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Wilfrid Rall Archive: Pioneer of Dendritic Function and Computational Neuroscience

Wilfrid Rall (1922-2018)

Curated by Gordon M. Shepherd, with the assistance of Idan Segev, John Rinzel, Melissa Grafe, Phil Barello and Charles A. Greer. Special thanks to Mary Ellen Condon Rall, Madelyn Rall Badger, and Sara Rall, for donation of the Rall papers to establish this archive.
We invite other neuroscientists to consider donating their papers here or elsewhere to further a deeper understanding of the creative process in neuroscience.

Wilfrid Rall Research Notebooks (1962-1972)

Set of 11 volumes plus loose papers, which Rall used to record the day’s computer runs, calculations, discussions, hypotheses, summaries of progress, and plans for the future. The volumes are a running record of his busy life as one of the first neuroscience biophysicists, and his conscientious efforts to keep up with the many projects and thoughts stimulated by his work. They provide unique insights into how in his earliest work he brought together several disciplines in creating the computational approach to analysing the functional organization of neurons and neuronal microcircuits as the basis for the future field of computational neuroscience.

Tools for identifying, searching and retrieving topics in a notebook

Most of the notebooks lack a built in page numbering sequence, so several tools are provided for accessing the topics. For archival purposes, each page has been scanned as a pdf. The archival sequence of pdfs, with its own numbering sequence of the pages, is provided for the clearest reproduction of each page.
For the index, each page has been reviewed by one or more curators to identify and define the topic covered, which in many cases involved Rall creating new terms and concepts. Each scanned page of written material is approximately a 1 MB pdf, which makes a slow process for searching the pdfs directly.
The Notebooks can be searched rapidly by using the “webviewer” to flip through the pages, or click on “pdf” and from the index enter a desired page number in the small box in the upper-left corner, or use the nearby arrows to move forward or backward. Some topics of broad interest in the index are directly linked to the indicated page
In most of the notebooks (except Notebooks 1, 2 and 6) Rall entered his own numbering sequence with a number # in the upper right hand corner of the page, indicated by his initials wr# in the index. In Notebook 6 each page comes already numbered. Selected topics of interest have direct links by clicking the wr#.
The surest way to identify the page of a topic is indicated by the date that Rall entered for the entry, in the upper left hand corner of a page.
Thus, a full index entry reads: page (p) in preview web sequence; page (wr) in the Rall notebook pdf; date of entry in the Rall notebook; title or topic covered on that page(s); comment by curator in italics; entry of special interest in bold.
Example: Notebook 4 p.121 wr58 8/25/64 Action potential computations: active vs passive dendrites. First Hodgkin-Huxley-like action potential in a compartmental model of a dendrite
Example: Notebook 5 p.155 wr75 12/2/64 Value of a simpler Hodgkin-Huxley action potential model. First Hodgkin-Huxley-like action potential in a compartmental model of a dendritic neuron

Links from the index topic to the preview web page and pdf page are under construction.

Table of Contents

Notebook 1 1959-1962
[web viewer] [pdf]. Early computer program development. Detailed contents.

Notebook 2 July 1962-Nov 1963
[web viewer] [pdf]. Begin development of computational models for epsps and ipsps in motoneuron dendrites with Karl Frank group at NIH; first presentation of the Rall method in Dec 1962; begin work on olfactory bulb neuron models with Gordon Shepherd; begin a Hodgkin-Huxley like action potential model. Detailed contents.

Notebook 3 1962-1963
[web viewer][pdf]. wr1 Begin computational model of action potential invasion of mitral cell axon, hillock, soma and dendrites; wr77 Compare passive and active mitral cell dendrites; reconstruct recording arrangement and field potentials. Detailed contents.

Notebook 4 1963-1964 [web viewer] [pdf]. wr30 Perspectives on modeling; wr51 analyse the antidromic action potential and extracellular potentials; wr57 predict dendro-dendritic synaptic interactions between mitral and granule cells generating feedback and lateral inhibition; wr78 new concept of Generator of Extracellular Current. Detailed contents.

Notebook 5 1964-1965
[web viewer] [pdf]. wr29 Modeling soma-dendritic interaction; wr63 Eccles after dinner speech on scientific culture and Popper reminiscence; wr70 Perkel model; wr75 emphasize the value of a simpler HH model. Detailed contents.

Notebook 6 Jan-July 1965 [web viewer] [pdf]. p. 19 of 285 Importance of concepts in science; wr3 Notes on Hodgkin lecture; wr87 breakthrough finding by Reese and Brightman of dendrodendritic synapses confirming prediction; wr89 work on papers of Frank, Rall, Nelson, Burke, Evans, Smith on motoneuron dendrite synaptic integration. GS at NIH to go over paper. Science rejects. Submit instead to Exptl Neurology: Rall, Shepherd, Reese, Brightman 1966. Detailed contents.

Notebook 7 Aug 3 – 12/15/1965 [web viewer] [pdf]. Wide consultation with many colleagues; wr22 Eccles lecture on cerebellum; intensive computations for motoneuron papers throughout the notebook; wr36 “Cortical Potential Field Theory” ms. Detailed contents.

Notebook 8 12/15/65 – 6/27/66 [web viewer] [pdf]. Continued work on motoneuron papers; wr73 Thoughts on mathematics approach in science; compartmental vs continuous systems; meaning of “model”; wr123 Rasmussen Neuroanatomy declining; wr142 Theoretical and experimental approaches; how to write a good book. Detailed contents.

Notebook 9 6/27/66 to 11/15/67 [web viewer] [pdf]. Work on motoneuron papers; positive response to dendrodendritic story; submission of 5 motoneuron papers; finalized second dendrodendritic model paper on model details; Eccles-Rall symposium on New Developments in Vertebrate Synaptology. Finally time to finish a full description of the dendrodendritic computational model. Rall & Shepherd 1968. Detailed contents.

Notebook 10 5/6/68 to 2/11/70 [web viewer] [pdf]. Work on dendritic spines with John Rinzel; role of mathematical theory in neuroscience; response to Kuffler report which makes no reference to mathematics or biophysical theory. Detailed contents.

Notebook 11 11/10/69 to 3/9/72 [web viewer] [pdf]. Boulder meeting; dendritic neuron theory ms; first annual meeting of Soc for Neuroscience (Rall was on the first council); Rall makes an extensive list of new generation of Neural Modellers, Biophysicists and Theoretical Biologists. Detailed contents.

Scientific correspondence of GMS with Charles Phillips, Tom Powell, Wilfrid Rall, Tom Reese, and others
  • 1964-1965
  • 1966-1968
  • Miscellaneous

Scientific instruments used in the studies of Phillips, Powell and Shepherd (1963) and Shepherd (1963a, b) that were the basis for the electrophysiological studies modeled by Rall, Shepherd, Reese and Brightman (1966) and Rall and Shepherd (1968). Fabricated by Edgar Schuster, renowned instrument maker in Oxford, 1940s-1960s.

  • Headholder
  • Glass Capillary Microforge