ALPHABETICAL BRAIN™ VOCABULARY
HUMANIST GALAXY
OF SECULAR SCIENCE STARS
CARL ZIMMER

September 8, 2021

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SOUL MADE FLESH:
The Discovery of the Brain ---
and How It Changed the World

by Carl Zimmer.
Free Press/Simon & Schuster, 2005
(i-xii, 367 pages)

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    Quote = "To explicate the uses of the Brain seems as difficult a task as to paint the Soul, of which it is commonly said, that it understands all things but itself." (By Thomas Willis in the book, The Anatomy of the Brain and Nerves published in 1664 C.E., page vii)

    Quote = "Willis showed how the brain's intricate structures could form memories, create imaginary ideas, and experience dreams. He reconceived thoughts and passions as a chemical storm of atoms. Willis called his brain project a 'Doctrine of the Nerves' and coined a new Latin word for it: neurologie." (Paraphrased slightly by webmaster from the author, Carl Zimmer, page 6)

    Quote = "Although Willis and his friends were establishing the modern science of the brain, they do not fit the modern definition of a scientist. Some were alchemists who searched out the philosopher's stone so as to be able to communicate with angels. Some were physicians who recommended carved-up puppies for clearing the skin. All of them were seeking signs of God's work in a universe that had become terrifying and alien." (By the author Carl Zimmer, page 6)

    Quote = "They were scarred by civil war and hoped that a new conception of the brain would bring order and tranquility to the world. Their claims were often accepted not so much because they were true — which, fairly often, they were not! But they were accepted because the world itself had developed an appetite for them." (By the author Carl Zimmer, page 6)

    Quote = "These men of Oxford ushered in a new age, one in which we still live — call it the Neurocentric Age — in which the brain is central not only to the body but to our conception of ourselves. The 17th century saw many scientific revolutions, but in some ways the revolution of the brain is its most shattering triumph — and its most intimate. It created a new way of thinking about thinking and a new way of conceiving the soul." (By the author Carl Zimmer, page 7)

    Quote = Today, more than 340 years later, the Neurocentric Age is more deeply entrenched than ever. At the beginning of the 21st century, thousands of neuroscientists follow Willis's trail. They continue to dismantle the brain, but they do not have to pull it from a corpse to do so. Instead, they can scan the positronic glow of neurons recalling the faces of friends, searching for a word, generating anger or bliss, or reading the minds of others." (By the author Carl Zimmer, page 7)
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BOOK OUTLINE
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note = Numbers in parentheses refer to pages

INTRODUCTION — A bowl of curds (2-7)

note = See Excerpt from this entire section at end of outline

note = "Every building in Oxford has an internal signature of smells: the incense burning in the churches once again, now that the Puritans have been routed and the monarchy restored; the roasted beans in the new coffeehouse on High Street... but the strangest smells in all of Oxford can be found off the main thoroughfares, on Merton Street. Across the street from the gates of Merton College is a medieval two-story house known as Beam Hall. Its odors are almost unbearable: a reeking blend of turpentine and the warm, decaying flesh of dissected dogs and sheep, along with an aroma that none but a handful of people in Oxford — in the world, even — would recognize as that of a nobleman's decapitated and freshly cracked open head." (4)

note = "The room where his body is being dissected is something between a laboratory and a butcher's shop. Knives, saws, and gimlets hang on the walls, along with pliers and razors, brass and silver probes, pincers, bugles for inflating membranous sacs, curved needles, augurs, mallets, wimbles, and bodkins. Syringes and empty quills sit on a table, along with bottles of tincture of saffron and a simple microscope, illuminated by an oil lamp and a globe of brine. Hearts rest at the bottom of jars, pickled. On a long table lies the corpse, surrounded by a crowd of natural philosophers. Depending on the day, the audience may include a mathematician who is laying the ground-work for calculus or a chemist who is in the process of turning alchemy into a modern science. Astronomers, doctors, and ministers come to watch. They all stare intensely, because they know they are part of an unprecedented experience. They are anatomizing the soul. (4)

note = "An inner circle of men stands closest to the body. Christopher Wren, thirty years old and not yet England's great architect, studies the exposed flanges and curves of the skull. He can sketch bowels and hearts as beautifully as he will later sketch a cathedral dome. Richard Lower, who in a few years will perform the first successful blood transfusion in history, severs the nobleman's carotid arteries and slices the gristly cartilage between his cervical vertebrae. The finest dissector in all Europe, he serves as assistant to another man in the inner circle, the owner of Beam Hall, the man who has assembled this herd of natural philosophers within its walls — a short, stammering physician with hair that one neighbor describes in his diary as being ‘like a dark red pigge'." (4-5)

note = "His name is Thomas Willis. Willis has brought these men together this day in 1662 C.E. in order to come to a new understanding of the brain and nerves. He and Lower strip the skin and then cut away the inner mask of muscle. They saw off the bones of the skull, prying away each one with a penknife or a pair of scissors. They snip the nerves that tether the brain to the eye and nose. All that is left is the brain encased in its membranes. Next Willis and Richard Lower, turn the brain upside down and gently peel away the membranes so as not to damage the delicate nerves and blood vessels at its base. Furrowed and lobed, the brain is liberated, and Willis holds it aloft for his audience to see." (5)

