History of neuroscience

Neurophilosophy

Category archives for History of neuroscience

Neurocriminology in prohibition-era New York

NEW York City in the 1920s and ’30s was a hotbed of criminal activity. Prohibition laws banning the production, sale and distribution of alcohol had been introduced, but instead of reducing crime, they had the opposite effect. Gangsters organized themselves and seized control of the alcohol distribution racket, smuggling first cheap rum from the Caribbean,…

Meet Phineas Gage

THE daguerreotype on the right is believed to be the only known image of railroad worker Phineas Gage, who was enshrined in the history of neuroscience one day in September, 1848, when a large iron rod he was using to tamp gunpowder into a hole in a rock caused an explosion and was propelled through…

Christopher Wren & the architecture of the brain

The current issue of Nature contains an interesting article about Sir Christopher Wren’s contribution to neuroanatomy, by art historians Martin Kemp and Nathan Flis of Oxford University. The article focuses on the anatomical illustrations produced by Wren for Thomas Willis’s 1664 book Cerebri Anatome (The Anatomy of the Brain). This was a landmark publication in…

Wilder Penfield, Neural Cartographer

The patient lies on the operating table, with the right side of his body raised slightly. The anaesthetist sterilizes his scalp and injects it with Nupercaine to produce analgesia – the patient will remain fully conscious throughout the procedure. Behind the surgical drapes, three large incisions are made in his scalp. A large flap of…

The notorious Australian bushranger Edward “Ned” Kelly was apprehended in 1878, following a confrontation during which he and his gang killed three policemen. Upon his arrest, Kelly was thus described by the police: 5’10″ tall, weight 11st 4lbs, medium build, sallow complexion, dark brown hair, hazel eyes, scar on top of head, two scars on…

Prehistoric Inca neurosurgery

The procedure known as trepanation, in which a hole is scraped or drilled in the skull, is an ancient form of neurosurgery that has been performed since the late Stone Age. Exactly why ancient peoples performed trepanation has remained a matter of debate: some researchers argue that it was performed for medical reasons, as it…

A history of ideas about the brain

In Thursday’s episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme  In Our Time, presenter Melvyn Bragg was joined by Vivian Nutton, Jonathan Sawday and Marina Wallace (professors of the history of medicine, English and art, respectively) for a fascinating discussion about the history of the brain. The 45-minute programme, which can be downloaded as a RealPlayer…

Tools of the brain trade, past & present

Jennifer Ouellette reports from a month-long program on the anatomy, development and evolution of the brain, at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, with a fantastic post called Tools of the brain trade. Inspired by a talk given by Winifred Denk, about reconstructing brain circuitry using serial electron microscopy, Jennifer’s post covers the discovery by…

19th century papier mache model brain

Image: Phisick Antique Medical Collection This highly detailed papier mache model of the human brain, which can be pulled apart to reveal labelled and numbered structures within, was created by the French physician Louis Thomas Jerome Auzoux (1797-1880). In the early 19th century, human cadavers for the study of anatomy were in short supply. The…

The Best of Neurophilosophy

For the benefit of new readers, I’ve selected what I think are the best posts from this blog.