Horace Winchell Magoun, known as “Tid” to his friends and “Ted” to the majority who misinterpreted his childhood nickname, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 23, 1907 and grew up in New England. He received a B.S. degree from Rhode Island State College (1929) and an M.S. degree in Zoology from Syracuse University (1931). At Syracuse he met and married (1931) Jeannette Alice Jackson, with whom he later had three children (Ann Magoun Nesvick, James Magoun and Elizabeth Magoun Provenzano).

In interviews and autobiographical essays, Magoun himself identified six distinct stages in a professional career which spanned as many decades:

The first period (1931-1940) involved doctoral study (1931-1934) and subsequent full-time research with Stephen Walter Ranson at the Institute of Neurology, Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, Illinois (now the Feinberg School of Medicine, The investigative program focused on mechanisms of postural tonus and the hypothalamus and other subcortical mechanisms integrating somatic and visceral functions in homeostasis and emotional behavior. After transferring to the Department of Anatomy (1941-50), he assumed teaching duties and concentrated on brain-stem contributions to the performance of the extrapyramidal motor system and neuropathology of the bulbar reticular core.

Giuseppe Moruzzi and H.W. Magoun in Warsaw, returning from the "Moscow Colloquium" (Colloquium on Electroencephalography and Higher Nervous Activity), 1958

The third stage of Magoun's career saw the publication of a seminal paper on the ascending activating properties of the brain-stem reticular formation, in collaboration with Giuseppe Moruzzi of the University of Pisa (Moruzzi, G. and H.W. Magoun. "Brain stem reticular formation and activation of the EEG," Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1949, 1, 455-473). It was during this period that Magoun established a friendship and working relationship with Donald B. Lindsley.

In 1950, Stafford L. Warren invited Magoun to establish the Department of Anatomy in the newly created School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Research was carried out in laboratories at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Long Beach, to which colleagues from Chicago and other ambitious investigators and scholars were attracted. Magoun's work from this period on the ascending and descending influences of the nonspecific reticular core resulted in numerous lectures, awards, and publications, including the influential monograph, The Waking Brain (Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, 1958).

The accomplishment of which Magoun was most proud was the creation of the Brain Research Institute (BRI) on the UCLA campus in 1959. As in his research collaborations, Magoun was a driving force behind the founding of this interdisciplinary research center, but he let others stand in the limelight as he continued to encourage them and facilitate, promote, and disseminate their work. He recounted the history of this organized research unit on its twenty-fifth anniversary with two of the five "aboriginal" members, Illinois colleagues Donald B. Lindsley and John D. "Jack" French, the BRI's founding director (French, John D., Donald B. Lindsley, and H.W. Magoun. An American Contribution to Neuroscience: The Brain Research Institute, UCLA 1959-1984. Los Angeles: Brain Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, 1984).

While still a recognized and sought-after authority on the brain and behavior (he was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize), Magoun turned his talents for organization to administration, becoming dean of the Graduate Division at UCLA from 1962 to 1972 during the fifth period of his career. In that post he demonstrated the same passion and dedication to academic service as he displayed in his promotion of UCLA's contribution to neuroscience research, by developing graduate education standards and programs and recruiting postdoctoral candidates throughout the university. Following retirement from UCLA in 1972, Magoun spent two years at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., first as director of the National Research Council's Fellowship Office, then collaborating on a major report that took the pulse of U.S. personnel needs in neuroscience (Shooter, Eric M. (Chairman). Manpower in Basic Neurologic & Communicative Sciences: Present Status and Future Needs. U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, 1977).

The sixth and final stage of Magoun's career, from 1974 until his death in Santa Monica in 1991, began with an emeritus appointment in the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA to develop its Division of Biobehavioral Sciences and to advance relationships with other programs in the School of Medicine and the University. In 1980, Magoun devoted himself to a lifelong interest in the history of discoveries bearing on the association between the nervous system and behavior, by co-founding with Louise H. Marshall the Neuroscience History Resource Program (later dropping the word "Resource" and finally becoming "Archives"--the UCLA Neuroscience History Archives) in UCLA's Brain Research Institute. The highlights of his time there were the creation of a neuroscience archive and an extensive 42-poster exhibit on the history of the human brain.

Magoun continued to work on a manuscript for what he hoped to be his magnum opus, addressing the three major divisions of neural, behavioral, and communicative studies and their convergence in contemporary American neuroscience. This manuscript has been edited by Dr. Marshall and for publication by Swets & Zeitlinger in 2003 as American Neuroscience in the Twentieth Century: Confluence of the Neural, Behavioral, and the Communicative Streams.