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Weiss, Paul Alfred

  1. Sabine Brauckmann

Published Online: 19 SEP 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0025050



How to Cite

Brauckmann, S. 2013. Weiss, Paul Alfred. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. IMéRA, Marseille, France

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 19 SEP 2013



Paul A. Weiss (1898–1989), born and educated in Vienna (Austria), first studied the movements of butterfly wings. He argued that the locomotion patterns arrange a network system of behaviour, which controls as a whole the future movements. By transplantation and tissue culture experiments he studied the issue as to how motor nerves succeed in moving the correspondent muscle. The data he explicated with the resonance principle, stating that the nerve and the muscle are attuned to each other by electroacoustic signals. Until 1950, he discovered the axonal transport of peripheral nerves and invented a new surgical technique to bridge cut nerves without sutures. In developmental biology, he explained the mechanisms of cell contact and investigated the self-sorting of embryonic cells, a precursor of modern stem cell research. In 1960, Weiss and his collaborators produced a media event when demonstrating that cell suspensions have the ability to reconstitute complete body organs. Further, they improved the experimental tools of phase contrast microscopy, time-lapse motion films and tissue cultivation. Weiss' experimental work had a strong impact on the progress of developmental, cell and neurobiology in the twentieth century, and influenced the newly forming disciplines of cell biology and the neurosciences.

Key Concepts:

  • The concept of contact guidance improved Cajal's doctrine of neurotropism.

  • Experimental data demonstrated axonal flow in the 1940s, but were not accepted until the 1960s.

  • Experiments on cell sorting and cell suspensions are precursors of modern stem cell research.

  • The disciplination of the neurosciences was delayed by the resistance of (medical) neurophysiology.

  • Prematurity prevents the acceptance of experimental data, regardless of being correct.


  • resonance principle;
  • contact guidance;
  • axonal transport;
  • cell sorting;
  • neurobiology