The Marshall M. Parks Medal

2007 Silver Medalist

Torsten N. Wiesel, MD

Collaborating with David Hubel, he explored critical periods during which neural connections present at birth can be modified by visual deprivation. His groundbreaking research of the brain and amblyopia has literally shaped pediatric ophthalmology.

Torsten N. Wiesel Headshot


Dr. Torsten N. Wiesel is Chair of the Board of Governors of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan and is President Emeritus of The Rockefeller University. In 1981 Dr. Wiesel shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with David Hubel for their discoveries concerning information processing in the visual system. Dr. Wiesel is also a recipient of the 2005 U.S. National Medal of Science. 

Dr. Wiesel was born in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1924, and earned his MD at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm in 1954. Upon graduation, he taught in the Department of Physiology at Karolinska Institute and worked in the Department of Child Psychiatry at the Karolinska Hospital. In 1955, Dr. Wiesel was invited to the U.S. as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Stephen Kuffler, then at Johns Hopkins Medical School. In 1958, David Hubel joined the lab and the two spent the next 20 years researching the visual cortex at the single cell level. Their discoveries led to their Nobel Prize in 1981. 

From 1973 to 1982, Dr. Wiesel served as Chair of the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. In 1983, he was named the Vincent and Brooke Astor Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Neurobiology at The Rockefeller University. He was president of The Rockefeller University from 1991 to 1998. Since retiring as president of The Rockefeller University in 1998, he has turned his attention to international science advocacy and has devoted his efforts to programs for young scientists. 

Dr. Wiesel has long served as chair of the scientific advisory committee of the Pew Scholars Program. He also helped initiate its Latin American Fellows Program in the Biomedical Sciences. He was chairman of the Board of Governors of the New York Academy of Sciences from 2000 to 2006. From 2000 to 2009, Dr. Wiesel served as secretary general of the Human Frontier Science Program, established to support international, innovative and interdisciplinary basic research in the life sciences. 

He has also done much work as a global human rights advocate. He is a founding member of the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies. In 2005, he received the David Rall Medal from the Institute of Medicine for his service from 1994 to 2004 as chair of the Committee on Human Rights at the National Academies of Sciences.

Dr. Wiesel is currently co-director of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Center for Mind, Brain and Behavior at The Rockefeller University, and emeritus on the board of the Hospital for Special Surgery. As visiting professor of the Karolinska Institute since 2009, he is also advisor to the Young Academy of Sweden. He continues to serve as advisor to research institutes in China, India, Brazil, and the United States, mainly helping to create opportunities for young scientists to carry out independent research.