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The history of the brain

Can anyone point to a good history of the brain that goes through the various ways we’ve thought about it, particularly in the West, from Aristotle thinking it was designed to cool the blood, up through our modern idea that it’s an information processor?

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7 Responses to “The history of the brain”

  1. Seems obvious but you didn’t specifically rule it out:

  2. David, the Apture function for your blog is neat and all, but it’s very annoying that I can’t just click a link any more and actually go to the website in question. Your argument about the web’s generosity, pointing people away from your own site via links, is defeated if the link won’t let me get away.

    (Disclaimer: there may be a way to outwit the Apture window, but so far it hasn’t become obvious to me.)

  3. dave, now you’re just trying to make me look bad! I mean: D’oh! And thanks!

    AKMA, hmm. Sorry you find it annoying, and I can certainly see your point of view. OTOH, the Apture window brings multiple sources closer to the reader. It is indeed of less value — and perhaps negative value — when it shows only one source, since you might as well just go straight to Wikipedia (for example) than be shown the Wikipedia summary. (Note that you can always click on the link in the Apture window to go to the original source.) When the window shows more than one source, I think it’s probably doing something generally helpful. I’ll see if there’s a way to stop it from doing its automatic linking of Wikipedia articles when that’s the only thing it’s pointing to.

    [slightly later] AKMA: I’ve removed the autoinsertion of Wikipedia links. There was an option in the settings. Thanks for the nudge.

  4. I don’t know if you’ve found this yet, but here is a brief timeline from the PBS show The Secret Life of the Brain:

    Anything by Antonio Damasio (“Descartes’ Error,” “Looking for Spinoza,” etc.) provides a pretty good philosophical and historical grounding. Also, Maryanne Wolf’s “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain” does reach back to Socrates. I’ve read mixed reviews of “Proust and the Squid,” but I have a colleague who took a class with her (and read the book) and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    I have not seen a comprehensive history of the brain (as an organ) like you are looking for, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’d be interested to find out if you find something else….

  5. Hi,

    I work for a TV station in Canada, and we’re doing a special week of programming on the brain.

    Check out our site:

    On it, there is an area where you can ask Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, researcher and author, questions about the brain.

    He might be able to help.

    There are some other resources on the website that might help, too.

    Let me know if there’s anything you’re interested in that we might be able to help with.

    Mike Miner


  7. Here’s a suggestion:

    “On deep history and the brain” by Daniel Smail
    University of California Press. 2007.

    Deals with the evolution of the brain from ‘pre-history” to the present.
    Well written. Tough questions. Undogmatic.

    Milverton Wallace

Web Joho only

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