UT Health Science Center San Antonio

Guide to the Louis Lapicque Papers

Descriptive Summary and Abstract

Creator Lapicque, Louis (1866-1952)
Title: Louis Lapicque Papers
Inclusive dates: 1882 - 1978
Abstract: Louis Lapicque was a French physiologist and a pioneer in the field of neural excitability. He worked with his wife Marcelle de Heredia Lapicque for nearly fifty years in the Sorbonne Laboratoire de Physiologie in France, devoting his research to nerve excitation and the nerve response over time under various physiological conditions. He was the most important French neurophysiologist of the 1910's to the late 1930's. The Lapicque Papers include many of his original lab notebooks and manuscripts as well as the papers of some of his colleagues at the Sorbonne Laboratoire de Physiologie. There are also personal papers and correspondence.
Identification: MS 22
Extent: 3 boxes, 1 ¼ linear feet
Language: Materials are in written primarily in French with a few documents in English or Spanish.
Repository University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, UTHSC Libraries, University Archives, San Antonio, TX 78229-3900

Biographical Note

Louis Lapicque was born August 1, 1866. He was a very influential, early 20th century French physiologist who was a pioneer in the field of neural excitability. One of his main contributions was to propose the integrate-and-fire model of the neuron in an article published in 1907. This model is still one of the most popular models in computational neuroscience for both cellular and neural networks studies and in mathematical neuroscience. The Lapicque concepts of excitability and nerve transmission form a part of the basic framework of modern neurophysiology.

Lapicque completed his doctorate at the Paris Medical School. He married Marcelle de Heredia, a former student, on May 14, 1902. They had one son, Charles Lipicque, born Oct. 6, 1898, before their marriage, who was trained as an engineer but gave up engineering in 1940 to become a painter. Marcelle did her doctoral studies under Lapicque in 1903, concentrating on the nerve impulse. Lapicque and his wife worked closely together for nearly fifty years in the physiological laboratories of the Sorbonne, publishing over 80 articles. They devoted their life work to the study of what they termed "the chronaxie of the nerve" - the nerve response over time under various physiological conditions. Louis held a professorship at the Museum d'Historie Naturelle and then at the Sorbonne. From the 1910s to the late 1930s he was seen as the most important French physiologist of the time. Marcelle assisted him and was eventually named associate director of the laboratory. They attracted and trained a host of pupils from France and many other countries such as the United States and Japan. They were excellent hosts and well loved and respected by their pupils. Lapicque's interests were broad, but in later years he concentrated largely upon problems of excitation. He was also interested in history and published many articles about his deceased colleagues.

He was a keen yachtsman and an accomplished navigator, talents which proved useful during the occupation of France by Germany during World War II. He was imprisoned by the Gestapo for helping the resistance, and during his three months' imprisonment wrote a book which was published in 1943 called La Machine Nerveuse, in which he credited his wife with 40 years of collaboration as well doing as important independent work of her own. He brought physiology in France to world recognition.

Lapicque died on December 6, 1952. Marcelle Lapicque took over the directorship of his laboratory after his death for a number of years, until her death in 1962.


"Louis and Marcelle Lapicque."For Better or For Worse? Collaborative Couples in the Sciences, edited by Annette Lykkness, et. al.,New York: Springer Basel, 2012, pp 66-67.

"Louis Lapicque, 1866-1952"J Neurophysiolog 16:97-100, 1953.

"Lapicque, Marcelle (de Heredia) (1873-ca. 1962)", The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, edited by Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie and Joy Harvey. New York: Routledge, 2000, Vol. 2: L-Z, pp. 745-746.

Scope and Contents

The Lapicque Papers contain original handwritten lab books, journals of travel, a ship log for Lapicque's yacht, manuscripts for papers (handwritten or typewritten with handwritten notes), journal reprints, bibliographies of the research work of Lapicque and A. M. Monnier, obituaries and biographical articles written by both Lapicque and Monnier, and correspondence with both Lapicque and Monnier.


Arrangement of Collection

The papers are arranged in 3 series in 3 boxes as follows:
Series 1: Professional Papers of Louis Lapicque and other Faculty
Series 2: Research Lab Notebooks
Series 3: Personal Manuscripts & Biographies


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use. Materials may be viewed in the reading room of the P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, located on the 5th floor of the Briscoe Library at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Use Restrictions

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Physical Access

Some materials are very brittle or torn on the edges and may require an electronic copy or photocopy for use.

Index Terms

Lapicque, Charles Rene, 1898-1988
Lapicque, Louis Edouard, 1866-1952
Lapicque, Marcelle, 1873-1962
Monnier, Alexandre Marcel, 1904-
Sorbonne Laboratoire de Physiologie
Universite de Paris
Neural Conduction
Neurophysiology – History
History of Medicine – France
Document Types
News Clippings

Related Material

Lapicque, Louis Notice sur les titres et travaux scientifiques de M. Louis Lapicque / Paris: Imprimerie de la Cour D'appel, 1908-1928. Located in the P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, UTHSC Libraries, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], in the Louis Lapicque Papers, MS 22, University Archives, UTHSC Libraries, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.


Materials in this collection were donated in 1970 to the library of the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio by the Bexar County Medical Society.

Collection History

Materials in this collection were donated in 1970 to the library of the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio by the Bexar County Medical Society.

