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Hardcover | Out of Print | 273 pp. | 7 x 9 in | March 1998 | ISBN: 9780262071864
Paperback | $35.00 X | £27.95 | 273 pp. | 7 x 9 in | July 1999 | ISBN: 9780262571357
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Brain, Vision, Memory

Tales in the History of Neuroscience


Charles G. Gross is an experimental neuroscientist who specializes in brain mechanisms in vision. He is also fascinated by the history of his field. In these tales describing the growth of knowledge about the brain from the early Egyptians and Greeks to the present time, he attempts to answer the question of how the discipline of neuroscience evolved into its modern incarnation through the twists and turns of history.

The first essay tells the story of the visual cortex, from the first written mention of the brain by the Egyptians, to the philosophical and physiological studies by the Greeks, to the Dark Ages and the Renaissance, and finally, to the modern work of Hubel and Wiesel. The second essay focuses on Leonardo da Vinci's beautiful anatomical work on the brain and the eye: was Leonardo drawing the body observed, the body remembered, the body read about, or his own dissections? The third essay derives from the question of whether there can be a solely theoretical biology or biologist; it highlights the work of Emanuel Swedenborg, the eighteenth-century Swedish mystic who was two hundred years ahead of his time. The fourth essay entails a mystery: how did the largely ignored brain structure called the "hippocampus minor" come to be, and why was it so important in the controversies that swirled about Darwin's theories? The final essay describes the discovery of the visual functions of the temporal and parietal lobes. The author traces both developments to nineteenth-century observations of the effect of temporal and parietal lesions in monkeys—observations that were forgotten and subsequently rediscovered.

About the Author

Charles G. Gross, a neuroscientist specializing in vision and the functions of the cerebral cortex, is Professor of Psychology at Princeton University. He is the author of Brain, Vision, Memory: Tales in the History of Neuroscience (MIT Press, 1998).


“Charlie Gross has written a fascinating set of essays, full of important historical knowledge, and enriched with colorful vignettes. His peice on the 'hippocampus minor; is destined to become a classic. The historical range is very great—from the Egyptians to contemporary work, including developments to which he has himself contributed. Anyone interested in the history of neuroscience will be engrossed.”
Lawrence Weiskrantz, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Oxford
“The question is: can humans ever fully comprehend their own brains? This delightful and deeply informative history of past attempts gives little reason for confidence. Charles Gross provides an incisive account of the often misguided efforts by scientists and philosophers to understand the biological basis of vision and memory—an account that should encourage today's neuroscientists to search carefully for their own misconceptions and follies.”
Dr. Torsten N. Wiesel, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, The Rockefeller University
“This unique collection of essays will be a delight to neuroscientists and cognitive scientists. Drawing especially on examples from vision, Gross tells how our understanding of the brain grew over the centuries to the point when today's neuroscientists began their work.”
Larry R. Squire, PhD, Research Career Scientist, VA Medical Center, San Diego and Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, University of California School of Medicine
“Brain lovers are in for a rare treat: here's a brain book that is filled with historical treasures and is a pure pleasure to read besides. An eminent neuroscientist, the author also turns out to be a master sleuth of forgotten facts as well as a thoroughly entertaining teller of tales.”
Mortimer Mishkin, Laboratory of Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health
“Gross's tales of the history of neuroscience can be warmly recommended to all students of the brain, but especially to those who believe that history began when they were undergraduates. Informative and amusing in equal part, Gross is as fair to those who were wildly wrong as to those who were (relatively) right.... Never less than fascinating.”
John C. Marshall, Nature