The man who lost his memory but gave much to neuroscience

By Amy Ellis Nutt, Amy Ellis Nutt is a science writer on the National staff at The Washington Post. Her beat is the brain. Patient H.M. A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets By Luke Dittrich Random House. 440 pp. $28 Before iPhones and thumb drives, before Google docs and gigabytes of RAM, memory was more art than artifact. It wasn’t a tool or a byproduct of being human. It was essential to our character and therefore a powerful theme in both myth and literature. At the end of Book 2 of the “Divine Comedy,” with Paradise nearly in reach, Dante is dipped into the River Lethe, where the sins of the self are washed away in the waters of forgetfulness. To be truly cleansed of his memories, however, Dante…


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