Brain Matters

What lies inside the brain, and what matters to the brain, occupies us this month, with rich resources both on the Web and off.

Hyungkoo Lee was born in Pohang, Korea in 1969. He received his MFA from Yale University School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award in 2002. Starting with his own body, he produces cartoon-like figures which function as avatars of the human skeleton. Rather than a studio, he works in a laboratory with white-clothed technicians. See the results here: and a critical analysis here:

In a new book, Nick Veasey shows his photographs of the insides and outsides of objects, both human and not, which he develops in a lead-lined room and then alters on a computer.,29307,1719207_1543578,00.html

In 1962 Dr. David L. Bassett published a 25-volume set called "Stereoscopic Atlas of Human Anatomy". Included were 1500 pairs of slides and drawings which were to be viewed with the three-dimensional "View Master" invented by William Gruber. Out of print since then, the series is being revived by the Stanford University School of Medicine and will be made available online. Some of the original pieces are available here: John Schwartz' New York Times article on the process is here:

Henrietta Leavitt is one of the unsung heroes of Astronomy. Born in 1868, she attended Radcliffe College and was deaf for most of her life. Leavitt worked at the Harvard University Observatory studying stars for a salary of 30 cents per hour. Her discoveries in the area of variable stars are considered ground-breaking, and yet very little remains in the historical record about her. George Johnson has written a slim volume entitled, "Miss Leavitt's Stars" (2005) in an attempt to bring her accomplishments back into the historical fold. Subtitled "The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe", it is part of W. W. Norton's Great Discoveries Series and well worth your time.

Finally, for lovers of history and biography, David McCullough has given us "Truman", an astonishing picture of a man and his era. (Simon and Schuster, paperback, 1993) McCullough received both a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and has been described as a "master of the art of narrative history". The book was made into a movie for television in 1995 - it starred Gary Sinise and won an Emmy Award.

At over 900 pages it may seem a daunting task but the story flows so effortlessly that it is hard to put down. If you have any questions about how the Presidency is won, this is the book to read. The chaos of democracy is in full flower here, but somehow the process works. With the pitched battle between Obama and Clinton raging now, this account of the road to White Housedom makes compelling reading.

In his moving acceptance speech for the National Book Award, McCullough said, "We, in our time, are raising a new generation of Americans who, to an alarming degree, are historically illiterate. The situation is serious and sad. And it is quite real, let there be no mistake. It has been coming on for a long time, like a creeping disease, eating away at the national memory. While the clamorous popular culture races on, the American past is slipping away, out of site and out of mind. We are losing our story, forgetting who we are and what it's taken to come this far." Read his entire speech here:

c.Corinne Whitaker 2008