Academic journal article Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society

Sanford Louis Palay

Academic journal article Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society

Sanford Louis Palay

Article excerpt

SANFORD LOUIS PALAY died on 5 August 2002, at the age of eighty-three, and was buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. With his death, modern neurocytology lost one of its founders. From the advent of fine structural studies of the nervous system, the high quality of electron micrographs produced by Sanford Palay set standards that others would strive to emulate. He contributed greatly toward the interpretation of electron micrographs of the nervous system and the advancement of knowledge on the principles of organization of the nervous system. It must be remembered that, prior to the advent of fine structural studies, stains had been developed that could be used selectively to show specific components of the nervous system in light microscopic preparations. In electron micrographs all of the diverse neuronal and glial components are seen, but much of the continuity of cell bodies and processes is lost in the extremely narrow plane of the ultrathin section. Therefore, one of the earliest challenges, toward which Sanford Palay made many contributions, was to determine which profiles belonged to which parts of cells and what criteria could be used to selectively identify the myriad profiles encountered in electron micrographs.

Sandy was born in Cleveland of Russian Jewish immigrant parents. In 1940 he received his bachelor's degree from Oberlin, a place for which he had such fond memories that in 1990 he donated his collection of slides to the college. In 1940 he entered the school of medicine at Western Reserve University (now case Western Reserve), with the intention of becoming a bacteriologist. In the spring of his first year at medical school, he applied for a fellowship, which would allow him to do research in the summer break. He chose to work in the laboratory of Ernst and Berta Scharrer, where he was given the project of trying to stain droplet-laden cells in the meinges of the toad. In 1944 he published the results of this investigation. The Scharrers taught Sandy a great deal about scientific investigation, about neuroanatomy, and about cytology, and eventually Sandy went on to work on neurosecretion, the area of Ernst Scharrer's prime interest. Sandy continued to work with the Scharrers throughout his time in medical school, and he developed a close relationship with Ernst Scharrer, who was to have a great influence in guiding Sandy's scientific career.

After completing his M.D. degree in 1943, Sandy spent a year as an intern at New Haven Hospital, where in the evenings he continued his research in the Department of Anatomy at Yale University. He worked on tracing the neurosecretory pathway from the preoptic nucleus to the neurohypophysis in catfish, using material that he had brought from Cleveland. At the end of the internship Sandy returned to Western Reserve University as a resident in medicine, with appointments as a teaching fellow in medicine and a research fellow in anatomy. This allowed him to continue his association with the Scharrers, and he took part in a study on chemical sense and taste in gourami and sea robins. It was Ernst Scharrer who suggested that Sandy ought to meet and work with Albert Claude, who was at the Rockefeller Institute, pursuing his pioneering studies on the biochemistry of cellular components. Sandy applied for and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship to work with Claude, but when his residency in Cleveland came to an end in 1946, he was called up to serve with the Army Medical Corps as a member of the forces in occupied Japan. As a result of that service Sandy developed a lifelong interest in Japanese art and culture. He became a collector of Japanese art and cultivated many bonsai specimens. He returned to Japan for an extended period as a visiting professor at the University of Osaka in 1978.

After leaving the army in 1948, Sandy joined Albert Claude as a fellow at the Rockefeller Institute, and spent the year examining the chromosomes of the salivary gland by electron microscopy. …

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