Neuroscience, like most other divisions of natural philosophy, emerged in the Hellenistic world following the first experimental discoveries of the nerves connecting the brain with the body. The first fundamental doctrine on brain function highlighted the role for a specific substance, pneuma, which appeared as a substrate for brain function and, being transported through the hollow nerves, operated the peripheral organs. A paradigm shift occurred in 17th century when brain function was relocated to the grey matter. Beginning from the end of the 18th century, the existence of active and passive portions of the nervous tissue were postulated. The passive part of the nervous tissue has been further conceptualised by Rudolf Virchow, who introduced the notion of neuroglia as a connective tissue of the brain and the spinal cord. During the second half of the 19th century, the cellular architecture of the brain was been extensively studied, which led to an in-depth morphological characterisation of multiple cell types, including a detailed description of the neuroglia. Here, we present the views and discoveries of the main personalities of early neuroglial research.
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