note = "Today, when we look at a brain, we see an intricate network of billions of neurons in constant, crackling communication, a chemical labyrinth that senses the world outside and within, produces love and sorrow, keeps our hearts beating and lungs breathing, composes our thoughts, and constructs our consciousness. To most people in 1662 C.E., however, this would all have sounded quite absurd." (5)

note = "When the contemporary English philosopher Henry More wrote about the brain, he declared that ‘this lax pith or marrow in man's head shows no more capacity for thought than a cake of suet or a bowl of curds.' The brain, Henry More wrote, was a watery, structureless substance which could not contain the complex workings of the soul. The idea that the frail flesh in our heads was capable of the soul's work was more than just absurd. It bordered on atheism." (5)

note = "If reason, devotion, and love were the work of mortal flesh instead of immaterial spirit, then what would become of the soul after death?" (5)

note = "What need was there for a soul at all? Henry More put the matter simply: ‘No spirit, no God'." (5)

note = "Exactly what spirits and soul consisted of and where they could be found were questions that had been asked and re-asked for well over two thousand years. At the beginning of the 17th century C.E. (Current Era), most Europeans would have agreed that the soul was the immortal, immaterial essence of a person, which would be saved or damned by God." (5)

note = "But the same word could also refer to an intelligence at work throughout the entire body — making it grow to its destined shape, making it warm and alive, reproducing its form in children. Spirits were the instruments used by the soul and body to reach their goals. For many philosophers, alchemists, apothecaries, and mystics, the cosmos also had a soul, which channeled spirits through planets and stars to enact its will — spirits that could be harnessed by magic or alchemy. With each breath, the world's 'spirits' entered the human body and infused it with life and intelligence, uniting the soul of the microcosm with the soul of the macrocosm." (6)

note = "As widely held as all these beliefs were in 1600 C.E,, they were being steadily undermined. By the end of the 17th century C.E., they would all be either obliterated or fatally wounded, and Thomas Willis and his friends were playing a crucial role in the transformation. Their grisly work in Beam Hall was the first modern investigation of the nervous system. Whenever Willis held a brain in his hands and described it to his audience, he did not limit himself to the branchings of nerves and other anatomical details." (6)

note = "Willis showed how the brain's intricate structures could form memories, hatch (create) imaginations, experience dreams. He reconceived thoughts and passions as a chemical storm of atoms. Willis called his brain project a Doctrine of the Nerves and coined a new Latin word for it: 'neurologie'." (6)

note = "Although Willis and his friends were establishing the modern science of the brain, they do not fit the modern definition of a scientist. Some were alchemists who searched out the philosopher's stone so as to be able to communicate with angels. Some were physicians who recommended carved-up puppies for clearing the skin. All of them were seeking signs of God's work in a universe that had become terrifying and alien." (6)

note = "They were scarred by civil war and hoped that a new conception of the brain would bring order and tranquility to the world. Their claims were often accepted not so much because they were true — which, fairly often, they were not! But they were accepted because the world itself had developed an appetite for them." (6-7)

note = "These men of Oxford ushered in a new age, one in which we still live — call it the Neurocentric Age — in which the brain is central not only to the body but to our conception of ourselves. The 17th century saw many scientific revolutions, but in some ways the revolution of the brain is its most shattering triumph — and its most intimate. It created a new way of thinking about thinking and a new way of conceiving the soul." (7)

note = Today, some three hundred forty years later, the Neurocentric Age is more deeply entrenched than ever. At the beginning of the 21st century, thousands of neuroscientists follow Willis's trail. They continue to dismantle the brain, but they do not have to pull it from a corpse to do so. Instead, they can scan the positronic glow of neurons recalling the faces of friends, searching for a word, generating anger or bliss, or reading the minds of others." (7)

note = "These scientists have started to isolate the molecules that these neurons trade and are manipulating them with drugs. To some extent, we have become comfortable with this new brain. Few will deny that the workings of our minds are the product of billions of neurons organized into clusters and networks, trading trillions of signals with one another every second. We demonstrate our comfort by buying billions of dollars of drugs in the hope of lifting our mood, calming our jitters, or otherwise modifying who we are, simply by boosting or squelching the right neurochemical signals." (7)

note = "The big business of brain drugs belies science's enormous ignorance about the organ. The maps that neuroscientists make today are like the early charts of the New World with grotesque coastlines and blank interiors. And what little we do know about how the brain works raises disturbing questions about the nature of our selves. In many ways, we are still standing in the circle at Beam Hall, with the odor of discovery in our noses, looking at the brain and wondering what this strange new thing is that Thomas Willis has found." (7)

