SKELETON KEYS: The Secret Life of Bone

SKELETON KEYS: The Secret Life of Bone

BRIAN SWITEK    Book Number: 89727    Product format: Hardback

Philadelphia's Mütter Museum has an expansive and historic collection of crania and bones and is home to the towering skeleton of the Mütter American Giant, the remains of a woman so tightly corseted for so long that the garments changed the very structure of her bones together with dozens of other people whose final act is to educate the rest of us of what lives inside. The place is populated by the remarkable dead, a medical mausoleum where bones have taken on a second life. Here is the story of lives stripped down, of the vascularised tissue embedded in an extracellular matrix containing type I collagen - bone. Bone is our structural core giving us support while acting as a foundation for our flesh and internal protection that wraps around our vital organs. It never moves by itself but is essential to our ability to move. Bone has manifested itself in wings, sails, horns, armour and an ever greater array of appendages and ornaments since the time of its origin. We can define bone by its biochemical components, its evolutionary history, its shape and variation, but to boil down bone to numbers, measurements or landmarks will always seem incomplete. The truth of the bone very much depends on who is looking at it. Bones is a marvel, an adaptable and resilient building material developed over more than 400 million years of evolutionary history. Arguably no other part of the human anatomy has such rich scientific and cultural significance, brimming with life and with a potent symbol of death. In this delightful natural and cultural history, Switek explains where our skeletons came from, what they do inside us, and what others can learn about us when these artifacts of mineral and protein are all we have left behind. He makes a compelling case for getting better acquainted with our skeletons and their surprising roles and he bridges the worlds of palaeontology, anthropology, medicine and forensics to illuminate the complex life of bones inside our bodies and out. The elegant and surprising tales make a lyrical love letter to the 206 or so bones in the human skeleton and the colourful figures studied them over the centuries, considering in turn dinosaurs, saints, kings and our own possible future. 276pp, line art.
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ISBN 9780399184901
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