Hot Best Seller

The Icepick Surgeon

Availability: Ready to download

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 ob 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.


Compare

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 ob 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.

30 review for The Icepick Surgeon

  1. 4 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    Remarkable and intriguing! The Icepick Surgeon By Sam Kean This book is so fascinating! It has such incredible stories of how science has been used without any sort of morality or conscious. Many would be a war crime if preformed now! Some of these stories I had heard about before but this gives a lot more tidbits. It starts with Cleopatra and her experiments on people and on up. Very eye opening! I was never bored that's for sure! If you like science and history or the bizarre, pick this up! I got Remarkable and intriguing! The Icepick Surgeon By Sam Kean This book is so fascinating! It has such incredible stories of how science has been used without any sort of morality or conscious. Many would be a war crime if preformed now! Some of these stories I had heard about before but this gives a lot more tidbits. It starts with Cleopatra and her experiments on people and on up. Very eye opening! I was never bored that's for sure! If you like science and history or the bizarre, pick this up! I got this from my local library!

  2. 4 out of 5

    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 unfamiliar, Kean’s books generally go like this: take a scientific element (e.g., the periodic table, genetics, the brain), stir in a plethora of sometimes seemingly disconnected anecdotes, case studies, and episodes of historical significance that ultimately bake up into a pretty deliciously coheren 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 unfamiliar, Kean’s books generally go like this: take a scientific element (e.g., the periodic table, genetics, the brain), stir in a plethora of sometimes seemingly disconnected anecdotes, case studies, and episodes of historical significance that ultimately bake up into a pretty deliciously coherent cake, add a generous dollop of dad jokes and, boom, Bob’s your uncle—you’ve got a pretty great read that will make you an unstoppable conversational force at the next party you attend (well, back when parties were things we attended). Kean’s last book, The Bastard Brigade, deviated from that formula, though he mostly returns to it, albeit painting on a broader palette, with Icepick Surgeon. Instead of a particular focal point within the scientific realm, however, he surveys the profession of science as a whole for instances of individuals prioritizing science, discovery, or fame, fortune, and notoriety over ethics and rigorous (albeit often tedious) data collection. Needless to say, things can get a little dark. I mean, what else do you expect when you’ve got the “Johnny Appleseed of psychosurgery” running about hither, thither, and yon, lobotomizing people with cheerfully reckless abandon, lopping off pieces of brain like an enthusiastic new homeowner attacking a problematic hedge with top-of-the-line garden shears. Toss in grave robbers disinterring fresh corpses for greedy doctors; Nazis; torture; the Tuskegee Study; and the psychological battering of a timid gent by the name of Ted Kaczynski (perhaps you’ve heard of him?) and you’ve got quite the mix of scoundrels, ne’er-do-wells, and unethical boundary pushers. Confession: coming off such an exceedingly dark and challenging 18 months (I split a pair of pants, lost my lucky quarter, got a pretty mean papercut…oh, and there’s that whole global pandemic thing, racial injustice, environmental catastrophes, and murder hornets), this was a heavier read than I was hoping for (if you want something quite literally lighter, check out Kean’s incandescently brilliant Caesar’s Last Breath). Still, Kean deftly navigates some of the book’s most morally thorny quandaries and, as always, there is more interesting and engaging information packed in here than an entire set of encyclopedias (dating myself much*?). This is an extremely worthy addition to your “interesting books on sinister topics” bookshelf. And if you don’t have one of those, you really should. *Sometimes you have to date yourself because no one else will

