The history of the brain

BBC Radio 4’s legendary history of ideas programme In Our Time takes an in-depth and fascinating look at the history of the brain.

The programme tracks the earliest Western ideas on the function and purpose of the brain from the times of the ancient Greeks.

What’s most fascinating is how some completely false ideas about the brain survived centuries, despite the fact that it would have been easy to see how they were incorrect, if it weren’t for the reluctance to actually do dissection studies on humans.

However, there were rare exceptions in the ancient world. For example, Herophilos and Erasistratus dissected the brains of live criminals!

It’s a wonderfully erudite and in-depth discussion, and thoroughly delightful if you’re interested in the history of the seat of human thought.

Link to webpage with permanent streamed audio (thanks Ben!).
mp3 of programme (disappears after a week).

One Comment

  1. Posted May 10, 2008 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Yes, its true Herophilos of Chalcedon and Erasistratus under the reign of Ptolomy I and Ptolomy II in Alexandria were granted royal permission to make vivisecction on live criminals in jails!
    That´s the reason, i think, they were the pioneers and founders of human scientific anatomy, the fathers of experimental phisiology (Erasistratus) and coined many eponyms. Herophilos named the cells of the brain (neuron)the retina, duodeno etc. and Erasistratus the convolutions of the brain.
    But what surprise me most is that they were philosophers (though now we see them as scientists or physicians foundind the medical science).
    I can´t imagine now any philosopher making dissecctions on corpses in his faculty or department as a part of his curricula.


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