Wider Than the Sky


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The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness

Gerald Edelman

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How does the firing of neurons give rise to subjective sensations, thoughts, and emotions? How can the disparate domains of mind and body be reconciled? The quest for a scientifically based understanding of consciousness has attracted study and speculation across the ages. In this direct and non-technical discussion of consciousness, Dr. Gerald M. Edelman draws on a lifetime of scientific inquiry into the workings of the brain to formulate answers to the mind-body questions that intrigue every thinking person.
Concise and understandable, the book explains pertinent findings of modern neuroscience and describes how consciousness arises in complex brains. Edelman explores the relation of consciousness to causation, to evolution, to the development of the self, and to the origins of feelings, learning, and memory. His analysis of the brain activities underlying consciousness is based on recent remarkable advances in biochemistry, immunology, medical imaging, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology, yet the implications of his book extend farther—beyond the worlds of science and medicine into virtually every area of human inquiry.

Gerald M. Edelman, M.D., is director of the Neurosciences Institute and president of Neurosciences Research Foundation. He is also professor and chair of the Department of the Neurobiology at the Scripps Research Institute. For his studies on the structure and diversity of antibodies he received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

A main selection of Scientific American Book Club

"In this vignette Edelman hammers another nail in the coffin of consciousness as a metaphysical entity. He argues persuasively and with exceptional clarity that consciousness is a process and gives a superb account of its brain mechanisms. A distillation of knowledge and wisdom, this book is a rare, polished gem."—Apostolos Georgopoulos, University of Minnesota

"Magnificent! Dr. Edelman has been a driving force in bringing an increasing sophistication to our models of the biological foundations of consciousness. His contributions range from the most fundamental observations of sub-cellular mechanisms to studies of large-scale, long-range communications across the vast territories of the human brain. This book expresses an effort to share his unique conception with the general reader."—Dr. Fred Plum, Cornell University 


“What a wonderful book! Dr. Edelman offers us an intriguing model of the biology of consciousness, mind, and creativity.”—Duane M. Rumbaugh, author of Intelligence of Apes and Other Rational Beings

“Gerald Edelman has been one of a very small group of pioneers who have tried to develop a biological approach to thinking about consciousness and to testing ideas about its attribute and function. Wider than the Sky now summarizes his thinking in readily accessible form for the general public. This view of consciousness is intellectually ambitious, original, and imaginative.”—Eric Kandel, M.D., Columbia University

“Consciousness is a hot topic, but still a mystery. One of the leaders of the scientific approach to the study of consciousness, Gerald Edelman has written a book that is a good roadmap for the lay reader.”—Francis Crick, author of The Astonishing Hypothesis

“There are plenty of fascinating ideas to be had here. . . . [This] book might just start your summer off with a better feel for how, why, and where you feel what you feel. If you read books for insight, for discovery, then why not start by learning about the very matter that allows you to learn?”—Anthony Doerr, Boston Sunday Globe

"This is a superb examination of the centrality of consciousness to the essence of humanity. While the author discusses recent findings in neuroscience and describes how consciousness arises in our brains, he does so in a way that draws readers in, while challenging us to grapple with complex ideas."—Conscience

“The book is aimed at the general reader and is packed with ideas. . . . The book would make a good starting place for a reader seeking an introduction to one of the most powerful contemporary approaches to the science of consciousness."—Adam Zeman, Journal of Clinical Investigation

"Edelman’s sophisticated framework . . . is elegantly summarized in Wider than the Sky.”—Jean-Pierre Changeux, Nature

“Edelman here elegantly summarizes his thinking on consciousness. . . . Together with the writings of other pioneers such as Francis Crick, this book has great merit of offering testable hypotheses to the ever-increasing number of ‘consciousnologists.’”—Steven Laureys, New England Journal of Medicine


“Highly readable.”—Oliver Sacks, New York Review of Books

“[An] elegant . . . laudable, [and] accessible exploration of what’s happening in neuroscience, biochemistry and other disciplines, and an insightful examination of the trait that defines humans above all other organisms.”—San Diego Union-Tribune

“Edelman offers innovative perspectives on a fascinating subject.”—The Key Reporter

Winner of the 2005 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the Psychology/Mental Health category (IPPY)
ISBN: 9780300107616
Publication Date: May 10, 2005
224 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
Second Nature

Brain Science and Human Knowledge

Gerald M. Edelman, M.D., Ph.D.

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