  3. 5 out of 5

    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 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    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 range from unethical experimentation (you've heard of the Nazi doctors, but have you heard of the US Public Health Service's Tuskegee and Guatemalan syphilis studies?), to grave robbing; murder (and the use of scientific skills to try to cover up) to animal electrification and execution; fraud (falsi 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 range from unethical experimentation (you've heard of the Nazi doctors, but have you heard of the US Public Health Service's Tuskegee and Guatemalan syphilis studies?), to grave robbing; murder (and the use of scientific skills to try to cover up) to animal electrification and execution; fraud (falsification of police drug testing on a massive scale!) to over prescription (of LOBOTOMIES). There's a lot in here to humble scientists and remind us that humans are complex in their motivations and behaviors and can do great wrongs for reasons both venal and noble. The stories were really well told and engaging, but this wasn't a perfect book. Other than the general theme of "scientists doing bad" there wasn't a whole lot connecting the stories in the book. At times it felt like a series of loosely connected magazine stories or podcast episodes - and in fact several chapters included a very annoying "for more information on this check out his podcast episode on my website" plug. The chapter on nuclear espionage didn't really feel like it fit with the rest of the book too either. That said, the stories here were educational (I hadn't heard of many of them before) and important. **Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    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 was a audiobook and the narrator Ben Sullivan was great! He always does a good job. I love history and this kept my interest all the way through. The author convincingly wrote about the horrors. I was shocked about the Nazi’s experiments and how we learned so much from them. If you love history and crime “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 was a audiobook and the narrator Ben Sullivan was great! He always does a good job. I love history and this kept my interest all the way through. The author convincingly wrote about the horrors. I was shocked about the Nazi’s experiments and how we learned so much from them. If you love history and crime I highly recommend this. Thanks Little, Brown & Co via Netgalley.

  6. 5 out of 5

    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 "dastardly deeds" perpetrated in the name of science. I found this book to be my favorite type of nonfiction science book. Short vingettes of biographies from a certain moment in a person's life focusing around a certain theme. Kean focused on different deeds individuals have used science throughout 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 "dastardly deeds" perpetrated in the name of science. I found this book to be my favorite type of nonfiction science book. Short vingettes of biographies from a certain moment in a person's life focusing around a certain theme. Kean focused on different deeds individuals have used science throughout history to justify their beliefs. The most important question he raised was whether it is ethical for science to utilize scientific findings that were obtained unethically. He ventured into a morally gray area where there doesn't appear to be any black and white answers. Albert Einstein once said, "Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong. It is character." Kean argued that character is the best guarantee against scientific abuse. A balance between intellect and character need to be struck in order to prevent scientific abuse. As a bonus, Kean links this book to his podcast that goes into further details about the topics in this book that couldn't be covered within it. I thought that was a great tie in. I did have to skip over the chapter about experiments on animals, not in the name of science but to boost Edison's ego. There are trigger warnings for several topics within this book. I'd heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in nonfiction, science, and/or true crime.

  7. 5 out of 5

    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 that when speaking (or writing) about certain programs, documents or ideals which pertained to the time in which segments in books take place, terminology will often be dated. However, Kean often called Indigenous peoples "Indians" & it was not necessary to do so. I actually thought he was introduci 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 that when speaking (or writing) about certain programs, documents or ideals which pertained to the time in which segments in books take place, terminology will often be dated. However, Kean often called Indigenous peoples "Indians" & it was not necessary to do so. I actually thought he was introducing a segment regarding India when this chapter explored this part because I couldn't wrap my head around a non-Indigenous person thinking, in 2021, that using the derogatory "Indian" was an okay thing to do. It's not. I highlight that when Kean was utilizing direct quotes, document names, programs & legislature of the time, I am acknowledging the time & place in which these were relevant & in keeping the authenticity of those titles, Kean was right to not change them. However, when continuing on with the text/thought Kean should very much have changed the indicator to one of many which are acceptable today (i.e. Aboriginal, Indigenous). For this reason I was left feeling a bit bizarrely about the entire book. I cannot speak to personal experience for many of the other themes & segments explored in this book & therefore felt that as I had caught an inappropriate piece in the book, perhaps someone else had noted something else, something which I was not versed on. I lost my trust in the author. These points aside, this book was very interesting & an easy audiobook to get through. Ben Sullivan did an absolutely stellar job at narrating the book & I attribute the flow of the whole story to his ability to capture the entirety of the segments. Some other people have noted their displeasure that Kean ends segments with links to his podcast & I would have to agree with them. I would find myself engrossed in the information presented only to have myself jolted out of the story by the encouragement to 'find out more' in an episode of Kean's podcast. Perhaps had he left a footnote or included these at the end of the book I might not have minded. All in all, a decent read & I did appreciate the narrative covered. Thank you to NetGalley, Hachette Audio & Sam Kean for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! #TheIcepickSurgeon #NetGalley

