"A startling argument . . . provocative . . . absorbing." --"The Boston Globe"
"Ambitious . . . arresting . . . celebrates the importance of hands to our lives today as well as to the history of our species."
--"The New York Times Book Review"
The human hand is a miracle of biomechanics, one of the most remarkable adaptations in the history of evolution. The hands of a concert pianist can elicit glorious sound and stir emotion; those of a surgeon can perform the most delicate operations; those of a rock climber allow him to scale a vertical mountain wall. Neurologist Frank R. Wilson makes the striking claim that it is because of the unique structure of the hand and its evolution in cooperation with the brain that Homo sapiens became the most intelligent, preeminent animal on the earth.
In this fascinating book, Wilson moves from a discussion of the hand's evolution--and how its intimate communication with the brain affects such areas as neurology, psychology, and linguistics--to provocative new ideas about human creativity and how best to nurture it. Like Oliver Sacks and Stephen Jay Gould, Wilson handles a daunting range of scientific knowledge with a surprising deftness and a profound curiosity about human possibility. Provocative, illuminating, and delightful to read, The Hand encourages us to think in new ways about one of our most taken-for-granted assets.
"A mark of the book's excellence is that] it makes the reader aware of the wonder in trivial, everyday acts, and reveals the complexity behind the simplest manipulation." --"The Washington Post"
An extended synthesizing meditation on the human hand from Wilson (Tone Deaf and All Thumbs?, 1986). Green-thumbed, butter-fingered, hamfisted - whatever its talents (or lack thereof), the hand is more than a metaphor of humanness; it is, in Wilson's estimation, a focal point in the fulfillment of life, in our cognitive architecture; it represents our chance to put our stamp on the world. Though there are no crashing breakthroughs into the ultimate mystery of the hand, into the exact pathways by which it affects our growth and thoughts and creativity, Wilson does show how very special the hand is through a summation - a quite literate one - of the theories of anatomists, philosophers, psychologists, linguists, anthropologists, and, of course, since they share his calling, neurologists, about its physiological evolution and cognitive linkages. He details where the hand came from and its repertoire of movements; its role in symbolic thought; a fascinating tour of the mechanics of arm/hand movement, complete with experiments for readers to perform that are highly enlightening; how the non-dominant hand frames, spatializes, the dominant hand's activity. He is equally at ease discussing the work of Chomsky, the sublime talents of puppeteers, and the juggler's visual jokery; he draws out the common thread among legerdemain, prestidigitation, and delicate surgery; he is particularly captivated by the knowing hand, one that is guided to automobile tinkering or playing the guitar or rock climbing at an early age. And he is frustrated with our inability to "apply systematically to individuals what we know from biology about the nature of human learning." "Any theory of human intelligence which ignores the interdependence of hand and brain function . . . is grossly misleading and sterile." The point is well made by Wilson in this ranging, anecdote-strewn, and engaging study. (Kirkus Reviews)