Joseph Knoll: The Discovery of the Enhancer Regulation in the Mammalian Brain and the Development of the Synthetic Enhancer Substances

Hector Warnes’ final response to Joseph Knoll’s additional response to Hector Warnes’ response 2


                I was privileged to maintain an ongoing debate with Professor Knoll on his scientific life’s work particularly since the early 1960swhen he discovered deprenyl, a feniletilamine derivative with catecholaminergic activity. 

            Professor Thomas Ban conducted a superb interview of Professor Knoll which appeared in the Oral History of Neuropsychopharmacology Vol. 3, 2011.  Professor Ban recently told me that Professor Knoll had died. I felt it was an irrecuperable loss of  a great man whom I revered.

            He was born in 1925 and was Head of the Department of Pharmacology at the Semmelweis University of Medicine in Budapest from1962 to 1992 when he retired as Emeritus.

            I don’t know what it tookto survive the Nazi Holocaust. Professor Knoll, like Bruno Bettelheim, were the few exceptions of those who, not for lack of resilience or vulnerability, survivor guilt or perhaps sheer luck, were able to keep on living (life in death or death in life) in spite of all the odds against them.

            Each of the two after the end of the war took a different path, Bettelheim along the path of psychoanalysisand Knoll along the path of exact experimental neurosciences and neuropharmacology.  I don’t really know either what happens to those survivors when they lose autonomy and waves of grief assault their memories without pity   and when their body keeps on deteriorating into an inexorable end.

            Bettelheim committed suicide at 86.  I only know that Professor Knoll was a very cultured man besides being a remarkable scientist and clinician. He told Professor Ban that in his youth he loved poetry and could recite up to 200 poems.

            The epistolardialogue I was privileged to have with Professor Knoll reminded me of Martin Buber I-Thou relationship because he had that extraordinary PRESENCE and an unusual capacity to listen and to share.I think of Bettleheim’s ideas of a mass society: bureaucratized, technological, alienated in the grips of aloneness and ruthless materialism. It is not unlike the I-It relationships described by Martin Buber based on detachment from others and filled with a utilitarian approach.

Contrariwise, in the I-Thou (Ich-Du) relationship one turns toward the other with openness and ethical respect.  The dialogue underlines the presence of the other and the reciprocal capacity to listen and to share.

            I felt that I had an unfinished dialogue with Professor Knoll and that behind his great life’s work he was searching for connecteness and timelessness. In fact, much of his research had to do directly or indirectly with the mystery of our life-span.


August 30, 2018