  8. 4 out of 5

    Krisette Spangler

    Wow, this had some hair raising stories. I couldn't believe some of the things that have been done in the name of science. It was interesting to read all of the stories, and I found the author's writing style to be engaging and sometimes humorous. Wow, this had some hair raising stories. I couldn't believe some of the things that have been done in the name of science. It was interesting to read all of the stories, and I found the author's writing style to be engaging and sometimes humorous.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Angus McKeogh

    Giving this one a just okay rating. It wasn’t terrible but I was coming in thinking it’d be amazing and deeply interesting. It ended up being marginal. Some of the “duplicitous scientific connections were pretty remote and stretched thin” and while the stories as noted by the titles sounded gripping they generally ended up being ho-hum.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Justine Olawsky

    Probably more of a 3.5 stars on my end, but it's a Sam Kean book, so I will round up. 😁 Upshot: I found this book entertaining and informative, but there was simply some sparkle missing that has always been the secret sauce of Sam Kean's science writing. It seemed a down-spirited book. I guess most of the subjects addressed - including slavery, animal cruelty, and torture - are not the stuff that har-hars are made of, so that could explain it. As the book came nearer to its closing, the stories f Probably more of a 3.5 stars on my end, but it's a Sam Kean book, so I will round up. 😁 Upshot: I found this book entertaining and informative, but there was simply some sparkle missing that has always been the secret sauce of Sam Kean's science writing. It seemed a down-spirited book. I guess most of the subjects addressed - including slavery, animal cruelty, and torture - are not the stuff that har-hars are made of, so that could explain it. As the book came nearer to its closing, the stories flowed into modern times, and for some reason - maybe by dint of their very closeness - the stories to me were dingier and less compelling - the persons committing the travesties in the name of science smaller, more wicked, more boring. That said, the book starts out very well, with Cleopatra's disturbing research on human gestation through the use of hapless ladies in waiting. It continues with pirating (always welcome), slavery (a study in how one's integrity can be compromised through the poison of surrounding cultural norms), grave-robbing (medical students gotta study something), murder (probably my favorite overall vignette tale), animal cruelty (no! not the horses!), and sabotage (making your rival look like a fool). Each highlights how a sin or crime either helped illuminate mysteries of the natural world or was committed in pursuit of gaining glory in scientific circles. All good stuff. The final chapters I found, as I said earlier, more tawdry, less interesting. But, I did learn something interesting about Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber). Also, John Money is the WORST. My great hope, based on the appendix, is that Sam Kean might turn his hand next to fiction and indulge in some futuristic space crime novels with all the moral implications of a world unmoored from national sovereignty and cultural mores, adrift and isolated and eerie and very, very murdery.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Scott Baird (Gunpowder Fiction and Plot)

    A non fiction book about ethics and science. Some sections of this read like a real life historical Bold and Beautiful, some bits was straight out nightmare porn While the book was very interesting and deserves credit and praise, it was a bit basic. Maybe a bit more research or a scientist who wasn't a Westerner would have been refreshing. A non fiction book about ethics and science. Some sections of this read like a real life historical Bold and Beautiful, some bits was straight out nightmare porn While the book was very interesting and deserves credit and praise, it was a bit basic. Maybe a bit more research or a scientist who wasn't a Westerner would have been refreshing.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ula Tardigrade

    Sam Kean's popularity is well deserved – his writing is always interesting, he digs deep into the topic and has a disarming sense of humor. His last book is no exception. This time he presents stories that are not only, as usual in his case, bizarre but also pretty dark, provoking many questions about limits of scientific freedom and applying ethics in practice. Some of these tales are pretty well known but enriched with new details, some were revelatory to me – but each one was engrossing. I al Sam Kean's popularity is well deserved – his writing is always interesting, he digs deep into the topic and has a disarming sense of humor. His last book is no exception. This time he presents stories that are not only, as usual in his case, bizarre but also pretty dark, provoking many questions about limits of scientific freedom and applying ethics in practice. Some of these tales are pretty well known but enriched with new details, some were revelatory to me – but each one was engrossing. I also have to praise the narrator in the audio version – his performance is immaculate and very engaging. Despite the difficult topic, a combination of great writing and equally great delivery makes this item a perfect companion for a summer trip. Thanks to the publisher, Hachette Audio, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this audiobook.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Robbins

