Saturday, May 12, 2007

Nerve Endings

In my previous entry about the book In Search of Memory, I wrote "one of the best ways to learn a science is to learn the history of that science". I recently finished reading another book in that category, Nerve Endings: The Discovery of the Synapse by Dr. Richard Rapport. Like In Search of Memory, Nerve Endings is a biographical work about the life and scientific contributions of a Nobel prizing winning neuroscientist. The author documents the 19th century debate about the existence and purpose of the synapse and the personal rivalry between Dr. Santiago Ramon y Cajal and Dr. Camillo Golgi.

The following excerpt reminded me how much I have enjoyed participating in reading and discussion groups over the years:

He delighted in his work, as always, and enthusiastically returned to an intellectual cafe society with other scientists, philosophers, writers, and politicians. Associations of friends who meet regularly to debate are called tertulia, a Spanish word without a direct English translation but a common feature of Spanish intellectual life. [p152]