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The Idea of the Brain: A History

Matthew Cobb

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Popular science

The history of brain research, from antiquity to the cutting edge of neuroscience

This is the story of our quest to understand the most mysterious object in the universe. Today we tend to picture the brain 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 brain's 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?

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Praise for The Idea of the Brain: A History

  • Praise for - Life's Greatest Secret

  • Matthew Cobb is a respected scientist and historian, and he has combined both disciplines to spectacular effect in this compelling, authoritative and insightful account of how life works at the deepest level. It's a bloody brilliant book'

  • Rich, thrilling and thorough, this is the definitive history of arguably the greatest of all scientific revolutions' - Creation

  • Life's Greatest Secret is the logical sequel to Jim Watson's The Double Helix. While Watson and Crick deserve

  • their plaudits for discovering the structure of DNA, that was only part of the story. Beginning to understand how

  • that helix works - how its DNA code is turned into bodies and behaviors - took another 15 years of amazing work by an army of dedicated men and women. These are the unknown heroes of modern genetics, and their tale is the

  • subject of Cobb's fascinating book.' - Why Evolution is True

  • Most people think the race to sequence the human genome culminated at the 2000 White House "Mission

  • Accomplished" announcement. In Matthew Cobb's Life's Greatest Secret, we learn that it was just one chapter of a

  • far more interesting and continuing story. - The Patient Will See You Now

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