    This was a really interesting, although sometimes gruesome, collection of stories about people doing shady things in the name of science. I learned a lot of things about the history of some scientific discoveries. I will say, the chapter about Tesla and Edison was really hard to listen to at some points. It was really interesting to learn about their history together as collaborators then opponents, but the things that were done to animals in that process were horrific. There were several other This was a really interesting, although sometimes gruesome, collection of stories about people doing shady things in the name of science. I learned a lot of things about the history of some scientific discoveries. I will say, the chapter about Tesla and Edison was really hard to listen to at some points. It was really interesting to learn about their history together as collaborators then opponents, but the things that were done to animals in that process were horrific. There were several other disturbing sections, but that chapter was by far the toughest. My biggest complaint about this book is that the author regularly pitches his podcast. I think once at the beginning or the end would have been fine, but it popped up frequently enough to annoy me. Aside from that I thought it was a really interesting book with a lot of great information. I'm big into science and a lot of this was information I'd never heard before. I'm intrigued by this author and plan to check out more of his books. As is probably apparent, I did listen to the audiobook. I thought the narrator did a great job and I would definitely listen to more of his narration.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nengshi Haokip

    Disturbing, educational, thorough and descriptive are some of the words I would use to describe this book. Science has evolved a lot through the ages and it is the result of a variety of trial and error method which led to the developments that we see today, especially in medical science. Though the acts described in the book are highly unethical and gruesome, we can still appreciate their contribution towards science and cannot deny the fact that it has led to some amazing discoveries. This doe Disturbing, educational, thorough and descriptive are some of the words I would use to describe this book. Science has evolved a lot through the ages and it is the result of a variety of trial and error method which led to the developments that we see today, especially in medical science. Though the acts described in the book are highly unethical and gruesome, we can still appreciate their contribution towards science and cannot deny the fact that it has led to some amazing discoveries. This doesn’t mean that I condone the acts or wish it on anyone. Starting with Cleopatra and her experiments on pregnant women, or be it the pirate explorer and adventurer, whose works have influenced Darwin’s theory, or the icepick surgeon who used icepicks to perform lobotomies through the eye socket, or the adventurer dealing in slave trade to further his projects, or the resurrectionists transacting in dead bodies, and often resorting to murder to provide bodies, or the archeologists Cope and Marsh sabotaging each other's excavations, or the Nazi doctors conducting human experiments to infect and treat diseases in the concentration camps, or the American doctors doing the same human experiments to find and treat syphilis, or the American who spied for the Russians during the Cold War and stole some important documents from the Manhattan project and other top-secret projects, or the infamous disagreement between Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla regarding the DC and AC current which led to the torture of animals and experimentation on the electric chair; these dastardly acts if done today would never have been allowed due to it’s highly illegal and gruesome nature. And some of them have been on trial for these crimes and convicted. All these were mainly due to the arrogance and ambition of these so called scientists who sacrificed their morality and ethics to further their own ambitions and selfish greed. Overall it was a good book, well researched and informative and I had a good listening experience, thanks to its narrator Ben Sullivan. Thanks to #NetGalley and Hachette Audio for providing a free advance audiobook in exchange for an honest opinion. #NetGalley #TheIcepickSurgeonAudio

