Eric Richard Kandel is an American neuropsychiatrist who was a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. Kandel is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.
Kandel was born in 1929 in Vienna, Austria, in a middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish family. His mother, Charlotte Kandel (née Zimels), was born in 1897 in Kolomyya, Pokuttya (modern Ukraine). She came from a well-educated middle-class family. At that time Kolomyya was in Eastern Poland. His father, Hermann Kandel, was born in 1898 into a poor family in Olesko, Galicia (then part of Austria-Hungary). At the beginning of World War I, his parents moved to Vienna where they met and married in 1923. Shortly after, Eric's father established a toy store. They were a thoroughly assimilated and acculturated family, who had to leave Austria after the country had been annexed by Germany in March 1938. Then Aryanization (Arisierung) started; attacks on Jews escalated; and Jewish property was confiscated. Eventually, when Eric was 9, he and his brother Ludwig, 14, boarded the "Gerolstein" at Antwerp in Belgium and joined their uncle in Brooklyn on May 11, 1939. Later his parents succeeded in moving to the US.
After arriving in the United States, and settling in Brooklyn, Kandel was tutored by his grandfather in Judaic studies and was accepted at the Yeshiva of Flatbush, from where he graduated in 1944. He attended Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School, a Public high school.
In 1952 he started at the New York University Medical School. By graduation he was firmly interested in the biological basis of the mind.
Kandel is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. He is a Senior Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was also the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, which is now the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University.
Kandel actively contributes to science as a member of the Division of Neurobiology and Behavior at the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University. In 2008, he and Daniela Pollak discovered that conditioning mice to associate a specific noise with protection from harm, a behavior called “learned safety,” produced a behavioral antidepressant effect comparable to medications. This finding, reported in Neuron, may inform further studies of the cellular interactions between antidepressants and behavioral treatments.
Kandel is also well known for the textbooks he has helped write such as Principles of Neural Science. First published in 1981 and entering its fifth edition, Principles of Neural Science is often used as a teaching and reference text in medical schools. Kandel has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, since 1974. His 2006 autobiographical book, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, is a popularized account of his life and career.