Collection of materials assembled by Sperry's longtime collaborator, Joseph Bogen
by Sperry, Roger
1995. Sperry, Roger W. (1913-1994). Collection of materials originally assembled by Sperry's longtime collatorator Joseph Bogen, including offprints (consisting of 2 bound volumes containing ca. 135 offprints published between 1937 and 1971, and a group of ca. 30 loose offprints published after 1971), typescripts (including a xerox copy of the typescript of his Nobel Lecture, corrected by Bogen), correspondence and related materials. Various sizes. V.p., 1939-1995. Many of the items bear Bogen's signature and / or notes. Offprint volumes bound in half morocco, first vol. worn; Bogen's name tooled in gilt on spines. Typewritten indexes in each volume. Remaining materials boxed. Complete listing of materials available on request. A unique collection of offprints, abstracts, correspondence and biographical materials by and about the neuroscientist Roger Sperry, including his seminal papers on his famous split-brain studies, for which he was awarded half of the 1981 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Sperry's split-brain studies, performed on human subjects whose corpus callosum (the nerve cable connecting the left and right brain hemispheres) had been severed surgically, yielded unexpected and astonishing information about the nature of human consciousness, which permanently altered science's conception about how the brain works. Sperry's experiments showed that each of the hemispheres is capable of functioning independently of the other, and each has its own unique attributes: the left hemisphere is "primarily verbal, logical and sequential," while the right is "more intuitive and emotional, specializing in visual-spatial problems and other situations in which a single impression or mental image is worth a thousand words" (Omni Magazine, "Interview with Roger Sperry" [August 1983], p. 70). In addition, the right hemisphere of the brain, previously been thought of as "retarded" compared to the left hemisphere because it could not generate language, was found to be able to interpret the written and spoken word at a fairly high level. The corpus callosum, whose function was not previously well understood, is now known to serve as the neural link between the two hemispheres, communicating information from one side to the other as needed. The impact of Sperry's work touches us all: "His research has awakened a new understanding of those people who are artistically proficient but have severe reading problems, of those who have an aptitude for music but have difficulty reading and writing and understanding mathematics. It is rare that the kind of research for which the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is usually awarded has the enormous humanistic implications that characterize Sperry's work. Through it, many lay people have come to understand the broad area of consciousness that will inform and direct learning theory for decades to come" (Magill, The Nobel Prize Winners: Physiology or Medicine, p. 1379). "The Nobel award to Sperry . . . serves as an inspiration to those who believe that understanding the human conscious process is the ultimate objective of neuroscience and that it can be studied with scientific rigor . . . In fact, it can be said that it is Roger Sperry's overall body of work that has served to conceptualize the objectives and questions pursued in much of current neuroscience" (Gazzaniga, "1981 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine," Science 214 , p. 517). Sperry's scientific career can be divided roughly into three periods. In the first, Sperry focused on the embryogenesis of neural nets, proving, in an ingenious series of animal experiments, that neural connections are determined by highly precise genetic mechanisms rather than by experience. "Appearing in the 1940s, [Sperry's] first papers on the subject went against the then accepted principle that experience and conditioning could transform an equipotential mesh of randomly connected neurons into a structured, purposefully oriented neural network" (Damasio, "Reflecting on the work of R. W. Sperry," Trends in Neurosciences 5, p. 222). These researches led to Sperry's investigation of the biochemical uniqueness of individual nerve cells, which showed that the nerve cell's growth and repair was dependent on its chemical constituents. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Sperry began focusing on the brain activity of laboratory animals whose brain hemispheres had been surgically disconnected, demonstrating experimentally that "the hemispheres of the brain function independently following commissurotomy [severing of the corpus callosum], despite the seeming normalcy of most of the subjects who undergo such surgery" (Magill, p. 1377). These experiments led to the celebrated split-brain work described above, for which Sperry received the Nobel Prize. In the third and final period, Sperry devoted himself to the problem of mind-brain relationships, devising a biological theory of consciousness that he believed could provide a scientific basis for moral and ethical values. The items in this collection were assembled by the neurosurgeon Joseph Bogen, who worked closely with Sperry for over thirty years. In 1961 Bogen, already familiar with Sperry's animal researches, severed the corpus callosum in a patient suffering from intractable epilepsy in a last attempt to cure his disease. It was Sperry's early association with this patient, and his observations of Bogen's split-brain patients over the next decade, that resulted in his Nobel Prize-winning work. The materials in the archive can be grouped into three major categories: offprints of papers by Sperry (with or without co-authors); correspondence; and printed materials relating to Sperry. The correspondence includes a fascinating and unpublished series of letters regarding Sperry's dispute in the early 1980s with his former student and collaborator Michael Gazzaniga, whom Sperry accused of claiming credit for many of his own (Sperry's) split-brain findings. Included in the materials relating to Sperry are two detailed physician's reports on Sperry's amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), which afflicted him during the last two decades of his life. Magill, The Nobel Prize Winners: Physiology or Medicine, pp. 1373-80.
(Inventory #: 43993)
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