STANFORD UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR BIOMEDICAL ETHICS AND THE STANFORD BRAIN RESEARCH INSTITUTE
PRESENT A SPECIAL LECTURE
Soul Made Flesh: The Birth of Our Neurocentric Age
In our own brain-centered time, with so many developments in neuroimaging, cognitive neuroscience, and psychopharmacology, it's easy to forget that only four centuries ago the brain was generally considered essentially useless. It was only in the seventeenth century that the brain was recognized the chemical engine of reason, passions, and other aspects of human life. This seismic shift in our understanding of human nature was the result of many different influences--the mechanization of the world by the scientific revolution, the challenge that alchemy posed to traditional accounts of medicine and matter, and the shifting conception of the soul produced by Europe's religious turbulence. An examination of some of the central figures in this revolution--in particular, Thomas Willis, the English physician who coined the term neurology--reveals this episode in scientific history as a distant mirror, allowing us to see reflections of our own struggles with our changing view of the brain and self today.
Carl Zimmer currently writes for magazines including National Geographic, Science, Newsweek, and Natural History and is recipient of several journalism prizes.
The New York Times Book Review calls Carl Zimmer "as fine a science essayist as we have." His first book, At the Water's Edge (1999) followed scientists as they tackled two of the most intriguing evolutionary puzzles of all: how fish walked ashore, and how whales returned to the sea. It was followed in 2000 by Parasite Rex, a book that explores the bizarre world of nature's most successful life forms. In 2001 he published Evolution: The Triumph of An Idea, the companion volume to a PBS television series. It was named one of the best science books of the year by both Discover and New Scientist. His new book, Soul Made Flesh, is about the dawn of neurology in the 1600s.