The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science

by Sam Kean


Synopsis:
From New York Times best-selling author Sam Kean comes the gripping, untold history of science’s darkest secrets.


Science is a force for good in the world – at least usually. But sometimes, when obsession gets the better of scientists, they twist a noble pursuit into something sinister. Under this spell, knowledge isn’t everything, it’s the only thing – no matter the cost. Best-selling author Sam Kean tells the true story of what happens when unfettered ambition pushes otherwise rational men and women to cross the line in the name of science, trampling ethical boundaries and often committing crimes in the process.


The Icepick Surgeon masterfully guides the listener across 2,000 years of history, beginning with Cleopatra’s dark deeds in ancient Egypt. The book reveals the origins of much of modern science in the transatlantic slave trade of the 1700s, as well as Thomas Edison’s mercenary support of the electric chair and the warped logic of the spies who infiltrated the Manhattan Project. But the sins of science aren’t all safely buried in the past. Many of them, Kean reminds us, still affect us today. We can draw direct lines from the medical abuses of Tuskegee and Nazi Germany to current vaccine hesitancy, and connect icepick lobotomies from the 1950s to the contemporary failings of mental-health care. Kean even takes us into the future, when advanced computers and genetic engineering could unleash whole new ways to do each other wrong.

Unflinching, and exhilarating to the last page, The Icepick Surgeon fuses the drama of scientific discovery with the illicit thrill of a true-crime tale. With his trademark wit and precision, Kean shows that, while science has done more good than harm in the world, rogue scientists do exist, and when we sacrifice morals for progress, we often end up with neither.


My thoughts: An easy to listen to story, narrated by the author, who has a pleasant reading voice. Filled with tales of scientists who crossed the line in their endeavors to further knowledge. It even calls out Cleopatra for being the first to do so, trying to determine the sex of unborn children. Some great stories in here. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Tom Clavin, and the publisher.


The Icepick Surgeon


Publisher: Hachette Audio – Little, Brown, & Co.
Publication: July 13th, 2021
My rating: 4/5

About the author– Sam Kean is the New York Times bestselling author of The Bastard Brigade, Caesar’s Last Breath (the Guardian’s Science Book of the Year), The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, The Violinist’s Thumb, and The Disappearing Spoon. He is also a two-time finalist for the PEN / E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. His work has appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications, and he has been featured on NPR’s Radiolab, All Things Considered, Science Friday, and Fresh Air. His podcast, The Disappearing Spoon, debuted at #1 on the iTunes science charts. Kean lives in Washington DC.


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