Anatomies: A Cultural History of the Human Body

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W. W. Norton & Company, Jun 3, 2013 - Science - 320 pages
3 Reviews

"A marvelous, organ-by-organ journey through the body eclectic…Irresistible [and] impressive." —John J. Ross, Wall Street Journal

The human body is the most fraught and fascinating, talked-about and taboo, unique yet universal fact of our lives. It is the inspiration for art, the subject of science, and the source of some of the greatest stories ever told. In Anatomies, acclaimed author of Periodic Tales Hugh Aldersey-Williams brings his entertaining blend of science, history, and culture to bear on this richest of subjects.

In an engaging narrative that ranges from ancient body art to plastic surgery today and from head to toe, Aldersey-Williams explores the corporeal mysteries that make us human: Why are some people left-handed and some blue-eyed? What is the funny bone, anyway? Why do some cultures think of the heart as the seat of our souls and passions, while others place it in the liver?

A journalist with a knack for telling a story, Aldersey-Williams takes part in a drawing class, attends the dissection of a human body, and visits the doctor’s office and the morgue. But Anatomies draws not just on medical science and Aldersey-Williams’s reporting. It draws also on the works of philosophers, writers, and artists from throughout history. Aldersey-Williams delves into our shared cultural heritage—Shakespeare to Frankenstein, Rembrandt to 2001: A Space Odyssey—to reveal how attitudes toward the human body are as varied as human history, as he explains the origins and legacy of tattooing, shrunken heads, bloodletting, fingerprinting, X-rays, and more.

From Adam’s rib to van Gogh’s ear to Einstein’s brain, Anatomies is a treasure trove of surprising facts and stories and a wonderful embodiment of what Aristotle wrote more than two millennia ago: "The human body is more than the sum of its parts."


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Carolee888 - LibraryThing

Anatomies : A Cultural History of the Human Body by Hugh Aldersey- Williams is sort of a survey of the cultural background of the body. That means that the subject matter can stretch very far. I ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - 733 - LibraryThing

An enjoyable trawl through the body. Not an extensive biological book, but informative nonetheless. I spent a good fifteen minutes contorting my hand into a silly pose to confirm what I was reading at ... Read full review


The Stomach
The Hand
The Foot
The Skin
Extending the Territory

The Face
The Brain
The Heart
Coming Home

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About the author (2013)

Hugh Aldersey-Williams is the author of many books, including The Tide, Anatomies, Periodic Tales, and The Most Beautiful Molecule, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He lives in Norfolk, England.

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