The Idea of the Brain: A History (Paperback)Professor Matthew Cobb (author)
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The workings of the brain have fascinated scientists for centuries and, in this exhaustive yet highly engaging history of our quest for neurological knowledge, Cobb asserts that we may be closer to a full understanding of the organ than we think.
Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2020
This is the story of our quest to understand the most mysterious object in the universe: the human brain.
Today we tend to picture it as a computer. Earlier scientists thought about it in their own technological terms: as a telephone switchboard, or a clock, or all manner of fantastic mechanical or hydraulic devices. Could the right metaphor unlock the its deepest secrets once and for all?
Galloping through centuries of wild speculation and ingenious, sometimes macabre anatomical investigations, scientist and historian Matthew Cobb reveals how we came to our present state of knowledge. Our latest theories allow us to create artificial memories in the brain of a mouse, and to build AI programmes capable of extraordinary cognitive feats.
A complete understanding seems within our grasp. But to make that final breakthrough, we may need a radical new approach. At every step of our quest, Cobb shows that it was new ideas that brought illumination. Where, he asks, might the next one come from? What will it be?
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Number of pages: 480
Weight: 399 g
Dimensions: 196 x 128 x 36 mm
'An intellectual tour de force, and a brilliant demonstration of how a historical approach is often the best way of explaining difficult scientific problems ... Cobb combines scholarship with clarity to a remarkable degree ... For anybody who wants to understand the depths of our understanding of our brains, and our even deeper ignorance, I cannot recommend this book strongly enough.' - Henry Marsh
'Sweeping and electrifyingly sceptical' - James McConnachie, The Sunday Times
'The story of the most complex object in the universe has never been told with greater clarity, insight and wit. Charting the route to future discoveries, this is a masterpiece.' - Adam Rutherford
'Humanity's quest to understand the brain has led us to some of our most important ideas, but as the eminent science writer Matthew Cobb shows in his riveting, eye-opening book, that isn't all it gave us. In fact, the road to our hi-tech present was strewn with brutes, eccentrics - and victims. Highly entertaining and deeply authoritative, this is the rare science book that knows both the value of knowledge and its price. Read it.' - Paul Mason
'Not only is this a work of phenomenal erudition, but it has the rare distinction among books on the brain of promoting no premature "explanation" of how this astonishingly complicated organ does its job. Instead, Cobb offers an honest appraisal both of what we know and what is still a mystery. There is no better primer to one of the most profound questions facing science today: how matter creates thought and consciousness.' - Philip Ball
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