1) HEARTS AND MINDS, LIVERS AND STOMACHS (8-23)
    [1] Greeks explore the soul, puzzle over the brain, and embrace the heart () [2] Christians build a soul from ancient parts () [3] Natural philosophy is born and anatomy becomes a sacred art () [4] Vesalius discovers monkeys where men once stood () [5] The Greeks are transformed, the soul questioned ()
note = "Thomas Willis was not the first person to take the brain out of its skull. The oldest records of the procedure come from ancient Egypt, four thousand years ago. The Egyptian priests who performed it did not hold up the brain and praise its power, however. Instead, they snaked a hook up the nose of the cadaver, broke through the eggshell-thin ethmoid bone, fished out the brain shred by shred until the skull was empty, and then packed the empty space with cloth and 'natron' to reduce mold and putrification smells. [Natron was a disinfectant and desiccating agent used by the Ancient Egyptians, in the mummification process. It was a compound of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate --- salt and baking soda. Natron essentially dried out the corpse.] (Paraphrased slightly by webmaster, page 9)

note = "The priests disposed of the brain while preparing the dead for the journey into the afterlife. The heart, by contrast, stayed in the body, because it was considered the center of the person's being and intelligence. [Four canopic jars were used for the safekeeping of the stomach, intestines, lungs, and liver, all of which, it was believed, would be needed in the afterlife. There was no jar for the heart since the Ancient Egyptians believed that the heart was the seat of the soul, and so it was left inside the body.] Without the heart, no one could enter the afterlife. The jackal headed god, Anubis, would place the deceased's heart in a scale, balancing it against a feather. The ibis — headed god, Thoth, would then ask the heart forty questions about the life of its owner. If the heart proved to be heavy with guilt, the deceased would be fed to the Devourer. If the heart was free of sin, the deceased would go to heaven, which was somewhere among the stars." (Paraphrased slightly by webmaster, page 9-10)

note = "It is difficult today to understand how the brain could be so dismissed. But throughout ancient times many people thought the brain was unimportant. Others prized the brain but did not see it as a network of cells that produces language, consciousness, and emotions. They saw the brain as a shell of pulsing phlegm encasing empty chambers which whistled with the movement of spirits passing through. These two conceptions were powerful enough to guide Western thinking for thousands of years." (Paraphrased slightly by webmaster, page 10)

note = "Some of the earliest philosophers of ancient Greece followed the Egyptian tradition. Empedocles described the soul as the thing that thinks, feels pleasure and pain, and gives the living body its warmth. At death, it leaves the body and searches for another home in a fish or a bird or even a bush; during its time in the human body, it resides around the heart." (10)

note = "But around 500 B.C.E., the Greek philosopher Alcmaeon of Croton lifted his gaze from the heart to the head, declaring that 'all the senses are connected to the brain.' Those words were a milestone in the history of science, but 25 hundred years later it is easy to misinterpret them. To begin with, Alcmaeon and his followers did not even know that nerves existed. Few physicians had even seen these pale threads running through the body, because Greeks in general were reluctant to cut open cadavers. They were too worried that the souls of the dissected would not find rest in the afterlife until they got a proper burial. Alcmaeon reportedly cut the eye out of a dead animal's head and saw channels penetrating the skull. Like other ancient Greeks, he probably pictured channels in the body filled with 'spirits' (or pneumata)." (10)

note = "These 'spirits' were made of air, which was one of the four elements of the cosmos, along with fire, earth, and water. Each time a person took in a breath, these 'spirits' were believed to flow into the nose, through the recesses of the brain, and into the body." (10)

note = "Alcmaeon's ideas helped shape early Greek medicine. In addition to 'spirits,' physicians also came to believe that the body was composed of combinations of the elements known as 'humors.' (10-11)

