BALTIMORE - Dr. Gian F. Poggio, a retired Johns Hopkins Hospital professor who worked in vision and brain research, died of Parkinson's disease complications Oct. 19 in Genoa, Italy. The former Roland Park, Md., resident was 80.
Hopkins colleagues said that Dr. Poggio discovered the brain mechanisms underlying the visual perception of depth based upon slight image differences between the two eyes. This kind of depth vision, known as stereopsis, is the basis for 3D movies.
Born in Genoa, he was a 1951 graduate of medical school there and moved to Baltimore in 1954 for a fellowship in neurosurgery. He joined the Hopkins physiology faculty in 1960 and became a physiology professor in 1975 and a professor of neuroscience in 1980.
"His apartment was packed with books, and he was one of the best-read persons I have ever known," said Dr. Charles Edward Connor of the Hopkins Department of Neuroscience, a former student and longtime colleague. "He had a broad knowledge of history and literature. He was also an amazingly witty individual with a dry sense of humor. His medical school lectures were remarkably entertaining, as well as informative."
Dr. Poggio also was recalled as a careful scientist who published numerous scientific papers.
"He never published anything until he understood the issue thoroughly," Connor said. "His approach to research was exquisitely precise and rigorous. His studies were groundbreaking and are just as widely cited today as they were 30 or 40 years ago."
In 1996, the Minerva Foundation awarded Dr. Poggio its Golden Brain Award to honor his "outstanding original discoveries in vision and brain research." The award cited his discovery of "how the brain perceives three-dimensional space from the nerve impulses it receives from both eyes." He also received the Lashley Prize in neurobiology in 1989.
According to Hopkins colleagues, Dr. Poggio returned to Italy several years ago.
"I believe he considered Baltimore a true home. His friends and colleagues here were saddened when he returned to Italy, partly because of health issues," Connor said.
He leaves a brother, Alberto; a sister, Maria V.P. Rocca; four nephews; and one niece. All his survivors live in Italy.