What the modern science of memory owes to the amnesiac patient H.M.

Gross_longandshortmemory_ftrCharles Gross at The Nation:

H.M. is, arguably, the most famous patient in the history of psychology and neuroscience. He was studied intensively for more than fifty years by hundreds of scientists (including, briefly, the author of this review); he died in 2008, and his brain is still being analyzed. Permanent Present Tense, by Suzanne Corkin, is the story of how these investigations led to a fundamental revolution in our understanding of the human brain and, particularly, of the organization and varieties of memory. Her accessible book places his story in the context of past and present research on memory and describes many of the questions initiated by research on H.M. It is a scientifically exciting and personally moving portrait of a man whose life and brain ended up being devoted to the science of memory. By the time he was 24, in 1950, H.M. (a k a Henry) had developed severe epilepsy, perhaps from a bicycle accident years earlier, and was referred to the neurosurgeon William Beecher Scoville, who had performed many frontal lobotomies on patients diagnosed as “psychotic.” Scoville had been unsatisfied with the results of frontal lobotomies and was trying a new surgery, bilateral medial temporal lobotomy, in another attempt to treat psychosis.

more here.