhood visual problems.

When a reporter informed him he had won the Nobel Prize, Wiesel's first response was, "Oh, no, I was afraid of that", explaining that he feared the hubbub might prove a distraction from his work. In the 1990s he was President of Rockefeller University, and since 2000, he has been Secretary-General of the Human Frontier Science Program, a group which supports collaboration across different scientific fields. He also served more than a decade as Chair of the Human Rights Committee for the National Academy of Sciences.

In 2001, he was named to a high-level post at the National Institutes of Health, but his nomination was scuttled by then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, with the official explanation that he had "signed too many full-page letters in the New York Times critical of President Bush." Wiesel responded, "I have not signed a statement against Bush, but nonetheless for some reason I am on the administration's blacklist. Perhaps [it is because of] my human rights activities and being contrary in general."

Father: Fritz S. Wiesel (psychiatrist)
Mother: Anna-Lisa Bentzer Wiesel
Wife: Teeri Stenhammar (b. 1922, m. 1956, div. 1970, d. 1980)
Wife: Grace Ann Yee (m. 1973, div. 1981)
Daughter: Sara Elisabeth Wiesel (urban planner, b. 1975)
Wife: Jean Stein (m. 1995)

    High School: Whitlockska Samskolan, Stockholm, Sweden
    Medical School: MD, Royal Caroline Institute
    Teacher: Neurophysiology, Royal Caroline Institute (1954-55)
    Scholar: Physiology, Johns Hopkins University (1955-59)
    Teacher: Physiology, Harvard University (1959-64)
    Professor: Physiology, Harvard University (1964-74)
    Professor: Neurobiology, Harvard University (1974-84)
    Professor: Neurobiology, Rockefeller University (1984-98)
    Administrator: President, Rockefeller University (1991-98)

    Dickson Prize 1979 (with David H. Hubel)
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1981 (with David H. Hubel and Roger W. Sperry)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    Bill Bradley for President
    Federation of American Scientists Board of Sponsors
    National Academy of Sciences
    Obama for America
    Naturalized US Citizen 1990
    Swedish Ancestry

Author of books:
Brain Mechanisms of Vision (1991, with David H. Hubel)
Colloquium on Vision: From Photon to Perception (200, with John Dowling and Lubert Stryer)
Brain and Visual Perception: The Story of a 25-Year Collaboration (2005, with David H. Hubel)


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