  15. 5 out of 5

    Em Meurer

    The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science by Sam Kean ⚡️ I was provided an audio-ARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (Out 7/13) TW: This book contains graphic descriptions of physical and psychological tourture, ableist language, and outdated and racist terms, along with the other crimes listed in the book’s subtitle 🌟: 3 / 5 📚: An exploration of the most despicable discoveries in medical researc The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science by Sam Kean ⚡️ I was provided an audio-ARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (Out 7/13) TW: This book contains graphic descriptions of physical and psychological tourture, ableist language, and outdated and racist terms, along with the other crimes listed in the book’s subtitle 🌟: 3 / 5 📚: An exploration of the most despicable discoveries in medical research, told through the doctors and scientists whose ambitions trumped the morals, ethics, and safety of the people that they were hoping to help. 💭: At its heart, the message that this book is trying to get across is that the ethics and human cost of research is something that we need to constantly need to evolve, scrutinize, and be conscious of. Kean uses true crime-style case studies to discuss the crimes that scientists have committed in the name of advancing our understanding of medicine. It’s extremely engaging storytelling and is written and narrated well, but there are many instances where readers are pulled out of the narrative for Kean to advertise his podcast (it’s on Spotify and Apple Podcasts! This chapter was episode 22!). All of this being said, I had a lot of issues with the language chosen to represent these ideas. For a book that emphasizes learning from the downfalls of the past when it comes to creating a more humane and ethical future in medicine and medical research, the way that it’s spoken about is not as thoughtful when it comes to the word choices that Kean uses. At first I gave him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he was quoting a contemporary source and the audiobook made it sound like it wasn’t a quote. However, towards the end of the book, there were some distinctions made about word choices that one sources uses no longer being in use and all uses of them were paraphrased from a published case study on that topic, and that distinction on one word’s use made me genuinely angry about the previous word choices. This paragraph refers to specific and potentially triggering words that the author used (view spoiler)[I made notes on the word choices that stood out to me, but there were many more that I just didn’t have a chance to write down. Many of the word choices were ableist and honestly just lazily used in place of other adjectives— “schizoid” used in place of “contrasting,” “OCD” in place of “punctual” or “reliable—” words that took me less than 10 seconds to find replacements for on thesaurus.com. Other words were demeaning, such as referring sex workers who were put into dangerous studies as “hookers,” which further degrades the position that they were put into against their will. There was also the repeated use of the outdated term “Indian” to refer to indiginous people from North and South America and Mestizo people in Guatemala (it was also used properly to speak to people from India, but was used within the same chapter as the first use, so it caused a lot of confusion). (hide spoiler)] As with many books about medical history, I kept having to stop reading and walk away because the content of this book is so awful. Although it was written well for the content and does a good job of broaching the topic of why we need ethics in medicine to constantly be scrutinized, it was often just a lot to take in (some chapters more than others for sure). Unfortunately, the ethical issues that this book raises aren’t all completely over with. The penultimate case study focuses on the traumatic treatment of intersex, transgender, and queer youth who endure surgeries and therapies, often without consent. It’s hard to read and heartbreaking to consider, but occasionally felt like these issues were a part of the past like the other stories featured in this book. It’s very crucial to remember that ethical issues in medicine still exist and will continue to arise as science and our understanding of medicine evolves, and I think that the conclusion and afterword touch on this well; however, the fact that these aren’t addressed until after so many hard-to-read anecdotes troubles me for a couple of reasons. I wish that these considerations were more top-of-mind while reading and introduced as readers go into this book, and I worry that many readers will stop reading this book ahead of getting to these considerations, purely because of the nature of this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jaimie

    Each of these stranger-than-fiction tales of medical or scientific horror is more unbelievable and nightmare-inducing than the last. While I'm not one for reading medical nonfiction in general, Kean's almost true crime method of reporting on each case works for me, a dedicated true crime reader, and I'm sure would work for others as well. I appreciate how grounded each of the "stories" is in it's own time and place, with the author always reminding the reader not to look at each case through the Each of these stranger-than-fiction tales of medical or scientific horror is more unbelievable and nightmare-inducing than the last. While I'm not one for reading medical nonfiction in general, Kean's almost true crime method of reporting on each case works for me, a dedicated true crime reader, and I'm sure would work for others as well. I appreciate how grounded each of the "stories" is in it's own time and place, with the author always reminding the reader not to look at each case through the lens of modern science and medicine, but that of the case in question. (Though, of course, some atrocities are atrocities, regardless of when they occur, something the author also acknowledges.) If you are at all interested in the macabre or in medical or scientific history, I'd recommend giving this one a go. 4 stars

