The Wisdom of the Body

Overview

Dr. Sherwin Nuland offers a mesmerizing portrait of the tumultuous universe within us: the turbulence of chemistry, the seeming chaos of tissue, the volatile responsiveness of cells. And he shows how, amazingly, the stability of health rides on these tempests. But the real secret of our species' survival lies in how we have transcended mere survival: how we have made use of our unique biology to travel the long road from the creature Homo to the human being. That journey is the central story of The Wisdom of the ...
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Overview

Dr. Sherwin Nuland offers a mesmerizing portrait of the tumultuous universe within us: the turbulence of chemistry, the seeming chaos of tissue, the volatile responsiveness of cells. And he shows how, amazingly, the stability of health rides on these tempests. But the real secret of our species' survival lies in how we have transcended mere survival: how we have made use of our unique biology to travel the long road from the creature Homo to the human being. That journey is the central story of The Wisdom of the Body: how we have developed the singular quality that makes each of us unique - the human spirit.

"...a mesmerizing portrait of the tumultuous universe within us; the turbulence of chemistry, the seeming chaos of tissue and the volatile responsiveness of cells...describes how we developed the singular quality that makes each of us unique.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This latest book by the author of the National Book Award-winning bestseller How We Die could have been titled How We Live. Instead, Nuland, clinical professor of surgery at Yale University, borrows a title used variously by several luminaries of a previous biomedical era (Ernest Starling, Walter B. Cannon and Sir Charles Sherrington) to conceptually encapsulate his contemporary overview of the complex, coordinated processes that sustain the body's exquisite balancing act. Into each chapter, Nuland weaves a clinical story meant to illuminate and focus the subject, and to grip the reader in a drama of the body's sometimes desperate attempts to maintain its internal balance, to stay alive. Communication is the key. "The total of the entire concatenation of constant messages and fine-tuning answers is the sum of biological life." Nuland's treatment of topics as complex as cell biology and neurophysiology is accessible, accurate and sprinkled with bits of quotable information (e.g., the body contains "two and a half square feet" of cerebral cortex, with "10 billion neurons and 60 trillion synapses"). The words "human spirit" crop up repeatedly and point to what seems to be an overarching intent of the author: to articulate a sort of rational religion of human biology, in which the wondrous workings of the body's molecules, cells and organs are viewed with proper awe, even reverence: "The unheard din of living is the symphony before which the chorale of the spirit soars in song." If Nuland occasionally gives in to hyperbole, he is so engaging and informative that he will quickly be forgiven. Illustrations not seen by PW. 200,000 first printing. (May)
Library Journal
In this engrossing book, Nuland, author of the prize-winning How We Die, has turned his medical knowledge to the wonder of life. He offers a lucid anatomical and physiological tour of the human body, from cells and DNA to tissues and organs, reinforcing the sense of wonder with strategic case studies from his medical experience at Yale Medical School. Interspersed throughout is a discussion of the gnawing issue of what constitutes the mystery of life: How do biochemical interactions explain the quintessence of Homo sapiens? Nuland presents a formidable set of scientific facts and gives us much to ponder concerning our spirituality. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/97.]James Swanton, Harlem Hosp. Lib., New York
Kirkus Reviews
From the author of the National Book Awardwinning How We Die (1994), another eloquent, thought-provoking dissertation, this time on what we are.

Having clarified the mysterious process of dying in his previous, bestselling book, surgeon Nuland now explores the wondrous miracle of living. The essence of human life for Nuland is the human spirit, a quality that is inseparable from the body. To understand the human spirit, one must look at the human body. Nuland does this with style. After opening with a dramatic demonstration of a body responding to a life-threatening event, in this case an aneurysm of the splenic artery, he considers each of the body's diverse processes, explaining their workings in clear and precise language. Each chapter is both a lucid anatomy or physiology lecture and a compelling story of a challenge to the organ or system being described. Thus in the chapter on the lymphatic system, a six-months-pregnant woman learns that her breast cancer has spread to her lymph nodes; "A Child Is Born" segues from conception and embryonic development to the very personal story of the birth of Nuland's own son; and elsewhere, a description of the digestive system is followed by a harrowing account of emergency surgery on a young diabetic woman with a near-fatal intestinal infection. He saves the mind for last, describing it as a property of "unimaginable glory," which brings him back to the human spirit, a product of the mind's mutiple levels of awareness. "There is no need to invoke either a higher power or magic. We need only invoke what is in our human cells—the highest power and the greatest magic that has ever awed a wonder-struck observer of its magnificence."

To read this book is to share his awe.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679460022
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/29/1997
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: 2 Cassettes
  • Edition number: 1
  • Product dimensions: 4.36 (w) x 6.95 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 The Will to Live 3
2 The Constant Sea Within Maintains the Constancy Within 28
3 Of Nymphs, Lymph, and Courage in the Face of Cancer 45
4 Sympathy and the Nervous System 65
5 The Fundamental Unit of Life: The Cell 98
6 Biology, Destiny, and Free Will 126
7 The Act of Love 154
8 A Child is Born 178
9 The Heart of the Matter 208
10 The Blood Is the Life 249
11 A Voyage through the Gut 280
12 Mining the Mind: The Brain and Human Nature 326
Epilogue 355
Glossary 371
Index 381
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