Broca’s Brain-Reflection on The Romance of Science by Carl Sagan.

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Carl Sagan: A Pioneer in Astronomy

Carl Sagan, an American astronomer, was born on November 9, 1934, in Brooklyn, New York City. In 1951, he graduated from Rahway High School and enrolled at Chicago University, where he received two degrees and a doctorate in Astronomy. Sagan began his teaching career at Harvard but later went to Cornell, where he was the head of Planetary Studies and a professor of astronomy and space physics. He assisted many robotic spacecraft in their exploration of space. He won numerous awards and medals such as the Homer Award in 1997 and the Carl Sagan Memorial Award. Sagan died of pneumonia on 20th December 1996 after a long illness with myelodysplasia.

Summary of the Work

The main areas that Sagan focused on in this book include brain, intellect, sciences, space and Paul Broca. The book was chosen for review as it has a rich exploration of the planets and space. Besides, Sagan has deeply explored the future of the intelligent robots, the consequences of the extraterrestrial life along with the future quandaries that are not only fascinating but also provocative. The book gives a detailed description of the Broca's brain. The Broca area of the brain contains neuron which is essential in the articulation of speech. The Broca is located at the front part of the brain's left hemisphere, and it was discovered by Paul Broca, a French surgeon in 1861 (Devinsky, Orrin & Martin, 323). Lying on the third frontal convolution, the Broca has two major parts which are the pars triangularis and the pars opercularis. Apart from being involved in the production of speech, the Broca also takes part in the comprehension of language, motor activities such as movements of hands as well as learning and integration of sensorimotor activities. Broca Aphasia is a speech disorder that is a result of the damage to the front lobe of the Broca. People suffering from the disorder have deliberate and succinct speech that is simple in its grammatical speech.

Science and the Quest for Truth

Further, the author defends the intentions and styles of science as an unprejudiced enquirer of the truth passionately. Besides, the author expresses his emotional reactions in the essay "Broca's Brain" on the vessels of the well-preserved brain in a museum in Paris (Sagan, 50). He also admires and criticizes the famous anatomist who discovered the language center in the left hemisphere of the brain. Moreover, the sections of the book dealing with cosmology as well as space explorations are a wonderful summary of the present knowledge on space. Through the manned and unmanned spacecraft, the author portrays astronomy as experimental science rather than being purely theoretical (Sagan, 50). In the last chapters, the author expresses his suppositions on the future of astronomy. Besides, the events found in journals of astronomy that were written 75 years ago, are recorded chronologically in the book. The last essay in the book is extraordinary as the author suggests that all religions share the same foundation which might be the process of birth with its watery Eden, tracked by agony, the tunnel full of darkness, light and finally the world. The author calculates the vision to accommodate the spiritual along with the unreligious souls.

Challenges and Criticisms

However, some of the chapters are long and less exhilarating. One of the longest is Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision which is so outrageous that it barely deserves acknowledgment. According to the chapter, Jupiter spat Venus out like a giant comet 3,500 years ago, a process that inspired several mythological as well as Bible stories during its fly-by of earth. Instead of narrating the whole story in almost 50 pages, Sagan should have written only a few sentences. The essay is too long and less thrilling. The essay on the American Astronomical Society is also less thrilling and tedious to read. The 75 years of the Society's experiences are retroactive since the writer keeps on explaining the experiences point by point. Everything about the American Astronomical Society is outrageous starting from their publications, differences, and their sluggish discoveries. Furthermore, other shortcomings of the book include the railing of the author into an inexplicable metaphysics. For instance, the generalizations on the idea of God as well as near-death experiences which are suppressed birth memories.


The book contains a collection of essays which are worth to read although. Most of the essays are thought to provoke starting from Broca and Einstein to space travel, alien intelligence and science fiction. The book expounds on how the universe is endlessly fascinating although some chapters are very weird to read in the modern word such as the author's fear of global cooling which could result to a frozen apocalypse. Nevertheless, the book is well written and entertaining.

Works Cited

Devinsky, Orrin, and Martin A. Samuels. "The brain that changed neurology: Broca's 1861 case of aphasia." Annals of neurology 80.3 (2016): 321-325.

Sagan, Carl. Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science. Ballantine Books, 1986.

January 05, 2023



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