A Tale of Science, Ethics, Intrigue, and Human Flaws

Jenni Ogden in Psychology Today:

ScreenHunter_2149 Aug. 11 16.21“Why Sir, if you have but one book with you upon a journey let it be a book of science. When you read through a book of entertainment, you know it, and it can do no more for you, but a book of science is inexhaustible.” This quote of Samuel Johnson's was recorded by his Scottish friend, James Boswell, in his book, Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, published in 1785, a year after Johnson's death.

This is how I began my review (see the review here) of Suzanne Corkin's biography of Henry Molaison, Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life of Amnesic Patient, H.M. published in May, 2013, five years after HM’s death in Decemebr, 2008. What a fine and uplifting quote it is. And indeed, Corkin’s book, in my view, is an inspiring tale of scientific discovery.

On August 9th, 2016, another HM book is being published. Patient H.M.: A Story ofMemory, Madness, and Family Secrets is by journalist Luke Dittrich, and like Corkin’s book back in 2013, it has been getting a lot of attention. (Read my review of Dittrich’s book here.)

Just before it was due to be released, the New York Times Magazine published a controversial article, first online (read article here) and then on Sunday, August 7th, in their print edition. This article was provocative in that it was primarily an extract from the final chapters of Dittrich’s book, where he reports and interprets an acrimonious disagreement between Corkin and the neuroanatomist, Jacope Annese, from U.C.S.D. who, at Corkin’s invitation, undertook the monumental and career-changing task of sectioning HM’s brain (into 2401 slices), making high resolution images of it that later could be used to create a 3-D digitized model of the brain. Incredible, and at first an exciting and wonderful collaboration between scientists of different disciplines.

But it all went pear-shaped when Annese submitted the first article to result from this sectioning on the neuroanatomy of HM’s brain.

More here.