Brian David Burrell, lecturer in mathematics at UMass Amherst and the author of seven books on subjects ranging from genius to madness to mathematics, from famous brains to mental illness to the words we live by, will describe how the unique experience of growing up in Lexington at a special time in its history spurred his interest in writing, and how a sequence of serendipitous events led him from mathematics into the study of the human brain.
In his three most recent books, two of them with co-author Allan Ropper of Harvard Medical School, Mr. Burrell has focused on how brain morphology and pathology have shaped our received wisdom about human attributes, eccentricities, and aberrations. Specifically, he has delved into historical and current theories about the biological correlates of creativity, criminality, neurosis, and psychosis.
The first book of the three (Postcards from the Brain Museum) focuses on attempts to preserve and study the brains of famous and infamous men and women – Einstein, Lenin, Byron, and Stalin, to name a few. The second book (Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole) deals with the everyday practice of clinical neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The third (How the Brain Lost Its Mind), recently published, dwells on a single insidious brain disease with a surprisingly rich history – neurosyphilis.
This talk will explain how for this author one thing led to another – from the Lexington school system to other great institutions of learning and research, and eventually to the written page.
Brian David Burrell has appeared on the Today Show, Booknotes, and NPR’s Morning Edition. He divides his time between writing and statistical research with neuroscientific applications.