Anatomies by Hugh Aldersey-Williams
A Cultural History of the Human Body

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We have only to read "Anatomies" to realize that the body is still a thing of wonder.
-WSJ online


“A marvelous, organ-by-organ journey through the body eclectic. . . Irresistible [and] impressive.”—John J. Ross, Wall Street Journal

The human body is the most fraught and fascinating, talked-about and taboo, unique yet universal fact of our lives. It is the inspiration for art, the subject of science, and the source of some of the greatest stories ever told. In Anatomies, acclaimed author of Periodic Tales Hugh Aldersey-Williams brings his entertaining blend of science, history, and culture to bear on this richest of subjects.

In an engaging narrative that ranges from ancient body art to plastic surgery today and from head to toe, Aldersey-Williams explores the corporeal mysteries that make us human: Why are some people left-handed and some blue-eyed? What is the funny bone, anyway? Why do some cultures think of the heart as the seat of our souls and passions, while others place it in the liver?

A journalist with a knack for telling a story, Aldersey-Williams takes part in a drawing class, attends the dissection of a human body, and visits the doctor’s office and the morgue. But Anatomies draws not just on medical science and Aldersey-Williams’s reporting. It draws also on the works of philosophers, writers, and artists from throughout history. Aldersey-Williams delves into our shared cultural heritage—Shakespeare to Frankenstein, Rembrandt to 2001: A Space Odyssey—to reveal how attitudes toward the human body are as varied as human history, as he explains the origins and legacy of tattooing, shrunken heads, bloodletting, fingerprinting, X-rays, and more.

From Adam’s rib to van Gogh’s ear to Einstein’s brain, Anatomies is a treasure trove of surprising facts and stories and a wonderful embodiment of what Aristotle wrote more than two millennia ago: “The human body is more than the sum of its parts.”


About Hugh Aldersey-Williams

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Hugh Aldersey-Williams is the author of Periodic Tales, which has been published in ten languages, and The Most Perfect Molecule, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He lives in Norfolk, England.
Published June 3, 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company. 321 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Professional & Technical, History. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Anatomies
All: 3 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Florence Williams on Aug 09 2013

Since we value our minds so far above our bodies, it’s perhaps inevitable that some futurists envision total freedom...But Aldersey-­Williams’s book reminds us that we shouldn’t abandon the ship so fast, that perhaps it is because of our flawed, precious, uncomfortable physicality that our souls are rich and knowing in the first place.

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Reviewed by Gavin Francis on Feb 28 2013

...mark of a science writer is how well those facts are brought together in an innovative and perspective-altering way then Aldersey-Williams has succeeded, creating an impressionistic but relentlessly entertaining cultural history of the human body.

Read Full Review of Anatomies: A Cultural History... | See more reviews from Guardian

WSJ online

Reviewed by JOHN J. ROSS on May 31 2013

We have only to read "Anatomies" to realize that the body is still a thing of wonder.

Read Full Review of Anatomies: A Cultural History... | See more reviews from WSJ online

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