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Anatomies: The Human Body, Its Parts and The Stories They Tell
 
 

Anatomies: The Human Body, Its Parts and The Stories They Tell [Kindle Edition]

Hugh Aldersey-Williams
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Review

Magnificent, inspired. Stimulating scientific hypotheses, bold philosophic theories, illuminating quotations and curious facts. I recommend it to all (Daily Telegraph)

Chock-full of insights, rich in detail. Inserts fascinating scientific snippets and anecdotes about our organs into the wider history of our changing understanding of our bodies (The Sunday Times)

Brims with fascinating details, infectious enthusiasm . . . the terrain he covers is so richly brought to life (Guardian)

Elegant and informative. A thing of wonder and a repository of fascinating facts (Mail on Sunday)

Highly recommended (Daily Express)

Product Description

The Sunday Times Science Book of the Year, Anatomies by Hugh Aldersey-Williams, author of bestseller Periodic Tales, is a splendidly entertaining journey through the art, science, literature and history of the human body.



'Magnificent, inspired. He writes like a latter-day Montaigne. Stimulating scientific hypotheses, bold philosophic theories, illuminating quotations and curious facts. I recommend it to all' Telegraph *****



'Splendid, highly entertaining, chock-full of insights ... It inserts fascinating scientific snippets and anecdotes about our organs into the wider history of our changing understanding of our bodies' Sunday Times



'A relentlessly entertaining cultural history of the human body ... brims with fascinating details, infectious enthusiasm ... the terrain he covers is so richly brought to life' Guardian



'Elegant and informative ... For Aldersey-Williams, [the body] is a thing of wonder and a repository of fascinating facts' Mail on Sunday ****



In Anatomies, bestselling author Hugh Aldersey-Williams investigates that marvellous, mysterious form: the human body. Providing a treasure trove of surprising facts, remarkable stories and startling information drawn from across history, science, art and literature - from finger-prints to angel physiology, from Isaac Newton's death-mask to the afterlife of Einstein's brain - he explores our relationship with our bodies and investigates our changing attitudes to the extraordinary physical shell we inhabit.



'More than a science book - it's also history, biography and autobiography - Anatomies is writing at its most refined, regardless of genre' Sunday Times



Praise for Periodic Tales:



'Science writing at its best ... fascinating and beautiful ... if only chemistry had been like this at school ... to meander through the periodic table with him ... is like going round a zoo with Gerald Durrell ... a rich compilation of delicious tales, but it offers greater rewards, too' Matt Ridley



'Immensely engaging and continually makes one sit up in ­surprise' Sunday Times



'Splendid ... enjoyable and polished' Observer



'Full of good stories and he knows how to tell them well ... an agreeable jumble of anecdote, reflection and information' Sunday Telegraph



'Great fun to read and an endless fund of unlikely and improbable anecdotes ... sharp and often witty' Financial Times



Hugh Aldersey-Williams studied natural sciences at Cambridge. He is the author of several books exploring science, design and architecture and has curated exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Wellcome Collection. His previous book Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been published in many languages around the world. He lives in Norfolk with his wife and son.


Product details


More About the Author

I am a writer and curator with interests ranging from science to architecture and design.

My latest book is Anatomies: The Human Body, Its Parts and The Stories They Tell. In it, I examine how our view of the human body is shaped by centuries of cultural tradition as well as recent discoveries made by science.

It follows the bestselling Periodic Tales, which shows how we all know the elements better than we think, without going anywhere near a chemistry laboratory. It has me attempting some frankly bizarre experiments, including trying to extract phosphorus from my own pee (I failed), and buying plutonium over the counter (I succeeded, after a fashion!).

My exhibitions have ranged from the thorny topic of identity (at the Wellcome Collection) to zoomorphic architecture (at the V&A). I'm currently working on an exhibition of artworks related to the chemical elements.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure-Trove. 29 Mar 2013
By Mrs. H. V. Minor VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a fascinating book for the reason that it is written by someone who is not a practising anatomist. Neither are the majority of the rest of us so it starts well! This book is about so much more than anatomy with minimal use of latin terminology that is so off-putting and baffling to meet. I can remember meeting the words "radius" and "ulna" when I broke my arm as an eight-year-old: I felt so proud of understanding their meaning that I brandished them round like a staff of office!! However, the author "won't use 'anterior' where 'front' will do, or 'femur' for 'thigh bone'" because "it seems wrong that the parts of our own bodies should be described in a vocubulary that is alien to us." Hugh Aldersey-Williams writes with great humour: the last sentence of his Introduction is "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go and pee." I love his dedication which consists of the words "To Moira" and a detailed anatomical illustration of the human heart :-) Now that says it all and sets the tone for the book because this is no dry tome about the parts of the body: all human life is here. I turned to the chapter on The Face because that's where most of our days begin, isn't it? . . . looking at our faces in the bathroom mirror and noticing the wrinkle that we could swear wasn't there yesterday. Now, if you want to find information about the structure of the skull and the layers of muscle and tissue that cover it to compose the human face,there are anatomy textbooks that you can refer to. Here you will find out all about the myriad ways in which the human face is perceived, from Francis Galton's systematic investigations into beauty, to the work of Benson and Perrett who discovered that "identifying an individual . . . Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly entertaining read 7 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent thoughtful book. As an old school doctor I had spent time in the dissecting rooms of the anatomy department this book puts cultural flesh on the bare bones of the human structure.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not enough science content 16 Aug 2014
By Brian Clegg TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Author Hugh Aldersey-Williams had a real success with his chemical elements book Periodic Tales, so was faced with the inevitable challenge of what to do next. He has gone for a medical tour of the body, intending to reach into the bits we don’t normally find out about to uncover the hot research topics.