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Another winner by Sam Kean! I knew by the topic that this would be one to buy. This is one of my top Sam Kean books (I think the Violinist's Thumb is still #1). In this book, Sam Kean details the ways science has been a source of evil or corruption driven by unethical men (and one woman got a chapter). My favorite chapters detailed the history of anatomists stealing corpses for research. There's some utterly fascinating stories and even a murder mystery! The first chapter include how slavery was i Another winner by Sam Kean! I knew by the topic that this would be one to buy. This is one of my top Sam Kean books (I think the Violinist's Thumb is still #1). In this book, Sam Kean details the ways science has been a source of evil or corruption driven by unethical men (and one woman got a chapter). My favorite chapters detailed the history of anatomists stealing corpses for research. There's some utterly fascinating stories and even a murder mystery! The first chapter include how slavery was intertwined with science and one naturalist's uneasy alliance with slave traders to fuel his expeditions. He also delves into the Tuskegee syphilis experiments detailed how they were grossly unethical AND yielded useless data due to poor methodology. The most disturbing chapter might be on lobotomies (because you can't help but visualize it), though he has a nuanced look into the practice. He has some less cringe-worthy, but still provocative stories on fraud, espionage, and paleontology wars as well. He has a short chapter at the end where he hypothesizes on possible ethical breaches in the future-- not for everyone's taste, but I do enjoy a theoretical deep dive. I did thoroughly enjoy every chapter, though I had some favorites for sure. I guess the only critique I had is that Kean clearly is writing for a more erudite audience and occasionally there are references that not every layperson would get. Other than that, I thought it was intriguing, fascinating, and a great read. I hope he has a great one in the works again soon!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    This was great! I already knew most of the stories, but that says more about my weird tastes than this book, and Kean provided lots of detail. I always meant to read The Disappearing Spoon, glad I had the chance at this one.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elisa

    An informative book that discusses the ethical limits of science and exposes the most flagrant cases of immoral behavior. There are so many things that I liked about it. Firstly, Kean refuses to judge the people involved in these stories. He bases his arguments on the ethical principles that existed at the time, and not the ones we use today. He doesn’t turn these real people into stereotypes of mad scientists. Some did some good in other areas, they were not all evil. That said, he doesn’t defe An informative book that discusses the ethical limits of science and exposes the most flagrant cases of immoral behavior. There are so many things that I liked about it. Firstly, Kean refuses to judge the people involved in these stories. He bases his arguments on the ethical principles that existed at the time, and not the ones we use today. He doesn’t turn these real people into stereotypes of mad scientists. Some did some good in other areas, they were not all evil. That said, he doesn’t defend the indefensible, but he makes some good arguments about the legacies that these unethical experiments have given humankind. Yes, the nazis were evil and their experiments into hypothermia were horrible and cruel but, if your daughter was suffering from it, would you refuse the insights that the nazis brought because the ways they did it were horrific? He doesn’t offer easy answers, it is up to the reader to decide. I also liked the fact that I don’t know his personal political views. He discusses bad things done by both sides of the aisle. He’s never preachy. Full disclosure, there is a chapter about animal cruelty that I had to skip altogether. The narration by Ben Sullivan is direct and fun, like an informal chat with a friend and without the professorial tone that some of the science audiobooks have. Cringeworthy but fascinating! I chose to listen to this audiobook and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/@HachetteAudio, Little, Brown & Company!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Erickson

    I enjoyed this book quite a bit, the stories inside were fascinating and gruesome, while also getting into the moral complexity of using research as ill-gotten gains. The Nazis are the most obvious to come to mind here, but there were lots of shady research experiments done in the past. The story that stuck out the most to me was the one from Winnipeg regarding the David Reimer case- I live in Winnipeg and I had never heard anything about this. This story was absolutely horrifying! I did have som I enjoyed this book quite a bit, the stories inside were fascinating and gruesome, while also getting into the moral complexity of using research as ill-gotten gains. The Nazis are the most obvious to come to mind here, but there were lots of shady research experiments done in the past. The story that stuck out the most to me was the one from Winnipeg regarding the David Reimer case- I live in Winnipeg and I had never heard anything about this. This story was absolutely horrifying! I did have some problems with this book, though. The author did use outdated language a few times; It mostly didn't bother me too much because due to the context, I could tell that Kean was trying to keep the language "as it was"- I believe he used Indian after referring to a group that had Indian in their name and their stated goal was to "kill Indians". While it's a term I would normally look down upon an author using today, I felt in the context to switch to "indigenous" would have felt awkward- but a disclaimer after the fact would have been nice, especially since many Americans still use the term colloquially, to help normalize it felt weird. The second irritating thing he did was to keep promoting his podcast. Such a weird thing to do. Maybe it's an audiobook thing only, and in the physical book, they are instead footnotes? Either way, it was jarring. I recommend this book, but with some caveats. It can be pretty heavy, and it's possible the language may put you off it (or the constant podcast-advertising).

