The War of the Soups and the Sparks: The Discovery of Neurotransmitters and the Dispute Over How Nerves Communicate

The War of the Soups and the Sparks: The Discovery of Neurotransmitters and the Dispute Over How Nerves Communicate

by Elliot S. Valenstein
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0231135890

ISBN-13: 9780231135894

Pub. Date: 10/31/2006

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Like the cracking of the genetic code and the creation of the atomic bomb, the discovery of how the brain's neurons work is one of the fundamental scientific developments of the twentieth century. The discovery of neurotransmitters revolutionized the way we think about the brain and what it means to be human yet few people know how they were discovered, the

Overview

Like the cracking of the genetic code and the creation of the atomic bomb, the discovery of how the brain's neurons work is one of the fundamental scientific developments of the twentieth century. The discovery of neurotransmitters revolutionized the way we think about the brain and what it means to be human yet few people know how they were discovered, the scientists involved, or the fierce controversy about whether they even existed. The War of the Soups and the Sparks tells the saga of the dispute between the pharmacologists, who had uncovered the first evidence that nerves communicate by releasing chemicals, and the neurophysiologists, experts on the nervous system, who dismissed the evidence and remained committed to electrical explanations.

The protagonists of this story are Otto Loewi and Henry Dale, who received Nobel Prizes for their work, and Walter Cannon, who would have shared the prize with them if he had not been persuaded to adopt a controversial theory (how that happened is an important part of this history). Valenstein sets his story of scientific discovery against the backdrop of two world wars and examines the fascinating lives of several scientists whose work was affected by the social and political events of their time. He recounts such stories as Loewi's arrest by Nazi storm troopers and Dale's efforts at helping key scientists escape Germany.

The War of the Soups and the Sparks reveals how science and scientists work. Valenstein describes the observations and experiments that led to the discovery of neurotransmitters and sheds light on what determines whether a novel concept will gain acceptance among the scientific community. His work also explains the immense importance of Loewi, Dale, and Cannon's achievements in our understanding of the human brain and the way mental illnesses are conceptualized and treated.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231135894
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
10/31/2006
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Table of Contents

1. Setting the Stage: The Neuron Doctrine and the Synapse2. The Autonomic Nervous System: Testing Drugs on Visceral Organs and Skeletal Muscles3. An Idea Ahead of Its Time: The First Hint at the Existence of Chemical Neurotransmitters4. Henry Dale: Laying the Foundation5. Otto Loewi: An Inspired Dream and a Speculative Leap6. The Road to the Nobel Prize7. Walter Cannon: A Near Miss by America's Most Renowned Physiologist8. The War of the Soups and the Sparks9. Loewi, Dale, and Cannon: The Later Years10. Brain Neurotransmitters: A New Continent to Explore11. Epilogue: Some Final ReflectionsNotesIndex

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