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We’ve pondered the puzzles of the human body for millennia, questioning the function of both the visible parts and the parts hidden away behind layers of skin, muscle, and bones. When it comes to the human body— and the bodies of many other living creatures— the heart is an organ that’s long been central to our understanding of life. How did humans get from mummifying the heart separately from the body in order to weigh the soul inside it, as ancient Egyptians once did, to the modern ability to save and extend lives by transplanting a heart from one human into another?
In Pump: A Natural History of the Heart, zoologist Bill Schutt explores the mind-boggling history of the heart in both human and non-human life forms. He covers everything from clear-blooded Antarctic icefish to the origin of the stethoscope, weaving in fascinating myths, hypotheses gone wrong, and scientific breakthroughs along the way. You’ll never consider that rhythmic thumping in your chest the same way again.
Bill Schutt is a vertebrate zoologist and author of six nonfiction and fiction books, including the New York Times Editor’s Choice, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. Recently retired from his post as professor of biology at LIU Post, he is a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, where he has studied bats all over the world. His research has been featured in Natural History magazine as well as in the New York Times, Newsday, the Economist, and Discover.
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