Zimmer has mapped out how the human brain was revealed to
scientists in the latter half of seventeenth century England.
book, Soul Made Flesh, tells the story of Thomas Willis,
the founder of modern neurology and a largely forgotten figure,
was at the heart of a group of natural philosophers known
as the Oxford Circle who revealed the brain's machinations
through a series of rather gory experiments.
told the BBC Bristol website: "I started to wonder how
long people had been thinking about the brain in the same
way as we do: as this three-pound chemical reactor that produces
our thoughts, emotions and sense of self.
I probed the history of neurology, I was fascinated by the
alien concepts people had about the brain 350 years ago, and
how rapidly their views soon changed to mirror those of our
for the tome included the usual library study and expert analysis.
the author went one step further: "I
even went to a brain dissection at a medical school in New
wanted to see real brains up close."
took over from Stephen Jay Gould as monthly essayist in the
US magazine Natural History, and is coming to Bristol to talk
about his work in April.
are only three UK dates on the tour, so feel privileged.
be talking about how the brain changed in the mid-1600s from
being considered nothing but a "bowl of curds", in the words
of the English philosopher Henry More, to the seat of the
working on my three books, I became more and more interested
in the history behind today's scientific breakthroughs, and
I was ready to write a book focused mainly on historical figures.
of my work has been organized around evolution, and the human
brain is certainly one of the most remarkable products of
that process," he said.
expect any more missives just yet from Zimmer: "When
I wrote the proposal for Soul Made Flesh in 2001, my
first child was not yet born.
my second is three months old. So I'm going to need some extra
time before leaping into the next book."
about the book, psychologist
Oliver Sacks said: "Willis was the first man to come
to grips with the human brain, to see how different parts
of it had different functions, and how the human soul could
be embodied in it.
the book, Zimmer gives a remarkable account of England's 'genius
century', and of the intertwined lives of Willis and his contemporaries."
Zimmer will be at Blackwell's on Park Street on Tuesday 6th
April at 7pm.
are £2 and are available instore.