Monday, September 13, 2010

When Did Textbook Neuroscience Get Its Start?

How do you count revolutions in a science?

One of the signs that your work has become part of the prevailing paradigm is that your findings appear in a textbook. It would stand to reason that uncovering a field's first textbook would reveal its first paradigm and that the progressive displacement of content across textbooks would reveal paradigm shifts.

We normally think of textbooks as being a fairly recent form of (very lucrative) publication. But textbooks have been around for a very long time. The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus of ancient Egypt records some of the earliest neurological observations. Galen's writings are some of the earliest we have on Greek and Roman medicine (Galen was a Roman).

Which of Galen's treatises would an ancient student of the brain go to as their authority? Not being a Galen scholar, I don't know the answer to this question, but it would be nice to know. The answer to this question might not only point to the dawn of neuroscience, but to its first revolution as well.