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The Icepick Surgeon - Sam Kean


One thing is for certain in this Pandemic age, the news cycle is seemingly always focused on science and the leading scientists who deal with this issue. If you find that interesting, try “The Icepick Surgeon”, for dozens of stories about how usually well-meaning scientists veered off the path of ethics and employed such activities as grave robbing, dinosaur hunting, atomic bomb secret stealing as well as Nazi, Soviet and even American unethical experiments.

The author, Sam Kean, makes these and other related topics compelling as to the misuse of science going back to the pirate who practiced biology, often by misusing slaves, but was the precursor in many ways to Charles Darwin. This leads to one of the points Mr. Kean makes continually in his book, if a cure or treatment is obtained through torture or by using slaves, should we ignore it or use it to save others and honor the suffering of those who died or were harmed to produce the treatment? Very thought provoking I thought.

Many of the scientists listed and discussed here did have the best of intentions, such as the doctor who performed thousands of potentially useless lobotomies, or when Thomas Edison electrocuted many, many, dogs to prove a point.  Somewhat shockingly. Nicholas Tesla comes off well in his section, the author feels that he died a pauper in part because Edison viewed him as a competitor and ruined him. 

If you are looking for something different to read, that’s not terribly dense and full of jargon, “The Icepick Surgeon” may fit the bill.



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