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Anatomies: The Human Body, Its Parts and The Stories They Tell Paperback – 7 Feb 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (7 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670920746
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670920747
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 3 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 376,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My new book, The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne in the 21st Century, was published in May 2015. Browne was an extraordinary figure of the 17th century - a physician, a philosopher, and writer and a myth buster. His prose is some of the finest in the English language, and he has been admired by many writers, from Samuel Johnson to Virginia Woolf to Javier Marías. My book seeks to reclaim Browne from academic obscurity, and to show how his ideas - about science, nature, religion and tolerance - are as relevant now as they were during his own troubled times.

I am a writer and curator with interests ranging from science to architecture and design. My previous books include the bestselling Periodic Tales, which shows how we all know the elements better than we think without going anywhere near a chemistry laboratory, and Anatomies: The Human Body, Its Parts and The Stories They Tell.

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 that will open at Compton Verney, Warwickshire, in the autumn of 2015.

Product Description

Review

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 ****)

About the Author

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.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. H. V. Minor VINE VOICE on 29 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Silver Surfer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 April 2013
Format: Paperback 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Martin Turner HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 July 2013
Format: Paperback 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dr James Salvin-Keech on 7 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback 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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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Anatomies is one of those books that is surprisingly difficult to put down, packed full as it is with both scholarly detail and fascinating trivia about the human anatomy.

Hugh Aldersey-Williams looks at many historical references and beliefs, some well-known, such as the heart being the seat of emotion, others not so well-known (Washington died through over-enthusiastic blood-letting).

There are so many different sources and references throughout the book that you have to admire the organisation of the author in putting it all together. It could have been a real mish-mash of information, but instead there is a logical progression through the different parts of the body, as well as an overall view of anatomy and dissection.

The book begins with a look at a famous painting, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp, and its portrayal of a partially dissected cadaver. Even here Hugh spots something that countless commentators seem to have missed.
The hand and arm are dissected; but the odd angle of Tulp's hand as he addresses his audience seems to suggest that he was actually demonstrating how tendons in the arm are used to move the fingers. When you hold your hand at that angle you can feel this for yourself.

It's that level of thought and reflection that makes this book such an interesting read. Suitable for older teenagers (15+) onwards, it is a useful source of extra information for science students.
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