Leonardo's Foot: How 10 Toes, 52 Bones, and 66 Muscles Shaped the Human World

Leonardo's Foot: How 10 Toes, 52 Bones, and 66 Muscles Shaped the Human World

by Carol Ann Rinzler
     
 

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A Selection of the Scientific American, History, and BOMC2 Book Clubs

“An in-depth look at the anatomy and history of feet reveals their often overlooked importance in human evolution, medicine and art.” —Science News

“Stylish, informative, entertaining, and pleasantly personal . . . Whether Rinzler is

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Overview

A Selection of the Scientific American, History, and BOMC2 Book Clubs

“An in-depth look at the anatomy and history of feet reveals their often overlooked importance in human evolution, medicine and art.” —Science News

“Stylish, informative, entertaining, and pleasantly personal . . . Whether Rinzler is exploring how our feet explain or illuminate such topics as evolution, disability, racism, diet, or desire, she maintains a fascinating perspective on the peculiarities of being human.” —Rain Taxi Review of Books

“This neat little book draws a clear picture of our feet, providing understanding that extends far beyond the obvious. Readers often like to walk away from a book feeling they learned something—that the author left them with a new way to look at an old idea, and this book fulfills that need.” —City Book Review

“Rinzler lifts the lowly human foot to new heights in this appealing book.” —Booklist (starred review)

Leonardo’s Foot stretches back to the fossil record and forward to recent discoveries in evolutionary science to demonstrate that it was our feet rather than our brains that first distinguished us from other species within the animal kingdom. Taking inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci’s statement that “the human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art,” Carol Ann Rinzler leads us on a fascinating stroll through science, medicine, and culture to shed light on the role our feet have played in the evolution of civilization.

Whether discussing the ideal human form in classical antiquity, the impressive depth of the arching soles on the figures in Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, an array of foot maladies and how they have affected luminaries from Lord Byron to Benjamin Franklin, or delving into the history of foot fetishism, Rinzler has created a wonderfully diverse catalog of details on our lowest extremities. This is popular science writing at its most entertaining—page after page of fascinating facts, based around the playful notion that appreciating this often overlooked part of our body is essential to understanding what it is to be human.

Carol Ann Rinzler, a former nutrition columnist for the New York Daily News, has contributed to a number of publications, including the New York Times. She is the author of more than twenty books on health and medicine, including Nutrition for Dummies, an international bestseller translated into fourteen languages.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Amidst many digressions, Rinzler provides a number of biological and anecdotal tidbits about human feet. The development of theories about how our bipedal stance affected human evolution is treated first, including some scientific missteps. Each chapter is an independent essay ostensibly on an aspect of the foot, but a discussion of clubfeet turns into a rambling, and not always accurate, appraisal of historical attitudes toward birth defects, infanticide, and euthanasia as well as the imbalance in health coverage between the first and third worlds. The book as a whole veers wildly in this manner—from interesting information to highly tangential opinion pieces. An interesting section about the importance of the big toe morphs into anecdotes on how gout changed the world and then a page on a history of dangerous medications. The chapter on desire discusses foot fetishism, Cinderella, which senses are predominant in other animals, Biblical references to feet, foot washing, and suddenly, dissection. Those who enjoy nonsequetorial conversations may find this book entertaining, but the lack of substantiation for many of her statements deprives the reader of solid facts. (June)
From the Publisher
A Selection of the Scientific American, History, and BOMC2 Book Clubs

“An in-depth look at the anatomy and history of feet reveals their often overlooked importance in human evolution, medicine and art.” —Science News

“Stylish, informative, entertaining, and pleasantly personal . . . Whether Rinzler is exploring how our feet explain or illuminate such topics as evolution, disability, racism, diet, or desire, she maintains a fascinating perspective on the peculiarities of being human.” —Rain Taxi Review of Books

“This neat little book draws a clear picture of our feet, providing understanding that extends far beyond the obvious. Readers often like to walk away from a book feeling they learned something—that the author left them with a new way to look at an old idea, and this book fulfills that need.” —City Book Review

“Rinzler lifts the lowly human foot to new heights in this appealing book.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Carol Ann Rinzler has written a surprising and delightful book about this ‘underwhelming, underreported, and completely indispensable’ part of the human body. It’s amazing what you’ll learn!” —RICHARD N. GOTTFRIED, Chair, New York State Assembly Health Committee

“Carol Ann Rinzler weaves together material from art, literature, science, and history to broaden our understanding of the human foot. Her book is by turns entertaining, enlightening, and altogether satisfying.” —Congresswoman CAROLYN B. MALONEY

“Among the many pleasures of this book are the intriguing subject, Carol Ann Rinzler’s lively and accessible writing style, and the amazing array of information she has gathered from so many different fields . . . Who knew that the story of our own feet could be so fascinating?” —SANDRA OPDYCKE, author of No One Was Turned Away and Jane Addams and Her Vision for America

“This book will amaze you as it walks you through evolution, history, mythology, and a good dose of anatomy, to enlighten you about the role of the Humble Human Foot in bringing human beings to where we are today. Thoroughly enjoyable, informative, and well written, it is a must read for anyone involved in caring for our lower extremity—or interested in our evolution. In short, you will never view the foot the same way again.” —GARY STONES, DPM, President, New York State Podiatric Medical Association

Library Journal
Rinzler (former nutrition columnist, New York Daily News; Nutrition for Dummies) presents a journey through medical discoveries and misconceptions, fairy tales, literary and pop cultural references, and a variety of learned theories, all relating to feet. However, ranging thematically from discussions of pheromones and binocular vision to chick lit and ancient Egyptian theology, her coverage of any one subtopic is so brief that few of the many subjects she raises are supported by enough context or argument to bring fresh understanding to readers. The author makes assertions, e.g., that artists of the Renaissance fostered hatred for the disabled by exalting the Greek and Roman ideal of bodily perfection, and then moves on without further exploration. Other times, the subject is jumbled (e.g., she refers to "portraits of the Christian God" and then supplies portraits of Jesus), or inaccurate (e.g., her elaboration on the proportions of Leonardo's The Vitruvian Man). Rinzler clearly enjoyed researching her subject and can't stop herself from going on interesting digressions, often bringing up one or two mostly unrelated topics within the course of a paragraph. She's at her best when discussing medical history and etymology. VERDICT While some may enjoy Rinzler's open and accessible voice, serious readers may prefer Margo DeMello's Feet and Footwear: A Cultural Encyclopedia, even though its coverage is not strictly the same.—Jessica Spears, Cooper Union Lib., New York

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781934137628
Publisher:
Bellevue Literary Press
Publication date:
05/21/2013
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
636,186
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Carol Ann Rinzler, a former nutrition columnist for the New York Daily News, has contributed to a number of publications, including the New York Times. She is the author of more than twenty books on health and medicine, including Nutrition for Dummies, an international bestseller translated into fourteen languages.

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