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Science  19 Dec 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5909, pp. 1765
DOI: 10.1126/science.322.5909.1765c

MEMORABLE. He was one of the most famous figures in neuroscience, yet few people knew his name. Henry Gustav Molaison, better known as the patient H.M., died 2 December in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, at age 82.


In 1953, Molaison had much of the medial temporal lobes of his brain removed to relieve severe epilepsy. The experimental procedure rendered him unable to form new memories but left older memories intact. As a cooperative subject for more than half a century, he helped researchers unravel the neural basis of memory, says neuroscientist Suzanne Corkin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who began working with him in 1962 as a graduate student. One key insight was that different kinds of memory depend on different parts of the brain. “He was a very nice man, … soft-spoken, polite, and he had a good sense of humor,” says Corkin, whose almost daily interactions with Molaison led him to believe they had met in high school.

H.M.'s contributions to science won't end with his death. Researchers led by Jacopo Annese of the University of California, San Diego, have already begun work to preserve his donated brain and create an interactive 3D reconstruction. Annese hopes it will be available online by next summer.

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