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The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science Hardcover – July 13, 2021

4.3 out of 5 stars 270 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Kean is a gifted raconteur… [in The Icepick Surgeon] you’ll find a series of gripping stories about evil scientific deeds, corrupt rivalries and skulduggery—with real skulls."―John Schwartz, New York Times Book Review

“Delightful, highly readable… Kean takes his readers on an engrossing — and sometimes horrifying — historical tour of the many ways the search for knowledge can go wrong… Written with the flair of a beach thriller and the thoughtfulness of philosophy, the pages explode with a wealth of information and juicy details, all held together with virtuoso storytelling.”―Lucinda Robb, Washington Post

The Icepick Surgeon has its gems of phraseology… We cringe at the ghastly work of grave robbers and surgeons in blood-stiff aprons, and laugh at the comical fights among paleontologists bent on destroying one another’s careers… As each chapter compounds, it becomes more difficult to condemn and smirk without seeing the systemic ways that early sins have crept into the heart of science and medicine today… It takes honesty and integrity to make good science; we ignore this at our peril.”―Brandy Schillace, Wall Street Journal

“Fascinating… Imagine a novel full of true crime thrillers with just one twist—every crime in it was committed in the name of science. This is the premise of the new book, The Icepick Surgeon… From Cleopatra to Thomas Edison, scientists have been responsible for some dastardly crimes throughout history.”―Ira Flatow, NPR Science Friday

“Vivid… [The Icepick Surgeon] serves as an important reminder that science is ever a human enterprise… Kean’s talent for spinning a delightful tale shines.”―Deborah Blum, Science

“Catalogs some of the greatest ethical lapses done in the name of science… The Icepick Surgeon probably raises more questions than it answers. But that’s a hallmark of good experiments—as well as good books about science and scientists.”―Diana Gitig, Ars Technica

“Entertaining and chilling... Expert at spinning historical science yarns… Kean excels at conveying each scientist’s slide into corruption—one so gradual that, like the fabled boiling frog, they scarcely noticed they were in hot water.”―Elizabeth Svoboda, Undark

“Fascinating… Kean argues convincingly that what makes his subjects unique in the annals of crime is that they did wrong ‘for data—to augment our understanding of the world.’ This engrossing look at crimes often committed by otherwise moral people deserves a wide readership."―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[A] witty, thought-provoking book... Kean is a powerful, exciting storyteller who deftly considers ethical questions within an engaging narrative.”―Library Journal (starred review)

“Kean [has a] gift for making science understandable. His writing style is conversational and witty—but he never forgets the real human costs of these crimes.”―Deborah Mason, Bookpage

“[An] interesting discussion of the meaning of true progress and its cost is a thoughtful look through history and into the future.”―Cassie Gutman, Bookriot

“Kean’s strength lies in his storytelling, and in the humane combination of humor and compassion toward the strange life histories he pieces together.”―Columbus Dispatch

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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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Little, Brown and Company (July 13, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 368 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0316496502
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0316496506
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.28 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.4 x 1.55 x 9.55 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 270 ratings

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Official bio: Sam Kean spent years collecting mercury from broken thermometers as a kid, and now he's a writer in Washington, D.C. His new book is The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons. His first two books, The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist's Thumb were national bestsellers, and both were named an Amazon "Top 5" science books of the year. The Disappearing Spoon was nominated by the Royal Society for one of the top science books of 2010, while The Violinist's Thumb was a finalist for PEN's literary science writing award. His work has also been featured on "Radiolab" and NPR's "All Things Considered," among other shows. You can follow him via Twitter @sam_kean, and read excerpts at http://www.samkean.com.

(un)Official bio: Sam Kean gets called Sean at least once a month. He grew up in South Dakota, which means more to him than it probably should. He's a fast reader but a very slow eater. He went to college in Minnesota and studied physics and English. At night, he sometimes comes down with something called "sleep paralysis," which is the opposite of sleepwalking. Right now, he lives in Washington, D.C., where he earned a master's degree in library science that he will probably never use. He feels very strongly that open-faced sandwiches are superior to regular ones.

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
270 global ratings
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W. Jones Jordan, MD
3.0 out of 5 stars Unpleasant details
Reviewed in Mexico on August 18, 2021
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