History of Department


John W. Draper, MD, a founder of the school, served as head of the department (1850-1867) and president of the college (1850-1873). He was a renaissance man with interests in chemistry, medicine, philosophy, history, and religion. He was the first person to produce a clear photograph of the female face, the moon, and an object under a microscope. His book, History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, was internationally acclaimed yet controversial.
The Department of Physiology is founded at University Medical College.  


Austin Flint II, MD co-founded the hospital with his father and served as Chair of the Department and Professor of Physiology and Microscopy from 1861-1897. He developed a specialization in the physiology of mental states. His work, The Physiology of Man, published in five volumes between 1867 and 1873, became a sought-after reference. In 1874 he was appointed surgeon general of the state of New York and served at that post for 4 years.
Bellevue Hospital Medical College is co-founded by Austin Flint II.  


Graham Lusk, PhD served as a Professor of Physiology and the first chair of the newly combined department from 1898-1908. Dr. Lusk is known for his role in founding the Harvey Society and his important contributions to the science of diabetes and nutrition. His textbook The Elements of the Science of Nutrition (1906) was the standard work on the topic at the time of its publication.
University and Bellevue Hospital Medical Colleges merge.  


During his tenure as chair of the department from 1930-1961, Homer W. Smith, PhD, far right established strong collaborations between clinical and basic laboratories. He is considered a pioneer in the field of renal physiology and an award in his name is given out annually by the American Society of Nephrology.
Homer W. Smith brings together clinical and basic scientists.  


The picture above, dated 1952, shows the Medical Science Building (MSB) during its construction. The doors officially opened in 1955 and MSB became home to many laboratories and offices, including the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. The building still stands in the heart of the NYU Langone Medical Center.
The Medical Science Building, home of the department, opens.  


From 1976 until 2011, Dr. Rodolfo Llinás, MD, PhD, chaired the department and along with faculty that included Drs. Robert Baker, Dean Hillman, J. Charles Nicholson, and John Simpson, began to steer the department towards neuroscience. In 2011, NYU named Dr. Llinás a University Professor, the first time such an honor was bestowed upon a medical center faculty member.
Dr. Rodolfo Llinás ushers in the era of neuroscience research at NYU School of Medicine.  


Reflecting the scope of the research being done in the department, The NYU School of Medicine changes the name of the department.
The department is renamed the Department of Physiology and Neuroscience  


In January 2012, Richard Tsien, DPhil took over the helm of the department and solidified NYU's commitment to neuroscience and translational research. His roles as chair of the department and director of the Neuroscience Institute will allow him to foster the next generation of neuroscience at NYU and to build on the already existing relationship between the basic and clinical departments.
Dr. Richard Tsien becomes chair of the department.  


In collaboration with the Neuroscience Institute, the Department of Neuroscience and Physiology will continue to hire new faculty members who bring cutting edge techniques and research plans to the study of the brain and the body. An image of the hippocampus from new faculty member Dr. György Buzsáki, the Biggs Professor of Neuroscience, is shown above.
Neuroscience and Physiology continues to grow into the future.