hold back the stars join us on facebook
Search our site
Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber Read the opening extract of the brand new Kathleen Barber book before its publication on 27/12/2017

The War of the Soups and the Sparks The Discovery of Neurotransmitters and the Dispute Over How Nerves Communicate by Elliot S. Valenstein

The War of the Soups and the Sparks The Discovery of Neurotransmitters and the Dispute Over How Nerves Communicate


The War of the Soups and the Sparks The Discovery of Neurotransmitters and the Dispute Over How Nerves Communicate by Elliot S. Valenstein

Like the cracking of the genetic code and the creation of the atomic bomb, the discovery of how the brain's neurons work is one of the fundamental scientific developments of the twentieth century. The discovery of neurotransmitters revolutionized the way we think about the brain and what it means to be human yet few people know how they were discovered, the scientists involved, or the fierce controversy about whether they even existed. The War of the Soups and the Sparks tells the saga of the dispute between the pharmacologists, who had uncovered the first evidence that nerves communicate by releasing chemicals, and the neurophysiologists, experts on the nervous system, who dismissed the evidence and remained committed to electrical explanations. The protagonists of this story are Otto Loewi and Henry Dale, who received Nobel Prizes for their work, and Walter Cannon, who would have shared the prize with them if he had not been persuaded to adopt a controversial theory (how that happened is an important part of this history). Valenstein sets his story of scientific discovery against the backdrop of two world wars and examines the fascinating lives of several scientists whose work was affected by the social and political events of their time. He recounts such stories as Loewi's arrest by Nazi storm troopers and Dale's efforts at helping key scientists escape Germany. The War of the Soups and the Sparks reveals how science and scientists work. Valenstein describes the observations and experiments that led to the discovery of neurotransmitters and sheds light on what determines whether a novel concept will gain acceptance among the scientific community. His work also explains the immense importance of Loewi, Dale, and Cannon's achievements in our understanding of the human brain and the way mental illnesses are conceptualized and treated.


Valenstein's book... is a readable and instructive history of one of neuroscience's most important scientific disputes. -- Charles Stevens Nature A fun, fast read, covering more than the title implies, and it can substantially broaden the modern reader's thinking. -- Nicholas C. Spitzer Nature Neuroscience An engaging story of scientific discovery and debate that spanned the two world wars. Highly recommended. -- J. A. Hewlett Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries The War of the Soups and the Sparks provides insight into an important time in political history and the history of neuroscience. -- Elizabeth I. Martin & Charles B. Nemeroof New England Journal of Medicine Valenstein's well-narrated account of one of the most fascinating chapters in the history of medical research can be strongly recommended. -- Arvid Carlsson Science Scientific style and personality loom large. -- Susan Lanzoni American Scientist Masterly account... beautifully crafted monograph. -- Jerome Kagan, Ph.D. Cerebrum Valenstein's book tells a fascinating story in a lively way. -- James P. Schmidt PsycCRITIQUES Provides a lively and detailed account of the sceintific perserverance that was necessary to change their thinking. -- Melinda Kelley Science Books & Films An interesting book that ably covers an important era in brain science. -- Frank R. Freemon, MD, PhD Journal of the American Medical Association A rewarding read for anyone who marvels at the wonders of scientific discovery. -- Eva Chmielnicki Nature Medicine Valenstein takes the reader on fascinating excursions into the science of the early 1900s. -- Diane C. Zelman FASEB Journal One of the most riveting stories of modern neuroscience. -- EM Tansey Medical History A treasure trove. -- Donald M. O'Malley Quarterly Review of Biology

About the Author

Elliot S. Valenstein is emeritus professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan and the author of Blaming the Brain: The Truth about Drugs and Mental Health and Great and Desperate Cures.

More books by this author
Author 'Like for Like' recommendations

Loading other formats...

Book Info

Publication date

13th October 2006


Elliot S. Valenstein

More books by Elliot S. Valenstein
Author 'Like for Like'


Columbia University Press


256 pages





I love 'try before you buy' extracts. I love the wide range of authors & genres. I love the author info. I love books!

Judi Davies

My favourite thing about is the 'like for like' page this has really introduced me to some good reads! That and lots of honest reviews.

Sam Lewis

A well laid out site, I love the fact that is separates paranormal fiction from fantasy and horror, which other sites don't.

Jen Rainbow

It's the first site that I visit when deciding on the next set of books to buy. A particular treat is being able to download an extract.

Tessa Olson

Lovereading is an amazing place to be, the website is wonderful and to me if I'm sad I'll go here and it cheers me up!

Sophia Upton

I love the 'like for like' author recommendations, it's like an old friend whispering in your ear.

Emma Caddick

It has enriched my leisure time by introducing me to a world of books which I would not have previously considered.

Val Rowe

They are bright, breezy and eager to offer a great book, then genuinely listen/respect the review one writes.

Maggie Crane