Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery Of The Brain — and How It Changed The World, by Carl Zimmer.
I really enjoyed Zimmer’s earlier book about parasitology, Parasite Rex, and the short articles at his web site The Loom are very cool. So I figured I’d like Soul Made Flesh, too. But alas, I neglected to take into account exactly what this book was about. It’s not a book about science, really; it’s a book about the history of science — specifically, the origins of modern neurology.
And like most history-of-science books, it necessarily spends a lot of time on… history. In this case, since Zimmer is focusing on a guy named Thomas Willis, of the Royal Society of London, we’re talking about 17th century English history. Oliver Cromwell, Charles II, etc. Never my favorite subject. Even when Neal Stephenson tarted it up in his Baroque Cycle novels, I really couldn’t get excited about that period. About halfway through Soul Made Flesh, I found myself skimming over all the politics and world events and slowing down only for the brief sections of actual science.
Overall it was a worthwhile read, but for his next book I hope Zimmer goes back to writing about present-day science.