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William H. Calvin and Derek Bickerton, Lingua ex Machina: Reconciling Darwin and Chomsky with the human brain (MIT Press, 2000), "About the Authors."  See also

copyright ©2000 by William H. Calvin and Derek Bickerton

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 Sorry, the only color illustrations in the real book are on the cover art.

Webbed Reprint Collection
This 'tree' is really a pyramidal neuron of cerebral cortex.  The axon exiting at bottom goes long distances, eventually splitting up into 10,000 small branchlets to make synapses with other brain cells.
William H. Calvin

University of Washington
Seattle WA 98195-1800 USA

The Authors

William H. Calvin

I majored in physics at Northwestern University (B.A., 1961), spent a year at M.I.T. and Harvard Medical School absorbing the atmosphere of what eventually became known as neuroscience, then went to the University of Washington to do a degree in physiology and biophysics (Ph.D., 1966) working under Charles F. Stevens. I subsequently stayed in Seattle, on the faculty of the Department of Neurological Surgery, a wonderful postdoctoral education as well as a home for my experimental work on neuron repetitive firing mechanisms, from lobster neurons in vitro to human cortical neurons in situ. After a 197879 sabbatical as Visiting Professor of Neurobiology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, my interests began to shift toward theoretical issues in the ensemble properties of neural circuits what eventually became Darwin Machines and to the big brain problem of hominid evolution. Friends in psychology, zoology, archaeology, and physical anthropology tried hard to educate me as I stumbled into their fields during the 1980s. While I am now an Affiliate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington, I am no more a psychiatrist now than I was a neurosurgeon before. Pressed for a specialization, I usually say that Im a theoretical neurophysiologist trying to work out the neural circuitry for higher intellectual function and that periodically leads me astray into linguistics and into the interrelationship between abrupt climate change and human origins.

Derek Bickerton

Although I graduated from the University of Cambridge, England in 1949, it wasnt until the 1960s that I entered academic life, first as a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, and then, after a years postgraduate work in linguistics at the University of Leeds, as Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Guyana (1967-71) the "Senior" was perhaps due to my being the only linguist in the entire country! It was there that I developed a long-lasting interest in creole languages, and this, after a year at the University of Lancaster in England, brought me to Hawaii, where what is locally called "pidgin" is in fact a creole. For twenty-four years I was a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Hawaii, having meanwhile received a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Cambridge (1976). My work in Hawaii, and in particular my discovery that creole languages were produced by children from unstructured input in a single generation, led me to wonder where language had originally come from, and how it had developed to its present complexity. This led to an apprenticeship similar to Bills a learning experience that involved struggling with a variety of unfamiliar disciplines. But Im a card-carrying autodidact, and Ive always found boundaries oppressive, whether of countries, institutions, or academic disciplines. Crossing them has given me some of the most rewarding experiences of my life.


About the Artist

Mark Meyer, who did the cover art, is also a neurobiologist in the Department of Zoology at the University of Washington. Other examples of his art, and guides to his recent paintings, can be found at

Terrence W. Deacon of Harvard Medical School and Boston University kindly photographed the bonobo and human brains that appear on the cover; we have kept their relative sizes unchanged. The Daniel C. Dennett quote is from Kinds of Minds: Toward an Understanding of Consciousness (Basic Books, 1996), p. 147.

Wait, there's still more....

Linguistics Appendix (DB)
About the Authors

Web supplement:  Some photographs of Bellagio.

Copyright 2000 by
William H. Calvin and Derek Bickerton

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