2) WORLD WITHOUT SOUL (24-41)
    [1] Anatomy of the cosmos () [2] Galileo's new sky () [3] Marin Mersenne makes the world a machine () [4] Pierre Gassendi sanctifies the atom () [5] Descartes's anatomy of clear ideas () [6] The human body as earthen machine () [7] The soul climbs into its cockpit () [8] An arrest () [9] The perfect argument () 10) The ice queen makes Descartes an offer () 11) The captive leaves its prison ()
3) MAKE MOTION CEASE (42-55)
    [1] Thomas Willis with the beasts of the field () [2] Protestants and Puritans () [3] The divine right of kings and the complaints of Parliament () [4] God and Aristotle at Oxford () [5] Servant and alchemist () [6] Mystical medicine comes to England ()
4) THE BROKEN HEART OF THE REPUBLIC (56-81)
    [1] Charles I stumbles toward War () [2] Fever swings its scythe () [3] Portrait of a physician as a young man () [4] Willis fights for his king () [5] Oxford dark and nasty () [6] William Harvey under siege () [7] Harvey at the school of Aristotle () [8] Harvey finds the soul in the blood and says little about the brain () [9] Harvey discovers the circle of blood () [10] Oliver Cromwell tightens the noose () [11] Surrender to madness ()
5) PASSE-PROPHETS AMONG THE PURITANS (82-115)
    [1] Thomas Willis returns () [2] Medicine in the marketplace () [3] Ferments dissolve the four humors () [4] The Puritans demand an oath () [5] The Oxford Experimental Philosophy Club () [6] William Petty — From Thomas Hobbes's mouth to Thomas Willis's ear () [7] Charles becomes a martyr to the people () [8] England the republic () [9] The madness of defeat () [10] The Miraculous Case of Anne Greene, or A Clock Reset () [11] William Petty measures the soul of a nation () [12] Willis hosts an illegal church ()
6) THE CIRCLE OF WILLIS (I17-145)
    [1] William Harvey comes out of retirement () [2] Thomas Willis searches for the agents of fever () [3] The Experimental Philosophy Club fights for its life and for respectability () [4] Hobbes as politician and neurologist () [5] Robert Boyle gives shape to the New Science ()
7) SPIRITS OF BLOOD, SPIRITS OF AIR (146-167)
    [1] Willis stirs up a ferment of atoms () [2] A crude dream of the brain () [3] Cromwell uprooted () [4] Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke pump away the soul () [5] Christopher Wren, surgeon and injector () [6] The return of the king ()
8) A CURIOUS QUILTED BALL (168-187)
    [1] The Church of England meets its less than divine leader () [2] Thomas Willis becomes hero of a nation () [3] "I addicted myself to the opening of heads" () [4] Willis discovers a doctrine of the nerves () [5] The Royal Society ()
9) NINE — CONVULSIONS (188-207)
    [1] The lady with a migraine () [2] Convulsions in the year of plague and fire ()
10) THE SCIENCE OF BRUTES (208-235)
    [1] From Oxford to London () [2] Richard Lower transfuses blood into a madman () [3] Lower and Hooke discover Willis's mistake in the lungs of dogs () [4] Willis constructs a doctrine of the soul Madness explained () [5] Thomas Willis avoids Hobbes's fate ()
11) THE NEUROLOGIST VANISHES (236-259)
    [1] A final book by Thomas Willis and a ridiculously sumptuous funeral () [2] How John Locke buried his teacher () [3] Robert Boyle sees the future before he dies and is not consoled ()
12) THE SOUL'S MICROSCOPE (260-296)
    [1] A long journey forward () [2] The soul as information () [3] Lightning in a nerve () [4] The wisdom of the reflex () [5] Neurologists read the brain () [6] MRI and the module () [7] The networked mind () [8] The able animal soul () [9] Emotion with reason, not versus () [10] Steel syrup and Prozac () [11] The self anatomized () [12] The social brain () [13] Morals and neurons () [14] Lady Conway and Dr. Willis meet again ()
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DRAMATIS PERSONAE (297-301)

Thomas Aquinas (1224/1225-1274) Italian theologian and philosopher. Helped to incorporate Aristotle into medieval Christian thought and establish natural philosophy.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) Greek philosopher. His system of knowledge dominated Europe until the seventeenth century. Believed the brain serves mainly to cool the heart.

Ralph Bathurst (1620-1704) English physician. Oxford virtuoso and early follower of William Harvey. Close friend and medical partner of Thomas Willis.

Robert Boyle (1627-1691) Irish-born natural philosopher. Helped transform alchemy into chemistry and establish the experimental tradition of modern science.

Charles I (1600-1649) King of Great Britain and Ireland (1625-1649). Son of James I and patron of William Harvey. Fought Parliament in the English Civil War. Executed.

Charles II (1630-1685) King of Great Britain and Ireland (1660-1685). Son of Charles I. Forced into exile in the English Civil War and restored to the throne after the fall of the Protectorate. (p297)

Anne, Viscountess Conway (1631-1679) Author of a copious correspondence and of the posthumously published The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modem Philosophy (1690).

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) Polish astronomer. Proposed that the Earth is a planet and that all the planets revolve around the sun.

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) Leader of parliamentary forces in the English Civil War and later Lord Protector of England.

Richard Cromwell (1626-1712) Son of Oliver Cromwell. Served as Lord Protector of England between 1658-1659 before being driven from power.

Renι Descartes (1596-1650) French mathematician and philosopher. Father of modern philosophy.

Empedocles (ca. 490-430 B.C.E.) Greek philosopher. Best known for his cosmology based on four elements.

Epicurus (341-270 B.C.E.) Greek philosopher. Argued that the world is composed of atoms. His philosophy was reviled in the Middle Ages but revived by Pierre Gassendi.

Hieronymus Fabricius (1537-1619) Italian surgeon and anatomist. Taught William Harvey at the University of Padua.

Thomas Fairfax (1612-1671) Commander of parliamentary army during the English Civil War, led siege of Oxford.

John Fell (1625-1686) Fellow soldier and friend of Thomas Willis during English Civil War. Brother of Willis's first wife. Went on to become bishop of Oxford after the Restoration.

Galen (c.129-199 C.E.) Greek physician. His philosophy dominated European medicine until the seventeenth century.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) Italian natural philosopher. Helped found modern physics and astronomy.

Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) French philosopher. Revived Epicurus' "theory of toms." Profoundly influenced Willis on the question of the soul. (bottom 298)

William Harvey (1578-1657) English physician. Discovered the circulation of the blood and established physiology as an experimental science.

Joan Baptista van Helmont (1579-1644) Flemish physician and chemist. Pioneer of biochemistry who promoted mystical concepts about bodily ferments.

Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont (1614-1699) Son of Joan Baptista van Helmont. Physician and mystic. Treated Anne Conway.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) English philosopher. Founded political science and championed a materialist view of the mind.

