The Dawning of Neuroscience
Psychology Press – 2001 – 176 pages
The life of Jan Evangelista Purkinje (1787-1869) has fascinated students from many disciplines. Histologists marvel at his early descriptions of cells; physiologists admire his attempts to relate structure to function; pharmacologists view in awe his heroic experiments on self-administered drugs; forensic scientists acknowledge his role in the use of fingerprints for identification; and Czech patriots salute his awakening of pride in their nation. Yet all these achievements followed his initial enquiries into vision. It is this psychological dimension that fostered this collaboration.
As the title suggests, the present volume is bifocal. In the narrow sense it refers to Purkinje's studies of vision, but in its broader view it concerns Purkinje's anticipation of neuroscience. Purkinje provided evidence to support both its cellular and its conceptual base. At the cellular level his acute vision is immortalized within our bodies. At the conceptual level, he sought to relate subjective phenomena to their objective underpinnings--to link psychology to physiology.
Vision provides a bond that unites psychology and physiology, and it is this bond that was strengthened by Purkinje's enquiries. The authors have tried to provide a context in which Purkinje's descriptions of visual phenomena can be placed. In some cases this exposes clear precursors of research for which Purkinje has been credited. In others, there was nothing to suggest the phenomena that he exposed. The book translates Purkinje's initial masterpiece on subjective vision and places it in the context of emerging views of neuroscience.
"This translation, prepared by two leading Purkinje scholars, is thus to be welcomed…Wade and Brozek's^ translation surely will make Purjinke's dissertation more available to non-German readers."
—Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
"Purkinje's Vision…gives us a full historical context for the phenomena Purkinje studied and makes clear the significance of what he added….The book is descriptive and objective…The authors are thorough in presenting the historical background of the phenomena that came to interest him, and above all scrupulous in crediting others where they might have preceded him but not been recognized by history."
—Kosmas Czechoslovak and Central European Journal
"This book is anchored by a compelling and scholarly presentation of Purkinje's early work from the perspective of the modern discipline of psychology."
—Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Contents: Preface. Introduction. Biographical and Bibliographical Notes. Historical Background for Research in Subjective Visual Phenomena. Observations and Experiments on the Physiology of the Senses. Contributions to the Knowledge of Vision in Its Subjective Aspect. Assessment.