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January 4, 1985

A History of Neurophysiology in the 17th and 18th Centuries: From Concept to Experiment

Author Affiliations

Veterans Hospital Vanderbilt University Nashville, Tenn


by Mary A. B. Brazier, 230 pp, 101 illus, $65, New York, Raven Press, 1984.

JAMA. 1985;253(1):86. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03350250094038

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Mary Brazier, a well-known neuroscientist, has produced an excellent review of the scientific developments between 1600 and 1800 that led to the formation of the discipline of neurophysiology in the 19th century. She uses the lives of major scientific figures to build a narrative of scientific progress. For each scientist, Dr Brazier lists a few pertinent facts such as place of birth, education, vocation, and scientific honors, but restricts evaluation of the person's scientific investigations to those aspects that bear on the nervous system. For example, Dr Brazier bypasses the philosophical and mathematical accomplishments of Descartes to concentrate on his view of how the pineal gland might control the flow of animal spirits (CSF) from the brain ventricles through brain and nerves to inflate contracting muscles.

The reader of the book will soon realize that Dr Brazier has examined a prodigious amount of original material in Latin, English, German, French,