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Hardcover | Out of Print | 368 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 59 b&w illus. | September 2009 | ISBN: 9780262013383
Paperback | $47.00 X | £39.95 | 368 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 59 b&w illus. | January 2012 | ISBN: 9780262517331
eBook | $33.00 X | January 2012 | ISBN: 9780262259668
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A Hole in the Head

More Tales in the History of Neuroscience


Neuroscientist Charles Gross has been interested in the history of his field since his days as an undergraduate. A Hole in the Head is the second collection of essays in which he illuminates the study of the brain with fascinating episodes from the past. This volume’s tales range from the history of trepanation (drilling a hole in the skull) to neurosurgery as painted by Hieronymus Bosch to the discovery that bats navigate using echolocation.

The emphasis is on blind alleys and errors as well as triumphs and discoveries, with ancient practices connected to recent developments and controversies. Gross first reaches back into the beginnings of neuroscience, then takes up the interaction of art and neuroscience, exploring, among other things, Rembrandt’s “Anatomy Lesson” paintings, and finally, examines discoveries by scientists whose work was scorned in their own time but proven correct in later eras.

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).


“Readers not familiar with Gross' other works should read them along with the entertaining, stimulating, and informative chapters in A Hole in the Head.”—Helen Bynum, The Journal of the American Medical Association


“A delight and a treasure-trove. As expected from Charles Gross’s earlier historical writings, this is a marvelous temporal travelogue, from the Greeks to contemporary scientists, and with many surprises along the way. All of it is invaluable to the historian of neuroscience, but it also includes closely-argued discussion of some contemporary issues. Of special interest is the section on scientists who were ‘before their time,’ some of whom are still waiting for their time in the spotlight. A hole-in-one several times over.”
Lawrence Weiskrantz, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Oxford