The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture

Frank R. Wilson, Neurologist and Medical Director of the Peter F. Ostwald Health Program for Performing Artists at University of California School of Medicine San Francisco, 1998, Random House

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Review | This book explores many ways in which our hands affect our lives, our brains, and our emotions. Dr. Wilson starts by exploring the literature detailing prehistoric developments leading to our modern hands. He has interviewed in depth many people whose jobs demand high levels of hand skills, including: a musician, juggler, surgeon, car mechanic, mountain climber, and puppeteer. Each offers insights about how they learned and maintain their skills, and about the hands’ place in learning and experience. 

For humans, the lifelong apprenticeship with the hand begins at birth.

Our hands are the finest tools we possess, but we often give them little thought or care. The brilliant Scottish surgeon, Sir Charles Bell, wrote in 1833, “The human hand is so beautifully formed, its actions are so powerful, so free and yet so delicate that there is no thought of its complexity as an instrument; we use it as we draw our breath, unconsciously”.

Dr. Wilson investigates areas in which the hand shapes our lives and helps us develop: cognitive, emotional, linguistic, psychological. 

This book is deep and scholarly, and if you want to learn more about your wonderful hands , I recommend it to you. —j. b.