After a quick canter through the history of the way we view our bodies he breaks it down for a bit-by-bit exploration. If I’m honest, basic biology (especially human biology) is not a topic that thrills me, but there is no doubt that Aldersey-Williams manages to bring out some enjoyable, quirky and interesting subjects. Admittedly some of these are covered better elsewhere – so, for instance, his brief foray into what made Einstein’s brain special can’t match Possessing Genius - but the idea that they were already performing nose jobs over 100 years ago or the weirdness of synaesthesia certainly catch the attention.

I like plenty of historical context – and this book has it in spades – but I also like to see a balance of science content, and there it seems a little weak. When we take a journey through the body in Anatomies we certainly get plenty of basic biology, medical aspects and cultural context, but we miss out on so much of the meaty science.

By no means a bad book, but not in the same league as Periodic Tales.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight 14 Aug 2013
By Pompom TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This isn't the first book I've read by Hugh Aldersey-Williams; I have previously enjoyed his Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements. I am a Human Biologist by degree and I loved this book. Highly readable and full of fascinating snippets. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Martin Turner HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Anatomies is a set of essays looking at general aspects of anatomy or specific body parts from the point of view of science, medical history, art, culture and society. Each is interestingly written and informative. However the book lacks a level of incisiveness (or incision?) to lift it above the growing mass of general science writing.

If you love reading, then Anatomies may well be something you want to add to your list. Always interesting and informative, it is a somewhat random walk through medical history and the parts of the body, supplemented with art and culture, and a smattering of religion. Fig leaves, for example, are explored in great depth, not only for their very particular artistic design, but also for the bizarre coincidences of history which led to them being deployed in much semi-nude art from the Renaissance onwards.

However, this book has little to lift it above the level of informational entertainment for the already erudite. For me, it is an interesting read but no more than that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Andy_atGC TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Those wishing to learn a little more about how their bodies and the systems within it actually work, or what can happen when things go awry, may be a little disappointed with this book. It is less about the body itself and more about the history of science, art and discovery as applied to the advancement of knowledge and understanding of the structure and workings of the human body. The version reviewed is an uncorrected proof and incomplete (its illustrations and a listing of them were omitted) and it is therefore difficult to assess the final rendition.

Historically, the workings of the body were little known or understood even in a small way until the 15th Century and much is owed to the anatomical drawings made by Leonardo da Vinci. He broke many taboos by either participating in but certainly by illustrating the body and its internal structures far more precisely than was previously allowed - the Church did not support the concept in general and was especially aghast at his anatomical studies of the pregnant woman and her developing foetus. So detailed and accurate were his drawings that many continue to be used to this day in modern books on medicine and anatomy.

Much is owed to him and it could be said that upon the backbone of his scientific-artistic studies followed many others determined to answer previously unanswered questions. Da Vinci was less concerned with function than structure or form and limited his works to that which was immediately apparent. Little further was achieved until the 17-18th Centuries, until when little was understood and much based upon quackery and unfounded theories - hence the frequent use of leeches and blood-letting as cures for many ills, and after which the pace fastened until almost every last historical question had been answered.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book.
Published 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book linking science with stories about the human body
Not quite as good as his Periodic Table book, perhaps because it feels a little overwritten at times. It's hard to keep the same detachment when writing about people. Read more
Published 4 months ago by AVIDRDR
2.0 out of 5 stars An Anatomical Pot-boiler
Started well, but soon became verbose and not particularly informative - although there were a few nuggets of interesting information they were thinly distributed amongst the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by MR K TAYLOR
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite, no very interesting
It always surprises me how little I know about my own subjects. This book is full of interesting vinaigrettes about the culture of the human body. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Simon Nixon
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing
The vague subtitle of this book ("The Stories They Tell" part) does not really let the potential reader guess that this is an anthropological exploration of the human body unitised... Read more
Published 9 months ago by coronaurora
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing book
This book was a big disappointment for me. I was expecting more scientific and medical information on the function of the tissues and organs that make up the human body. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Roger
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Science Book
Having read his book Periodic Tales and really enjoyed this, I was really looking forward to this one. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Half Man, Half Book
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to tackle
A really brilliant book, written in an easy and entertaining way without being flippant or below the level of the target audience. Read more
Published 13 months ago by A. Horner
5.0 out of 5 stars Anatomies
In Anatomies Hugh Aldersey-Williams takes a long, hard look at the gruesome glory that is the human body. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Erin Britton
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, not what I expected
This book more discusses social reactions to part of the body and the theory of how these were constructed over time. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Steph W
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