The Background Story - John Lisman

In 1981 my wife and I were in a Paris museum and came across a room displaying remarkable group portraits by the French painter, Henri Fatin-Latour (1836-1904).  I thought these portraits were  amazing (see HOME page). In 1982, I did a sabbatical in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. This department was, at the time, widely considered to be the epicenter of modern Neuroscience, and I thought it would be eminently worthwhile to capture the faculty of that department in a manner similar to the group portraits of Fantin-Latour. The result appears again below.

I hoped, at the time, to photograph other great departments, but the logistics of assembling groups of busy scientists was too difficult. Instead, whenever I visited colleagues at other universities, I carried with me my father's 4x5 Graflex Crown Graphic camera (similar to the ones you see in old Hollywood films) and enlisted scientists to pose. To make it possible to photograph subjects in natural light, I took along a cumbersome tripod as well. Many of the older pictures you'll see in this collection were taken that way; but with the dawn of the digital era, I couldn't resist the far more convenient approach of using a small camera that easily fit into my brief case.

I hope you will enjoy these pictures and that they capture the joy and excitement of those of us who have worked on understanding the brain.

Harvard Neuroscience Department, 1982

L- R:  David Hubel, Torsten Wiesel, Edward Kravitz, David Potter, & Edward Furshpan