Born in Shelbyville, Kentucky, Vernon Mountcastle grew up in the Roanoke Valley. He received a B.S. in chemistry at Roanoke College in 1938, graduating with honors. At Roanoke, he participated in tennis and was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity. In 1942, he completed his M.D. at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and then went on to serve for three years as an officer with the U.S. Naval Medical Corp during World War II.
After his military duty, Mountcastle joined the faculty of the Department of Physiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. There, he would devote his career to laboratory research in brain physiology while achieving the rank of professor and holding the post as director of the department for seventeen years. In 1981, he was named University Professor of Neuroscience and director of the Philip Bard laboratories of neurophysiology. He was influential in the creation of the Krieger Mind-Brain Institute at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Mountcastle retired from active laboratory work in 1992 and is now engaged in scientific writing. His most recent book The Cerebral Cortex was published in 1998.
Dr. Mountcastle has received numerous honors, including the Schmitt Prize and Medal from MIT; the U.S. National Medal of Science; and the Fyssen Foundation Prize from France. He holds six honorary degrees, one awarded by Roanoke College in 1968. His many memberships include service in Britain's prestigious Royal Society, service in the Academie des Sciences, Paris, and service as a member of the Roanoke College Board of Trustees for four years.
Dr. Mountcastle and his wife, Nancy, live in Monkton, Maryland. They have a son, Vernon, a daughter, Anne Bainbridge, and six grandchildren.
Vernon B. Mountcastle received the Roanoke College Medal in 2001.