Autobiographies by neuroscientists

Many great neuroscientists have written autobiographies that provide an inspiration to academics, or an insight into diseases that only lifelong experts can provide. Some neuroscientists, like Oliver Sacks in A Leg To Stand On, go through an illness that they’ve spent their life researching, and their account provides an unparalleled inside view into the disease. You might also like some popular science books about consciousness or decision-making. Here are some of ours picks for autobiographies from neuroscientists, or check out the recently released Edward O. Wilson autobiography/career advice book.

1. In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind by Eric R. Kandel

In Search of Memory” deftly mixes autobiography with history of neuroscience and selected summaries of the cellular bases of neuroplasticity and memory. It traces the life of famed neuroscientist Eric Kandel, beginning with his early childhood in Vienna, his expatriation following Nazi takeover, his prosperous scientific career in the States and ending with his invitation to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.Throughout the book, Kandel offers the reader a unique and intimate look into how the emerging fields of molecular biology, neuroscience and psychology were coalescing and contributing to the emergence of a new science of mind. An inspiration to a new generation of neuroscientists.

2. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor

Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist suffered a stroke in December 1996. In this book Taylor shares her unique perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery, and the sense of omniscient understanding she gained from this unusual and inspiring voyage out of the abyss of a wounded brain. Her TED talk is also worth a watch!

3. A Leg to Stand On by Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks becomes the patient himself when he hurts his leg in a bad fall during a hike. His account of anosognosia, or the inability to detect the paralysis of a limb, is quite amazing and he describes it like only he can. Although not as famous nor concise as some of his other books like Hallucinations (his TED talk about that book is here), it‘s a great read.

4. Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by Daniel Paul Schreber

Not by a neuroscientist but worth a mention anyway: this account of psychosis of the famous German judge is required reading for psychiatrists and neuroscientists to this day. Written during his sane periods, it provides an intellectual and at the same time personal account of the mania he went through.

5. When the Air Hits Your Brain by Frank T. Vertosick Jr. M.D.

Frank Vertosick describes some miraculous and incredible cases he came across as a neurosurgeon. Not for the faint-hearted, but an amazing account of how much neurosurgery has progressed since lobotomies in the 1950’s.