Processing Information

Finding aid created by: Anne Comeaux, August 2013

Detailed Description of Collection


Series 1. Miscellaneous Professional Papers of Louis Lapicque and other Faculty

Box Folder
MS 22*1 1 Articles by A. M. Monnier.
6 items.
2 Articles by A. M. Monnier.
9 items.
Includes lengthy obituary of Louis Lapicque written by Monnier which appeared in the Journal de Psychologie in 1953.
3 Articles by A. M. Monnier and bibliography of his titles and scientific work.
6 articles, 2 bibliographies.
4 Articles by J. C. Eccles.
4 items.
5 Articles and handwritten notes on curare or curarisation by Louis and Marcelle Lapicque. Also supplemental bibliography of titles and scientific works by M. Louis Lapicque.
2 articles, 2 typed manuscripts with handwritten corrections, 2 bibliographies.
  • L. Lapicque. Consideratons quantitatives sur L'Anatomie Comparee du system nerveux. Revue Neurologique 76(5-6):119-134, 1944.
  • L. et M. Lapicque. Les antagonisms dans la curarisation. Annales de Physiologie et de Physiocochimie IX:887-895, 1933?
  • Les Curares Comme Poisons Nerveux. Typewritten manuscript with handwritten notes.
  • M. Lapicque. Modifications de la couree d'excitabilitie sure divers muscles provoquees par la verathrine et la guadinine. Typewritten manuscript with handwritten notes.
  • Supplement (Octobre 1908 - Decembre 1918) a la Notice sur les Titres et Travaux Scientifiques de M. Louis Lapicque. Paris: Imprimerie de la cour d'appel, 1919.
  • Supplement II (1919-1927) a la Notice sur les Titres et Travaux Scientifiques de M. Louis Lapicque. Paris: 1928.
6 Miscellaneous correspondence to A. M. Monnier.
7 Typed and handwritten notes on Claude Bernard. Includes slide of an unidentified group of people.
8 Materials by A. M. Monnier
  • Folder labeled "Muralt ses receuts T a P 1975-1980 - les envois pur le Prix Nobel" and journal issue La Medecine September 1931 with several articles by A. M. Monnier.
  • International Union of Physiological Sciences Newsletter for May 1978 with several obituaries.
  • Obituary of Alexander Forbes, 1882-1965
9 Correspondence from colleagues congratulating Louis Lapicque on his election to l'Academie de Medicine.
10 Miscellaneous papers. (Ads, histories of various institutions, one card)
11 Miscellaneous obituaries, 2 of Louis Lapicque, 1 of Alexander Forbes, several published together in Interational Union of Physiological Sciences Newsletter, 7(1), 1978.)


Series 2. Research Lab Notebooks
(7 items)

Box Folder
MS 22*2 1 Lab notebook with "Dr. Lapicque 17 rue Coufflot" on front. May 1945
2 Notebook with "Mme. M. Lapicque" and "Physique - Electricite (Cours Lippmann)" on front page. 2nd part of book dedicated to analytical geometry (Geometrie Analytique). 1903
3 Notebook describing various experiments such as experiments on the lumbar nerves of the frog ("Experiences sur les nerfs lombaires de la grenouille" and effect of heat on sciatic nerve of frog ("Effet de la chaleur sur un nerf sciatiq de grenouille". Dec. 1901 - April 1902.
4 Lab notebook labeled "Sorbonne Laboratoire de Physiologie 1901-1902. L Lapicque." Also contains old BASF tape labeled "Commemoration Louis Lapicque."
5 Lab notebook Mar 1, 1942 - August 30, 1943. Note on inside cover says "After returning to Lab from prison at Fresnes in 1941-42."
6 Two lab notebooks, second with "Experiences du Bresil", dates 1913 and 1927.


Series 3. Miscellaneous Personal Manuscripts & Biographies

Box Folder
MS 22*3 1 Travel records and Other Personal Items
  • Journal, first page with date of Nov. 28, 1892.
  • Ship’s log ("Extrait du journal de mer du yacht Lemiramis"), entries signed by "Le Capitaine", Sept. 28, 1892 – January 11, 1894.
  • Journal of travel, with last date of January 11, 1894.
  • Letter dated July 3, 1893 from Consul de Espania in Singapore
  • Invitation from Monsieur Lèon Fredericq to an event on June 8, 1933.
  • Postcard with picture of son, artist Charles Lapicque, drawing.
  • Art catalog for exposition of works by son, artist Charles Lapicque, at Galerie Blanci Graham in Paris.
  • Obituary of Louis Lapicque from La Presse Medicale, May 2, 1953.
2 Handwritten manuscript in envelope labeled "Voyage de Louis Lapicque en Abyssonie et Ezythree 1893-94" with Universite de Paris – Faculte des Sciences address.
Very fragile.
3 Obituaries by Louis Lapicque for Joseph Erlanger (1874-1965), Alexander Forbes (1882-1965), Herbert Spencer Gasser (1888-1968), Corneille Heymans (1892-1968), and A. Rosenbleth (1900-1970).
Original handwritten manuscripts, typed copies, background materials.


Series 4.Photographs

Box Folder
MS 22*3 1 Photograph of Louis Lapicque and students, n.d.