  21. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Sam Kean’s work is always such a delight to read, no matter which branch of science he chooses. Going in I expected to like this book less than some of his other work because medical science is of very little interest to me, but Kean proved he can make anything fun and interested and hooked me with this one too. I will say that the chapters in this that interested me most were more about “bad, mad science” in general and less about medical issues specifically. The Russian spies and the always terr Sam Kean’s work is always such a delight to read, no matter which branch of science he chooses. Going in I expected to like this book less than some of his other work because medical science is of very little interest to me, but Kean proved he can make anything fun and interested and hooked me with this one too. I will say that the chapters in this that interested me most were more about “bad, mad science” in general and less about medical issues specifically. The Russian spies and the always terrific Cope and Marsh were two of my favorites. And the resurrectionists are always fun as well. Full disclosure: I skipped the chapter on animal cruelty for obvious reasons. The chapters dedicated more to disease were less to my liking, but Kean is so fun and funny that there was something in pretty much every subject to learn and delight in. Be sure to read the appendix, where Kean talks about hypothetical crimes in the future. Space Crime?! So much fun. For audiobook readers: I chose this format for this book, and this is absolutely the kind of material that works well in audio. Narrator Ben Sullivan was dynamic and fun and truly feels like he’s reading in Kean’s “voice.” *I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina

    I don't usually go out of my way to pick up non-fiction reads but the blurb got me curious enough to give it a shot. I was not disappointed. The stories that unfold seemed stranger than fiction because surely humans are able to control their desires for fame and recognition in the name of science and truth? As it turns out, that is not the case. It was interesting to see the psychological gymnastic feats that the persons in this book preformed in order to justify the methods that they used to ac I don't usually go out of my way to pick up non-fiction reads but the blurb got me curious enough to give it a shot. I was not disappointed. The stories that unfold seemed stranger than fiction because surely humans are able to control their desires for fame and recognition in the name of science and truth? As it turns out, that is not the case. It was interesting to see the psychological gymnastic feats that the persons in this book preformed in order to justify the methods that they used to achieve their results. However, those results were often manipulated so that it wouldn't contradict the scientist's bias. Only thing that made the audiobook difficult to digest was the chapters that included graphic animal abuse. But it wasn't done in order to get a reaction out of the reader but to tell very real actions done by some scientists. Many thanks to NetGalley for the chance to listen to a very well done audiobook book and good job to those who worked on it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    A riveting series of events regaled in such a way that this book begs to be devoured. An absolute must read for every budding medical student, Biologist, anthropologist, and scientifically minded individual. Kean does a fantastic job tactfully and effectively shining a light on the white and male privilege that has dominated the fields of science for centuries, highlighting the pain and suffering of those whose contribution to different fields of study was bodily forced from them. He encourages A riveting series of events regaled in such a way that this book begs to be devoured. An absolute must read for every budding medical student, Biologist, anthropologist, and scientifically minded individual. Kean does a fantastic job tactfully and effectively shining a light on the white and male privilege that has dominated the fields of science for centuries, highlighting the pain and suffering of those whose contribution to different fields of study was bodily forced from them. He encourages thoughtful discourse on how the modern scientist should handle taboo and extremely complex facets of scientific advancement. This book reminds it's readers that no person or field of study should ever be above reproach, to always advocate for those being abused my systemic racism and sexism, and to anticipate how each and every one of us may aid in the development of our scientific future.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    I always enjoy a good Sam Kean story and these were no exception. I was a little concerned as I had just read Gory details, adventures from the dark side of science by Engelhaupt and Elephants on acid and other bizarre experiments by Alex Boese and was afraid I might have had enough "bad science " stories. Kean, though, gave a more nuanced picture of the scientists and why they did what they did. If you find yourself in need of some excellent examples of how the road to hell is paved with good i I always enjoy a good Sam Kean story and these were no exception. I was a little concerned as I had just read Gory details, adventures from the dark side of science by Engelhaupt and Elephants on acid and other bizarre experiments by Alex Boese and was afraid I might have had enough "bad science " stories. Kean, though, gave a more nuanced picture of the scientists and why they did what they did. If you find yourself in need of some excellent examples of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions... look no further. I did feel like the female scientist in the last chapter was added just for some balance, but perhaps it was needed.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Read this in clinic between subjects - an ideal book for this since the chapters are all nicely divided up. Kean is a good storyteller of science history and this book is basically "what happens when scientists go bad". Some of them were pretty awful to start with, some got on that slippery slope of "justifying their actions" and wind up being terrible/making terrible decisions. CW for, well, it's about scientists throughout history going bad so there's racism, slavery/slave trading, bad ethics, Read this in clinic between subjects - an ideal book for this since the chapters are all nicely divided up. Kean is a good storyteller of science history and this book is basically "what happens when scientists go bad". Some of them were pretty awful to start with, some got on that slippery slope of "justifying their actions" and wind up being terrible/making terrible decisions. CW for, well, it's about scientists throughout history going bad so there's racism, slavery/slave trading, bad ethics, animal mistreatment, abuse of patients, somewhat graphic descriptions of surgical prodecures, etc.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Justice Simanek

