Gavin Francis is a physician and writer in Edinburgh. He has won several awards for his books, which include Empire Antarctica, Adventures in Human Being, and most recently Shapeshifters: A Journey Through the Changing Human Body.
 (October 2018)



Rembrandt: Self-Portrait in a Cap: Laughing, 1630

Studies of Laughter in Interaction

edited by Phillip Glenn and Elizabeth Holt
The physician must have at his command a certain ready wit, as dourness is repulsive both to the healthy and the sick. —Hippocrates Medicine is a serious business; when clinical conversations are scrutinized doctors can be seen to laugh less often than patients. But they do laugh—linguistic analysis suggests that …

The Mysterious World of the Deaf

Deaf-mute children learning to hear through their vibratory senses at a school in Zurich, 1955

I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language

by Lydia Denworth
“Deafness as such is not the affliction,” Oliver Sacks has pointed out, “affliction enters with the breakdown of communication and language.” How then to safeguard your child’s best chance of acquiring language and enabling communication? Lydia Denworth’s book explores the science surrounding that question.


In the Flower Garden of the Brain

Drawing of injured Purkinje neurons of the cerebellum, 1914

It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that brain structures began to be uncovered, by a Spanish microscopist called Santiago Ramón y Cajal. As an undergraduate in neuroscience and then medicine I was given Cajal’s drawings to study—they have a timeless elegance and enduring value for students. A new book, The Beautiful Brain, collects some of his finest.


‘The Suppliant Women’

Aeschylus offers no neat redemptions for any of the play’s characters, and neither does David Greig. But the immense value of this production lies in the safe space it offers to explore timeless but urgent questions: how do we contain tyranny and transcend violence, and what are our obligations as a demos when war flares along our borders?