I am looking for the original paper about the all or none law for neural activity.

I know that there is a very old article about the all or none law for mammalian heart muscle fibers, but I'm specifically interested in when this idea was first stated about neural activity.

In A logical calculus of the ideas immanent in nervous activity from 1943 this law is already mentioned like an established hypothesis, so it is probably quite old.

  • $\begingroup$ I would guess on the Hodgkin-Huxley paper. $\endgroup$
    Mar 16, 2016 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ Hodgkin-Huxley seems to be too new. $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2016 at 20:47

1 Answer 1


This probably goes back to Lucas (1909), Adrian (1912), and Bernstein (1912). But the idea might have started from Helmholtz (1850).

  • Lucas, K (1909). The ``all or none'' contraction of the amphibian skeletal muscle fibre. Journal of Physiology; 38: 113--133.
  • Adrian, ED (1912). On the conduction of subnormal disturbances in normal nerve. Journal of Physiology; 45: 389--412
  • Bernstein, J (1912). Electrobiologie. Braunschweig: Vieweg.

See also: Galvani's Spark: The Story of the Nerve Impulse and The great Era of English Electrophysiology: from Francis Gotch to Hodgkin and Huxley


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