HANDS by John Napier


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What Gray is to anatomy, Napier is to hands. A world authority on the structure, function, and evolution of the hand, the English physician is frequently called upon to pronounce upon this or that fossil, or opine on the handiness of monkeys and apes as opposed to Homo sapiens. He is also a droll expositor for the layman, and the present volume illustrates his skills when given carte blanche to say what he will about his favorite appendages. Fine early chapters deal with anatomy, function, and evolution. We learn, for example, that prehensility is probably a matter of dietary change. Humankind evolved from small grub-eating ground-hugging shrews to bigger tree-living fruit- and leaf-eaters, a transition that requires both stability and agility. So: the forefoot becomes a hand, with fully opposable thumb and exquisite neuromuscalar control. Later, we hear Napier on tool-using and tool-making. And he has some wry commentary on how not to make a nailbrush or a hand drill. Then it's on to fingerprints, handedness, and gestures. All this is accompanied by good line art, photos, and occasional fine art. A winner, hands down.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1980
ISBN: 0691025479
Publisher: Pantheon