The enchanted loom: chapters in the history of neuroscience

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Pietro Corsi
Oxford University Press, 1991 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 383 pages
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In 1747, Julien Offroy de La Mettrie anonymously published a pamphlet that scandalized Europe. The Dutch government, the most tolerant in Europe, decreed its destruction, and made every effort to learn who wrote it. La Mettrie fled to Berlin, where he was forced to live in exile for the rest of his life. His crime? He had argued that thought was produced by the brain--a dangerous assault, in the eyes of his contemporaries, on the soul. Not for the last time, the science of the human mind had outgrown human imagination. Written by an international team of scientists, The Enchanted Loom offers a sweeping look at the history of neuroscience from the philosophy of Aristotle to the advent of Artificial Intelligence. This collection of accessible, intriguing essays is supplemented by over 350 spectacular illustrations, many in color, with thorough and informative captions written by the scientists themselves. The authors discuss Descartes's contributions to thought about the brain, alongside brilliant artistic studies of the central nervous system that he and masters like da Vinci executed. They show how phrenology--the long discredited study of skull shape and mental faculties--actually represented a breakthrough in thinking about localized brain functions, and how the advent of the microscope and other equipment led to new discoveries. The contributors bring the story up to the present day, unfolding the emergence of the modern neurosciences, advances in molecular biology, and the debate over how infants learn language. In addition, the book offers a short history of computers and recent thought about whether the mind works like computer software. Noted contributors include Larry Squire, writing on memory; Solomon Snyder, discussing psychopharmacology; and John Dowling on vision. Colorful, intelligent, informative, The Enchanted Loom offers an authoritative and enjoyable look at the history of a complex and fascinating science.

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About the author (1991)

About the Author
Pietro Corsi teaches at the University of Cassino, Italy.

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