The Brain and the Behavioral Sciences

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The Brain and the Behavioral Sciences

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Title: The Brain and the Behavioral Sciences
Author: Harrington, Anne
Citation: Harrington, Anne. 2009. The brain and the behavioral sciences. In The Cambridge History of Science. Volume 6, The Modern Biological and Earth Sciences, ed. P. J. Bowler and J. V. Pickstone, 504-523. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Abstract: The increasing visibility and sense of intellectual opportunity associated with neuroscience in recent years have in turn stimulated a growing interest in its past. For the first time, a general reference book on the history of science has seen fit to include a review of the history of the brain and behavioral sciences as a thread to be reckoned with within the broader narrative tapestry. On the one hand, this looks like a welcome sign that a new historical subfield has “come of age.” On the other hand, when one settles down to the task of composing a “state of the art” narrative, one realizes just how much these are still early days. The bulk of available secondary literature still swims in a space between nostalgic narratives of great men and moments, big “march of ideas” overviews, and an unsystematic patchwork of more theorized forays by professional historians into specific themes (e.g., phrenology, brain localization, reflex theory).

The challenge of imagining a comprehensive narrative is made all the more formidable by the fact that we are dealing here with a history that resists any easy or clean containment within disciplinary confines. The paper trail of ideas, experiments, clinical innovations, institutional networks, and high-stakes social debates not only moves across obvious sites of activity such as neurology, neurosurgery, and neurophysiology but also traverses fields as (only apparently) distinct as medicine, evolution, social theory, psychology, asylum management, genetics, philosophy, linguistics, anthropology, computer science, and theology.
Published Version: doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521572019.028
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