Robert Hooke (1635-1703) English physicist. Joined the Oxford circle as a student and was employed by Robert Boyle. Later became curator of experiments for the Royal Society. Among his many accomplishments, published the book, Micrographia in 1665.

James I (1566-1625) King of Scotland as James VI (1567-1625) and of England (1603-1625). Father of Charles I.

James II (1633-1701) Succeeded his brother Charles II as king of Great Britain and Ireland (1685-1688).

Edmund King (1629-1709) English physician. Royal surgeon and assistant to Thomas Willis in his London research.

William Laud (1573-1645) Archbishop of Canterbury (1 633-1 645). Political and religious advisor to King Charles I. Established conservative education at Oxford University. Executed.

John Locke (1632-1704) English philosopher. Helped usher in the Enlightenment with his account of the nature of human reason. Studied medicine under Thomas Willis.

Richard Lower (1631-1691) English physician and physiologist. Junior partner of Thomas Willis and later a prominent London physician. Performed dissections of brains with Willis in Oxford and also experimented with blood

Lucretius (c.96-c.55 B.C.E.) Roman poet and philosopher. Known for his poem De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things, which contained the fullest account of Epicurus's philosophy in classical writing.)

Marin Mersenne (1588-1648) French natural philosopher and mathematician. Friend and correspondent of Descartes.

Henry More (1614-1687) English anti-materialist philosopher. Revived Plato's philosophy and helped introduce Descartes to England. Lifelong friend of Anne Conway.

Richard Overton (flourished 1646) English pamphleteer. Leveller. Championed mortalism in the book, Man Wholly Mortal.

John Owen (1616-1683) English Puritan minister. Aide to Oliver Cromwell and vice-chancellor of Oxford University (1652-1659).

Paracelsus (1493-1541) Swiss physician. Incorporated alchemy into Renaissance medicine and championed a mystical view of life.

William Petty (1623-1687) English physician and political economist. Member of the Oxford circle, surveyor of Ireland, pioneer statistician.

Plato (c.428-348/347 B.C.E.) Greek philosopher. Established a three-soul conception of the human body; wrote classic Dialogues, including those featuring Socrates.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, first earl of Shaftesbury (1621-1683) English politician, led opposition in Parliament to Charles II. Patron of John Locke and patient of Thomas Willis.

Gilbert Sheldon (1598-1677) Archbishop of Canterbury (1663-1667). Thomas Willis's patron after the Restoration.

George Starkey (d. 1665) American-educated alchemist. Helped train Robert Boyle. Died of the plague.

Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) English physician. Championed observation over obsolete theories. Strongly influenced John Locke. (bottom 300)

Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) Flemish anatomist. Offered the first serious challenge to Galen's scheme of human anatomy.

John Wallis (1616-1703) English mathematician and member of the Oxford circle. Broke royal codes for Parliament during the English Civil War.

Seth Ward (1617-1689) English astronomer. Member of the Oxford circle. Bishop of Salisbury.

John Wilkins (1614-1672) English mathematician. Played a leading role in establishing the Oxford circle and the Royal Society.

Thomas Willis (1621-1675) English anatomist and physician. Founder of neurology.

Christopher Wren (1632-1723) Best known as England's greatest architect. Joined the Oxford circle as a student and drew the illustrations that accompany Thomas Willis's book, The Anatomy of the Brain and Nerves. (bottom 301)

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NOTES (303-324)

REFERENCES (325-348)

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (349-350)

INDEX (351-366)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (367)

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AUTHOR NOTE, SUMMARY,
AND BOOK DESCRIPTION

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR = Carl Zimmer's work appears regularly in The New York Times, National Geographic, Newsweek, Discover, Natural History, and Science. A John S. Guggenheim Fellow, he has also received the Pan-American Health Organization Award for Excellence in International Health Reporting and the American Institute of Biological Sciences Media Award. His previous books include Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea; Parasite Rex; and At the Water's Edge. He lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

SUMMARY = Describes the first examination of an intact human brain in 1663; the discovery that the brain was the central organ that governed the human body, memory, reasoning, and emotion; and the influence of that discovery on modern science.

BOOK DESCRIPTION = This book is the remarkable untold story of a dramatic turning point in history — the exciting discovery of how the human brain works. In an unprecedented examination of how the secrets of the brain were revealed in seventeenth-century England, award-winning author Carl Zimmer tells an extraordinary tale that unfurls against a deadly backdrop of civil war, plague, and the Great Fire of London. At the beginning of that turbulent century, no one knew how the brain worked or even what it looked like intact. By the century's close, the science of the brain had taken root, helping to overturn many of the most common misconceptions and dominant philosophies about man, God, and the universe.

Presiding over the rise of this new scientific paradigm was the founder of modern neurology, Thomas Willis, a fascinating, sympathetic, even heroic figure who stands at the center 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. Called "as fine a science essayist as we have" by The New York Times, Zimmer tells the story of this scientific revolution through the lives of a colorful array of alchemists, mystics, utopians, spies, revolutionaries, and kings. He recreates the religious, ethical, and scientific struggles involved in the pioneering autopsies of the brain carried out by Thomas Willis; the discovery of the circulation of blood by William Harvey and his flight from London with his besieged king, Charles I; Renι Descartes's persecution by Catholics and Protestants alike for his views of the brain and soul; and the experiments and personal dramas of gifted men who forever changed the way science is practiced as they simultaneously upended our view of our human selves and our place in the world.