    Every chapter of this book was interesting, but I didn’t see the through-line that tied them all together. Some chapters really didn’t have much to do with science or even ethics. I also thought the author could have handled some of the topics with much more grace. For instance, his depictions of mental health really disappointed me. Specifically his discussions around asylums placed the blame of patients’ poor mental health on themselves and none on the state of the asylum and the truly disgust Every chapter of this book was interesting, but I didn’t see the through-line that tied them all together. Some chapters really didn’t have much to do with science or even ethics. I also thought the author could have handled some of the topics with much more grace. For instance, his depictions of mental health really disappointed me. Specifically his discussions around asylums placed the blame of patients’ poor mental health on themselves and none on the state of the asylum and the truly disgusting ways asylums were run. Overall, it seems like the author felt he had enough research from his podcasts to make a book and he jammed it all in wherever it could fit.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I won an advanced copy of this book on Goodreads. An entertaining and interesting read. I learned a few new things here and I am pretty well read. I have read about several of the stories here but it goes to show that sometimes we put too much faith in the so-called professionals. It is a wonder why people trust the government at all or even humans in general. I don't! Plus trust has to be earned not given. I am not saying all scientists are bad or conducting fraudulent reporting/testing and nei I won an advanced copy of this book on Goodreads. An entertaining and interesting read. I learned a few new things here and I am pretty well read. I have read about several of the stories here but it goes to show that sometimes we put too much faith in the so-called professionals. It is a wonder why people trust the government at all or even humans in general. I don't! Plus trust has to be earned not given. I am not saying all scientists are bad or conducting fraudulent reporting/testing and neither does the author, but it does make me wonder if anything can be trustworthy. It's like one bad apple spoils the entire bunch of them whether that is right or wrong we can't help but think of it that way. Trust your instincts and intuition.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Mcbroom

    With all this talk about SCIENCE (Done in my best Thomas Dolby video voice) common sense has left the building. This is why I loved this book . Not all science is perfect!!! Science in the name of evil is the science in which Kean exposes from Nazi experimentation, Thomas Edison electrical experiences on animals, the history of the lobotomy, injecting syphllis into young African American men and to make the evil any worse recruiting a young African American women to do the dirty work. the list g With all this talk about SCIENCE (Done in my best Thomas Dolby video voice) common sense has left the building. This is why I loved this book . Not all science is perfect!!! Science in the name of evil is the science in which Kean exposes from Nazi experimentation, Thomas Edison electrical experiences on animals, the history of the lobotomy, injecting syphllis into young African American men and to make the evil any worse recruiting a young African American women to do the dirty work. the list goes on and on.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    DNF at 8% due to racist language. The only people who should be referred to as Indian are those who are actually of Indian decent. Just because you're writing about buccaneers doesn't mean you need to write like one. Far be it for me to expect a researcher to be specific, respectful, and refer to people mentioned in the book by the terms they would use to define themselves. I read Sam Kean's work years ago and was looking forward to this book. Clearly, I was not reading carefully enough in the p DNF at 8% due to racist language. The only people who should be referred to as Indian are those who are actually of Indian decent. Just because you're writing about buccaneers doesn't mean you need to write like one. Far be it for me to expect a researcher to be specific, respectful, and refer to people mentioned in the book by the terms they would use to define themselves. I read Sam Kean's work years ago and was looking forward to this book. Clearly, I was not reading carefully enough in the past. I will not make that mistake again. I am grateful for the ARC and truly wish I could have provided a different review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Coral

    Man, science really does fuck up sometimes.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...