Review of Carl Zimmer, Soul made Flesh: the discovery of the brain [Book Review]

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In telling the story of Thomas Willis and the collective investigations of body and brain in 17th-century England with tremendous energy and enthusiasm, journalist Carl Zimmer has written one of the best recent books of popular history of science. The full range of readers will be rewarded by Zimmer’s synthetic scholarship and his evident pleasure in the language of the primary texts. While he owes much to the work of Robert Frank and Robert Martensen in particular, Zimmer has negotiated a vast secondary literature on the major figures of early modern natural philosophy. His decision not to discuss scholarly controversy directly, but rather ‘to give accounts of these people that were consistent with the current consensus’ (p.304) is understandable given the mass market at which he has successfully aimed: yet such a voice would bring a welcome freshness to specialists’ debates.
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