In this distant mirror to our own time of continuing scientific revolution and worldwide social upheaval, Zimmer brings to life the painstaking, innovative discoveries of Willis and his contemporaries — the taproots of the amazing work of today's neuroscientists, who continue to explore the brain, revealing the hidden workings of emotions, memories, and consciousness. Graced with beautiful illustrations by Christopher Wren, the book conveys a contagious appreciation for the wonder of the brain, its structure, its many marvelous functions, and the implications for human identity, mind, and morality. It is the definitive history of the dawn of a world-changing science and attitude — the age of the brain and modern consciousness.

In this unprecedented history of a scientific revolution, award-winning author and journalist Carl Zimmer tells the definitive story of the dawn of the age of the brain and modern consciousness. Told here for the first time, the dramatic tale of how the secrets of the brain were discovered in seventeenth-century England unfolds against a turbulent backdrop of civil war, the Great Fire of London, and plague. At the beginning of that chaotic century, no one knew how the brain worked or even what it looked like intact. But by the century's close, even the most common conceptions and dominant philosophies had been completely overturned, supplanted by a radical new vision of man, God, and the universe.

Presiding over the rise of this new scientific paradigm was the founder of modern neurology, Thomas Willis, a fascinating, sympathetic, even heroic figure at the center of an extraordinary group of scientists and philosophers known as the Oxford circle. Chronicled here in vivid detail are their groundbreaking revelations and the often gory experiments that first enshrined the brain as the physical seat of intelligence — and the seat of the human soul. The book conveys a contagious appreciation for the brain, its structure, and its many marvelous functions, and the implications for human identity, mind, and morality.

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EDITORIAL BOOK REVIEWS
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LIBRARY JOURNAL REVIEW = With an enthusiasm normally reserved for today's discoveries, Zimmer, a regular columnist for Natural History, brings alive the science of 350 years ago, telling the story of the "discovery" of the human brain by physician Thomas Willis. Exploring the effects of this breakthrough on 17th century Oxford, the author traces and investigates the subsequent discoveries and theories in neurology and medicine that flowed from Willis and others (e.g., Harvey, Hobbes, Descartes, Boyle, and Locke) in Oxford and on the continent. It was a time of adventure, with discoveries in science often overshadowed by successive wars in England and further complicated by inefficient means of communication, limited equipment for experiments, plagues, religious affiliations, education, power, and politics. Zimmer's elegant writing combines these multiple perspectives to produce a fascinating tour-de-force of a man, a time, and a place that readers will greatly enjoy. Recommended for all collections, required for health, medical, and history of science collections. -- Michael D. Cramer, Schwarz BioSciences, RTP, NC

PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY REVIEW = The subtitle doesn't do justice to this illuminating book, which transcends the "history of X and how X changed the world" genre with a deep and contextualized exploration of two millennia's worth of human theories about consciousness and the soul. Zimmer, a columnist for Natural History and author of the highly praised Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, is interested in how philosophers and scientists moved from a view of the human soul as immaterial and residing in the heart to the common explanation of thought as having a material grounding in the brain and nervous system. His wide-ranging narrative reaches from the days of Aristotle to a 21st century lab in the basement of a Princeton University building.

The central figure in Zimmer's tale is the oft-overlooked 17th century scientist, Thomas Willis, a member of the British Royal Society and colleague of Boyle and Hooke. Willis, a figure of fascinating contradictions, was a conservative, religious royalist raised on a farm outside Oxford, who wound up working on the frontiers of science, as physician to the highest strata of London society and as an experimenter who helped found a new science of the brain. In the end, however, this book is less about Willis in particular than about the evolving metaphysics of the soul in general, and the reader is left with a better picture of the roots of the modern understanding of the self as well as a familiarity with one of the unsung heroes of the scientific revolution.

CHOICE REVIEW = In 1664 C.E., an eminent 17th century English physician named Thomas Willis published Cerebri anatome, or The Anatomy of the Brain and Nerves. This divine workmanship was presented to the Royal Society of London that same year and the "neurology" or "Doctrine of the Nerves" was born. Zimmer, an accomplished science essayist and author, utilizes his engaging style of storytelling to usher the reader into the sights, sounds, and smells of 17th century Oxford, England. Though misguided medieval practices such as bloodletting and induced vomiting slowed the progress of medical physiology, Willis reorganized neuroanatomical knowledge by brilliantly mapping structure and function relationships through observation and experimentation. Generations of physicians and philosophers had understood the ventricles of the brain to be corrals for the spirits.

