From King Henri II to Phineas Gage: How Brain Wounds Advanced Neuroscience

Modern neuroscience evolved over the centuries as physicians learned about the brain from horrific head injuries, vexing diseases, and congenital abnormalities. In The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery (Little, Brown and Company), Sam Kean, an award-winning science writer based in Washington, D.C., explores the serendipitous history of brain research. Until the past few decades, neuroscientists waited for brain damages to strike patients and then assessed how the patient’s function was affected. Dueling Neurosurgeons is filled with cases of dreadful wounds, strokes, seizures, genetic anomalies, and bungled operations, as well as seemingly miraculous survivals and incredible resilience. The book’s title comes from the 1559 case that brought the two most prominent physicians in Europe—Andreas Vesalius…


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