The Body

The Body
by Anthony Smith

GA **


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The Body represents a successful revision of the book first published in 1968. Writing for a general audience, Smith masterfully presents the natural history of humankind and the intricacies of the human body in a straightforward, engrossing style. The book is also well-organized; two-thirds of it is concerned with procreation, which the author contends is all pervasive and includes not just reproduction but development, maturity, old age, and death. The remainder discusses the major human organ systems and the effects of radiation on the body. Fascinating anecdotes offset the myriad facts and lack of illustration, helping reader interest to remain high throughout. Smith, for example, does not tediously state that 1 in 2,000 infants possesses a tooth at birth; rather, he writes, "Julius Caesar, Louis XIV Napoleon, and Richard III, together with one in 2,000 of the general population, possessed a tooth at birth." Generally, the information presented is accurate. A few misstatements do occur; for example, in discussing respiration, Smith mentions that the carotid body is located within the brain, when, in fact, it is located within the branching of the left and right common carotid arteries in the neck. The errors that do occur do not detract from the value of the book, however. In The Body, Smith provides an insightful picture of the human body, and I highly recommend his effort.

--Reviewed by Steven R. Hager in Science Books and Films, 22/1 (September/November 1986), pp. 38-9.