With experimentation, Willis soon discovered that these chambers were simply "a complication of the brain infoldings." Zimmer paints a vivid historical picture of the brain as it replaces the heart on the throne of the soul. At the same time, the reader becomes intimately involved with the strong cultural resistance to a shift to a more mechanistic view of brain function. Rich with drama, Zimmer's book will appeal to any reader with an interest in the history of science. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels. J. A. Hewlett Finger Lakes Community College

BOOKLIST REVIEW = Every Renaissance history tells how 17th century medical pioneer, William Harvey, finally solved the riddle of the heart. Yet even among anatomists, few know how one of Harvey's students --- Thomas Willis --- first systematically dissected an even more mysterious human organ: the brain. A gifted science writer, Zimmer recounts Willis' singular achievement in a narrative that illuminates not only the scientific revolution in medicine but also the cross-grained personality of one of the chief revolutionaries. Readers may marvel that Willis learned enough science to lead a revolution during an Oxford education disrupted by civil war and religious zealotry.

But Zimmer recognizes how a few Oxfordians (including Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, and Robert Hooke) instilled in Willis a deep skepticism toward inherited dogmas and a lively receptivity toward new ideas. Eventually, Willis turned one of those new ideas (a mere glimmer in the rationalist philosophy of Rene Descartes) into a fledgling new science: neurology. In language accessible to general readers (supplemented with illustrator Wren's wonderful drawings from Willis' original work), Zimmer details the groundbreaking research through which Willis mapped the brain and diagnosed its disorders.

And beyond Willis' science, Zimmer adumbrates [lightly predicts] its radical metaphysical implications, which undercut moral and religious doctrines tied to the immaterial soul --- doctrines in which, ironically, Willis himself fervently believed.The book is a remarkable fusion of scientific history and cultural analysis. – Bryce Christensen.

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PROFESSIONAL BOOK REVIEWS
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[1] Carl Zimmer's illuminating book charts a fascinating chapter in the soul's journey. – The New York Times Book Review.

[2] Describes a kind of second Copernican revolution — one inside the body. Thrilling. – Ross King, Los Angeles Times.

[3] This page-turner is a tribute to the heretical thinkers who decoded nature by relying on direct observation rather than received opinion. — Wired.

[4] A thumping good read. – Timothy Ferris, author of The Whole Shebang and Coming of Age in the Milky Way.

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EXCERPT
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INTRODUCTION --- A BOWL OF CURDS (2-7)

To imagine a time and place — say, the city of Oxford on a summer day in 1662 C.E. — you have to engage not only the mind's eye and ear but also the mind's nose. The warm odor of malt and corn flour rises from the boats landing at the wharves along the Thames. The stink of cured fish hanging in fishmongers' stalls mixes with the soft smell of bread in the bakeries. The smell of manure is everywhere, in the open sewers, on the town common where cows graze, in the streets where horses haul wagons and coaches. Sometimes a coach rolls through the narrow gate of one of Oxford's colleges, to be swallowed up behind a high, windowless stone wall. The chimneys of the college kitchens relay smoke signals to the surrounding neighborhoods, carrying the smell of roasting capon and mutton or perhaps a goose stolen from a nearby village by students.

On a summer day the perfume of the surrounding fens and meadows drifts into the city and mixes with the exotic scents of the physik garden on the High Street, a home to exotic species such as leopard's bane, mimosa trees, Virginian spiderwort, and scorpion grass. Botanists gather their leaves and seeds and roots and carry them to an apothecary's shop to be ground down, cooked, distilled, and mixed with sharp-odored hartshorn or spirits of wine. Every building in Oxford has an internal signature of smells: the incense burning in the churches once again, now that the Puritans have been routed and the monarchy restored; the roasted beans in the new coffeehouse on High Street; the foul reek of the prisons, where thieves, Quakers, and various enemies of King Charles II languish together. But the strangest smells in all of Oxford can be found off the main thoroughfares, on Merton Street. Across the street from the gates of Merton College is a medieval two-story house known as Beam Hall. Its odors are almost unbearable: a reeking blend of turpentine and the warm, decaying flesh of dissected dogs and sheep, along with an aroma that none but a handful of people in Oxford — in the world, even --- would recognize as that of a nobleman's decapitated and freshly cracked open head.

The room where his body is being dissected is something between a laboratory and a butcher's shop. Knives, saws, and gimlets hang on the walls, along with pliers and razors, brass and silver probes, pincers, bugles for inflating membranous sacs, curved needles, augurs, mallets, wimbles, and bodkins. Syringes and empty quills sit on a table, along with bottles of tincture of saffron and a simple microscope, illuminated by an oil lamp and a globe of brine. Hearts rest at the bottom of jars, pickled. On a long table lies the corpse, surrounded by a crowd of natural philosophers. Depending on the day, the audience may include a mathematician who is laying the groundwork for calculus or a chemist who is in the process of turning alchemy into a modern science. Astronomers, doctors, and ministers come to watch. They all stare intensely, because they know they are part of an unprecedented experience. They are anatomizing the soul.

