Dale Purves

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Dale Purves
Born (1938-03-11)March 11, 1938
Alma mater Yale University
Harvard Medical School
Scientific career
Fields Neuroscience
Website www.purveslab.net

Dale Purves (born March 11, 1938) is Geller Professor of Neurobiology Emeritus in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences where he remains Research Professor with additional appointments in the department of Psychology and Brain Sciences, and the department of Philosophy at Duke University. He earned a B.A. from Yale University in 1960 and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1964. After further clinical training as a surgical resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital, service as a Peace Corps physician, and postdoctoral training at Harvard and University College London, he was appointed to the faculty at Washington University School of Medicine in 1973. He came to Duke in 1990 as the founding chair of the Department of Neurobiology at Duke Medical Center, and was subsequently Director of Duke's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience (2003-2009) and also served as the Director of the Neuroscience and Behavioral Disorders Program at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore (2009-2013).

Although Purves was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1989 for his work on neural development and synaptic plasticity, his research during the last 15 years has sought to explain why we see and hear what we do, focusing on the visual perception of lightness, color, form, and motion, and the auditory perception of music and speech.

In addition to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, Purves is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine. His books include Principles of Neural Development (with Jeff Lichtman; Sinaur,1985); Body and Brain (Harvard,1988); Neural Activity and the Growth of the Brain (Cambridge, 1992); Why We See What We Do (with Beau Lotto; Sinauer, 2003); Perceiving Geometry (with Catherine Howe; Springer 2005); Why We See What We Do Redux (Sinauer, 2011) and Brains: How they Seem to Work (Financial Times Press, 2011). He is also lead author on the textbooks Neuroscience, (5th edition, Sinauer, 2011), and Principles of Cognitive Neuroscience (2nd edition, Sinauer, 2012). A new book titled Music as Biology is scheduled for publication by Harvard University Press in the fall of 2016.


Purves was a surgical house officer at the Massachusetts General Hospital and a Peace Corps physician. His focus then changed from clinical medicine to neurobiology. In 1960, Purves received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and in 1964, a doctoral degree from Harvard Medical School.[citation needed] Purves took a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard University from 1968 to 1971 and in the Department of Biophysics, University College London, from 1971 to 1973.


Purves joined the faculty of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the Washington University in 1971 and remained on staff until 1990. During that time he studied the development of the nervous system. He was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1989.[citation needed]

In 1990, Purves founded the Department of Neurobiology at Duke University where he did research on the cognitive neuroscience of visual and auditory perception.

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