New Glaser Gallery exhibit on the illustrated history of brain function

Brain Localization exhibition posterA new historical exhibit on brain localization of function is on display from June 11 to September 14 on the seventh floor of the Bernard Becker Medical Library. The exhibit titled, “Brain Localization: Images and ideas through 500 years,” is based on Edwin Clarke and Kenneth Dewhurst’s An illustrated history of brain function(1972) and its collection of images, and it uncovers the evolution of ideas about brain function.

To 21st century men and women, it might seem absurd that the cerebral convolutions of the brain were ill-defined and drawn more like intestines, clouds,or the small bowel in most European medical books until the 19th century. However, most depictions of the brain illustrated in books reflected contemporaneous ideas about brain function.

Although a few thinkers saw the cerebral cortex as the center of cognitive and sensory functions as early as the 12th century A.D., their opinions were in the minority. Most scholars assigned no function to the cerebral cortex until the 17th century.

This special exhibit will demonstrate how the brain was depicted in books over the past 500 years, and includes spectacular centuries-old illustrated books from the Renaissance to the computer age. Drawing on Becker Library’s own magnificent rare book collections, this exhibit will also feature several noteworthy books on loan from Washington University Libraries. The exhibit is free and open to the public weekdays from 8am to 6pm.