An inner circle of men stands closest to the body. Christopher Wren, 30 years old and not yet England's great architect, studies the exposed flanges and curves of the skull. He can sketch bowels and hearts as beautifully as he will later sketch a cathedral dome. Richard Lower, who in a few years will perform the first successful blood transfusion in history, severs the nobleman's carotid arteries and slices the gristly cartilage between his cervical vertebrae. The finest dissector in all Europe, he serves as assistant to another man in the inner circle, the owner of Beam Hall, the man who has assembled this herd of natural philosophers within its walls — a short, stammering physician with hair that one neighbor describes in his diary as being "like a dark red pigge." His name is Thomas Willis. Willis has brought these men together this day in 1662 C.E. in order to come to a new understanding of the brain and nerves. He and Richard Lower strip the skin and then cut away the inner mask of muscle. They saw off the bones of the skull, prying away each one with a penknife or a pair of scissors. They snip the nerves that tether the brain to the eye and nose. All that is left is the brain encased in its membranes. Next Willis and Lower turn the brain upside down and gently peel away the membranes so as not to damage the delicate nerves and blood vessels at its base. Furrowed and lobed, the brain is liberated, and Willis holds it aloft for his audience to see.

Today, when we look at a brain, we see an intricate network of billions of neurons in constant, crackling communication, a chemical labyrinth that senses the world outside and within, produces love and sorrow, keeps our hearts beating and lungs breathing, composes our thoughts, and constructs our consciousness. To most people in 1662 C.E., however, this would all have sounded quite absurd. When the contemporary English philosopher Henry More wrote about the brain, he declared that 'this lax pith or marrow in man's head shows no more capacity for thought than a cake of suet or a bowl of curds.' The brain, More wrote, was a watery, structureless substance which could not contain the complex workings of the soul. The idea that the frail flesh in our heads was capable of the soul's work was more than just absurd. It bordered on atheism.

If reason, devotion, and love were the work of mortal flesh instead of immaterial spirit, then what would become of the soul after death? What need was there for a soul at all? Henry More put the matter simply: 'No spirit, no God.' Exactly what spirits and soul consisted of and where they could be found were questions that had been asked and re-asked for well over two thousand years. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, most Europeans would have agreed that the soul was the immortal, immaterial essence of a person, which would be saved or damned by God. But the same word could also refer to an intelligence at work throughout the entire body — making it grow to its destined shape, making it warm and alive, reproducing its form in children. Spirits were the instruments used by the soul and body to reach their goals. For many philosophers, alchemists, apothecaries, and mystics, the cosmos also had a soul, which channeled spirits through planets and stars to enact its will -- spirits that could be harnessed by magic or alchemy. With each breath, the world's spirits entered the human body and infused it with life and intelligence, uniting the soul of the microcosm with the soul of the macrocosm. As widely held as all these beliefs were in 1600, they were being steadily undermined. By the end of the 17 century, they would all be either obliterated or fatally wounded, and Thomas Willis and his friends were playing a crucial role in the transformation.

Their grisly work in Beam Hall was the first modern investigation of the nervous system.

Whenever Willis held a brain in his hands and described it to his audience, he did not limit himself to the branchings of nerves and other anatomical details. He showed how the brain's intricate structures could form memories, hatch imaginations, experience dreams. He reconceived thoughts and passions as a chemical storm of atoms. Willis called his brain project a 'Doctrine of the Nerves' and coined a new Latin word for it: neurologie.

Although Willis and his friends were establishing the modern science of the brain, they do not fit the modern definition of a scientist. Some were alchemists who searched out the philosopher's stone so as to be able to communicate with angels. Some were physicians who recommended carved-up puppies for clearing the skin. All of them were seeking signs of God's work in a universe that had become terrifying and alien. They were scarred by civil war and hoped that a new conception of the brain would bring order and tranquility to the world. Their claims were often accepted not so much because they were true (which, fairly often, they were not), but because the world itself had developed an appetite for them. These men of Oxford ushered in a new age, one in which we still live — call it the Neurocentric Age — in which the brain is central not only to the body but to our conception of ourselves. The seventeenth century saw many scientific revolutions, but in some ways the revolution of the brain is its most shattering triumph — and its most intimate. It created a new way of thinking about thinking and a new way of conceiving the soul.

Today, some three hundred forty years later, the Neurocentric Age is more deeply entrenched than ever. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, thousands of neuroscientists follow Willis's trail. They continue to dismantle the brain, but they don't have to pull it from a corpse to do so. Instead, they can scan the positronic glow of neurons recalling the faces of friends, searching for a word, generating anger or bliss, or reading the minds of others. These scientists have started to isolate the molecules that these neurons trade and are manipulating them with drugs. To some extent, we have become comfortable with this new brain. Few will deny that the workings of our minds are the product of billions of neurons organized into clusters and networks, trading trillions of signals with one another every second. We demonstrate our comfort by buying billions of dollars of drugs in the hope of lifting our mood, calming our jitters, or otherwise modifying who we are, simply by boosting or squelching the right neurochemical signals. This comfort may have come too easily. The big business of brain drugs belies science's enormous ignorance about the organ. The maps that neuroscientists make today are like the early charts of the New World with grotesque coastlines and blank interiors. And what little we do know about how the brain works raises disturbing questions about the nature of our selves. In many ways, we are still standing in the circle at Beam Hall, with the odor of discovery in our noses, looking at the brain and wondering what this strange new thing is that Thomas Willis has found.

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