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Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brainâ€”and How It Changed the World (2005)
by Carl Zimmer
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743272056, Paperback)In Soul Made Flesh, Carl Zimmer reveals the strange and complicated history of the discovery of the human brain. Amid the turmoil of 17th century England, with religious leaders and monarchs battling for control of the country, an elite group of thinkers used every scientific means at their disposal to figure out that the unassuming putty in our heads was crucial to human health and wisdom. Primary among these Oxford scholars was Thomas Willis, whom the Royal Society affectionately called "our chymist." Soul Made Flesh is as much a biography of Willis and the men who shaped him as it is a medical history. Zimmer admirably sets the stage for what would become a metaphysical revolution and spark arguments that continue to this day about what the mind is and where, if anywhere, the human soul resides:
Thomas Willis... isolated the soul from stars and demons and made the chemical workings of the brain the key to sanity and happiness. Just as important, he helped make the brain a familiar thing.Zimmer applies the same dedicated research and quietly sparkling style to this book as he did to Parasite Rex and At the Water's Edge, distilling reams of historical and scientific information into a concise yet comprehensive narrative. The book's chapters are accompanied by drawings by Willis' contemporary Christopher Wren, whose architectural sensibilities made the brain's structure beautiful to behold. --Therese Littleton
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 14 Feb 2013 13:57:00 -0500)
At the beginning of the Europe's turbulent seventeenth century, no one knew how the brain worked. By the century's close, the science of the brain had taken root, helping to overturn many common misconceptions about the human body as well as to unseat centuries- -old philosophies of man and God. Presiding over this evolution was the founder of modern neurology, Thomas Willis, a fascinating, sympathetic, even heroic figure who stands at the centre of an extraordinary group of scientists and philosophers known as the 'Oxford circle'. Chronicled here in vivid detail are their groundbreaking revelations and often gory experiments that first enshrined the brain as the chemical engine of reason, emotion, and madness - indeed as the very seat of the human soul.