The Icepick Surgeon

The Icepick Surgeon

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Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science

From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes the gripping, untold history of science's darkest secrets, “a fascinating book [that] deserves a wide audience” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

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. Bestselling 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 reader across two thousand 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 one another 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.

Title:The Icepick Surgeon
ISBN:9780316496506
Format Type:

    The Icepick Surgeon Reviews

  • Tadiana ?Night Owl?

    A good non-fiction book of horrors for October! Final review, first posted on FantasyLiterature.com:"Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is chara...

  • Sean Gibson

    I received a review copy from the publisher. This did not affect my review, and what follows is my unvarnished and honest perspective.Well, there goes Sam Kean doing Sam Kean things again. For those u...

  • Jill Hutchinson

    Being a member of the medical community, this book was especially interesting to me even though I was aware of some of the medical "treatments" that have taken place over the years. The author approac...

  • Montzalee Wittmann

    Remarkable and intriguing!The Icepick SurgeonBy Sam KeanThis book is so fascinating! It has such incredible stories of how science has been used without any sort of morality or conscious. Many would b...

  • Valerity (Val)

    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 Cl...

  • Geoff

    The chapters in this book cover the wide range of unethical, illegal, and just plain evil things that have been done in the name of science (or in the name of using science for fame and money). They r...

  • Chantel

    There is a chapter in this book which explores a non-Indigenous person's experiences with a tribe & though the information was pertinent & relevant to the story, the terminology was not. I understand ...

  • Jennifer

    “Science is Simply the Word We Use to Describe a Method of Organizing Our Curiosity” … Tim Minchin. Sam Kean tells us about some crazy people and the things they did in the name of science. This...

  • Amanda

    Morally dubious science is often ipso facto bad science - that morally dubious research is often scientifically dubious as well.The Icepick Surgeon covers murder, fraud, sabotage, piracy, and other "...

  • Ross Blocher

    You had me at Sam Kean. If you enjoy science history, these are the books for you. Kean finds compelling stories and connects them to well-known figures, technologies, and everyday experience. In The ...