I was invited to write about the discovery of Nerve Growth Factor and its relationship to developmental neurobiology. Rather than detail the life of NGF over the past 30 years, I wish to concentrate on what was the most attractive and also the most unusual feature in the investigation of NGF: that each finding has signaled a new turning point and opened up a new perspective. The story of NGF is therefore more like a detective story than a scientific enterprise, since science usually unfolds according to well-defined rules, along the route paved by previous findings. In retrospect, the previous experience with NGP holds out the promise that as many turning points still await us on the road ahead as we experienced on the road we have traveled so far. To me this is an encouraging rather than a depressing thought; the abrupt end of a scientific pursuit is more often synonymous with an intellectual dead end than with a goal successfully achieved. By way of introduction, I shall recount the early beginnings of this research, which are well known to old-timers but probably not to biochemically trained newcomers who were lured to take part in this game by the molecule itself and who are only vaguely acquainted with its natural history and with its problems.
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