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Broca's Brain, Reflections on the Romance of Science Unknown Binding – January 1, 1979


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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Random House; 6th edition. edition (1979)
  • ASIN: B003VZPP9W
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,859,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Carl Sagan was Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking, and Voyager spacecraft expeditions to the planets, for which he received the NASA medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. Dr. Sagan received the Pulitzer Prize and the highest awards of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation, and many other awards, for his contributions to science, literature, education, and the preservation of the environment. His book Cosmos (accompanying his Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning television series of the same name) was the bestselling science book ever published in the English language, and his bestselling novel, Contact, was turned into a major motion picture.

Customer Reviews

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Carl Sagan is brilliant!
Laura Beth Cooper
This book is endlessly informative as well as entertaining as it covers a wide array of subjects about humanity's interest in outer space and other related topics.
a reader
This book should be required reading for all High School students.
Dimitri Avaloff

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Carl Sagan is so widely known for his popularization of science that his thoughts on the philosophy of science are easily forgotten. Which is unfortunate, because he also shines in this area. This is never more aptly demonstrated than when he discusses the ideas of Immanuel Velikovsky. The ideas themselves are “explanations” of many of the ancient myths created by invoking rather extreme and unusual astronomic phenomena. While the explanations are clearly preposterous, Sagan does not simply dismiss them, but subjects them to a thorough critical examination. Along the way he also criticizes some of his scientist colleagues, pointing out that the role of science is not to make preconceived value judgements, but to subject all ideas to the ruthless meritocratic critical analysis that makes science work. His reasoned arguments against Velikovsky’s ideas and against some who rejected them using attacks beyond the normal bounds of legitimate criticism, is the best explanation of how science should work that you will ever find.
The title of the book is derived from his finding the preserved brain of Paul Broca in a French museum. Broca is best known for discovering the previously unsuspected fact that the brain is compartmentalized into functional regions. Broca’s brain is preserved in a jar of formalin and when he finds it, Sagan asks some questions that go to the heart of what makes humans what they are and what we become after death. His simple question, “How much of that man known as Paul Broca can still be found in this jar?” is a very profound one. If you possess a religious nature, the answer is probably “nothing.
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59 of 63 people found the following review helpful By M. Nichols-Haining on November 5, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
At some point in my life, much of what Sagan wrote became "common knowledge" and much less interesting to read, because I stopped learning from him.
Then I realized: he had done his job. Sagan excited me, thrilled me, MADE me go out and learn more because I couldn't stand not knowing.
Carl Sagan was a master at distilling science to the masses; he made physics, biology, cosmology, math...he made it all so thrilling that the masses barely knew they were learning.
If you're not already a Sagan fan, try starting with his fiction (Contact--the book is a thousand times better than the movie), and then moving on to his nonfiction. You'll discover from Sagan why we are where and who we are.
Read it. Learn it. Then outgrow it. You'll be honoring Sagan, and you'll be honoring your own humanity.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 17, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Carl Sagan established his reputation as a writer with three works: Cosmos, Broca's Brain, and Contact. Cosmos is renowned as one of the century's best non-fiction works and Contact became a top-grossing, award-winning film. Broca's Brain meets the standard of Sagan's more famous pieces. Even were you to only read one chapter, the book would still be worth purchase. I especially recommend this book to those who have read John F. Haught (theologian) or Stephen Hawking (physicist) and assume that science and religion are locked in a death match.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By "ltrent@amgen.com" on December 23, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Broca's Brain may not be as famous as other works such as Cosmos or Contact, but it's every bit as engaging. In particular, the chapter entitled "A Sunday Sermon" contains tidbits I believe every person on this planet, whatever their religious beliefs or lack therof are, can gain important insight from. He manages to tackle this difficult subject with grace and dignity, without lambasting any view. As he says (paraphrased) "I believe that those beliefs that can't survive scrutiny aren't worth having. Those that do, have at least a kernal of truth within them". So true, Mr. Sagan.
Some of the chapters are simply fun; the chapter on how heavenly bodies are named, and the opening chapter on Paul Broca, and his brain, are like this. You do not need a science degree to enjoy/understand this book. I do possess one, however I read it in early high school, and it's just as relevant to me now.
Carl Sagan performed a difficult feat: to make science interesting and accessable to an entire generation. I am in science, loving every minute of it, due in part to Mr. Sagan's efforts. Don't miss this important and fascinating book that covers an amazing array of subjects.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Gordon R Cameron on July 15, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The chapter entitled "Venus and Dr. Velikovsky" is a masterpiece of pseudo-science debunking. Sagan rightly deplores efforts by mainstream scientists to suppress Velikovsky, both because they were dishonest, and because (as noted by another reviewer) they made Velikovsky a martyr when he might otherwise just have been forgotten. Sagan's dissection of Velikovsky's thesis is painfully specific, precise, methodical, exhaustively researched, utterly polite, and totally relentless. This is the way to take on pseudo-science: with not a trace of snobbery or arrogance, but with simple, devastating logic.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jeanne Tassotto VINE VOICE on July 9, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Most of us who have been educated in the American public school system quickly learned to dread science classes as one of the more boring times of the day. The study of science class in elementary school was usually a teacher reading the text and often being reluctant to address any questions that were not covered in the teacher's edition. In high school the teacher (often hired more for their coaching expertise than academic considerations) would assign reading from the text and not welcome questions not covered in the teacher's edition. Learning was considered accomplished when the students could relate facts memorized from the text. Along the way most of us lost the desire to ask 'why' and simply calculated the time until we could escape as we memorized what was necessary to pass the next test.

Dr Sagan has managed to make science interesting again, to awaken the spark of curiosity that has sadly been extinguished in so many. His writing is clear and eloquent as he invites his readers to share his love of asking 'why?' He explains how scientists look at problems, how to question authorities and determine their worth. In short he manages to undo some of the damage inflicted by years of boring science classes.

This is a compilation of articles Sagan wrote for various magazines (including PLAYBOY - maybe sometimes it was purchased for the articles) during the mid to late 70's. The overlying theme is the general allure of science but also it provides a description of how scientists think about the world around them. The topics covered range from popular science fiction, mythology, frauds and pseudoscience and the 'current state' of scientific research.
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