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

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  4,542 ratings  ·  618 reviews
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
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published July 13th 2021 by Little, Brown and Company
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Hannah Clor I'm about half way through and LOVING it. Great stories, I would say yes, read it!…moreI'm about half way through and LOVING it. Great stories, I would say yes, read it!(less)

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Start your review of The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science
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 character." - Albert Einstein
Sam Kean is my favorite pop science author, ever since I read Caesar's Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us in 2017. Kean has an engaging voice, a solid understanding of science, and a talent for telling stories, making complex subjects both intelligible and
Sean Gibson
Aug 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 26, 2022 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

This was an interesting telling of several historical scientific figures who did horrific things usually under the guise of 'progressing science'. This book covers a lot of ground and I was really interested by each scientist who went terribly wrong in very different ways.

I rated it 3.5 stars instead of 4 stars only because there are SEVERAL times where the author refers you to find out more information by listening to his podcast or going to his website, which annoyed me. But other th
Jill Hutchinson
Sep 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, medicine
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 approaches the subject as a study in medical ethics and how some physician/scientists ignored the humane aspects of procedures to prove their beliefs.

I will not list all the incidents that were included in the book but give the reader an idea of the horrors that, for the most part, led nowhere in addressin
Tom Quinn
Jan 23, 2022 rated it really liked it
Just plain historiotrivial fun. I laughed some and I learned some.

3.5 stars - excellent breezy weekend reading, but did we need a plug for the author's podcast in 12% of the footnotes? (I kept track. They're that obnoxious.)
Montzalee Wittmann
Aug 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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 specific programs, documents or ideals which pertained to the time in which segments 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 seg
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.
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 ...more
Nov 29, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: great-audiobooks
fabulous concept with poor execution

I like the way this book was framed, and I especially appreciated that both sides of these scientific figures were explored, similar to how scientific papers qualify their findings with limitations. Overall, Sam Kean did an ok job with the discussion of ethics around these stories, but my biggest issue with the book is his use of inappropriate terminology like "indian" when discussion indigenous communities and "hooker" when discussing sex workers. Not to ment
Nicola Bramwell
Apr 04, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
[ Cross-posted to the Nicola Bramwell Blog ]

One of my favorite genres is historical nonfiction, and this book combined that interest with my second-favorite subgenre of nonfiction—science and medicine. The results were a bit of a mixed bag, however. I was anticipating a finely organized analysis of the various misdeeds and crimes of past scientists and doctors, and while I got the “various” part, the book was, in my opinion, lacking in the “organization” department.

Kean covers several of the
Jul 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, science
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
Jun 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, netgalley
“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
Em Meurer (emcanread)
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
Ross Blocher
Oct 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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 Icepick Surgeon, Kean shares stories of "Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science". In the hands of a propagandist, this could easily be a screed about the moral failings of science. Kean presents something more subtle and compelling: a reminder t ...more
I don't think I've ever made this recommendation before: If you don't have time to read the whole book, just read the appendix. It is a series of speculations on crime in the future.

• What will happen when there's a murder in outer space?
• What rights will space colonists demand—plentiful oxygen? video or audio entertainment? the right to contact people on Earth?
• What will happen when someone brings woolly mammoths out of extinction? What will happen when somebody brings Neanderthals out of
Nina The Wandering Reader
This was hella fascinating! Hopefully I'll come back and leave a more thorough review, but for now, all I can say is this spontaneous book purchase was so worth it! Definitely a book you read hungrily from the prologue to the appendix...(seriously...don't skip that prologue or appendix)! ...more
I will never think of head-hunting the same way, ever again!
Angus McKeogh
Aug 15, 2021 rated it it was ok
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.
Oct 23, 2022 rated it it was ok
2/5 - just my little opinion, but this book was kinda disappointing. Granted, the subject matter is really interesting. I like learning about the history of medicine/science and the ethics that come with it.

This book has a lot of information in it. But I hated the tone of this book. You know those true crime podcasts that have two besties discussing a crime and they’re like chatting with coffee laughing all the way through the episode? That’s how this book read. I would’ve preferred a more stra
Lauren Stoolfire
Nov 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
The Icepick Surgeon by Sam Kean just happened to catch my eye at my library and I decided to take a chance on it. I'm glad I did because this was absolutely fascinating. It's very well researched and it pulls you right into the stories it has to tell, but it is absolutely terrifying in its own right and it doesn't look away from that aspect. ...more
Krisette Spangler
Aug 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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. ...more
Me, My Shelf, & I
Man, I have an awful lot of issues with this as a scientific nonfiction.

First and foremost, my biggest gripe is that the title ends with "perpetrated in the name of science" when at best most of the stories can be boiled down to "perpetrated by scientists." There are tales of ego that hedge close to being about science but nothing about the crimes even tangentially pushes science forward, there's an inclusion on how bias can negatively impact scientific data and lead to a false conclusion but th
Nov 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book about atrocities committed by scientists to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. The uncomfortable truth is their misdeeds moved the world forward. Not an easy read, quite terrifying in places, but worth attention.
Aug 19, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Picture a group of bookstore-hopping Nashville friends. It was time to leave Parnassus Books, and I couldn’t make a decision, so I panicked-grabbed this for the incredible cover. A solid decision. What an intriguing premise! Some stories were a bit lengthy and dry, but overall, this is a fascinating look into what compels humans to venture into ethical gray areas, and sometimes criminal territory, in the name of science.
Mar 03, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Consistently interesting, but I could've done without the multiple podcast plugs. I'm already reading your book, dude. ...more
Bailey Caylor
Sep 20, 2021 rated it liked it
Too much liberal bias and conjecture ruined what had the premise of an excellent book. The basic themes and facts were good but then the biased conjecture poured in and ruined it. The extremely poor use of footnoting that really carried on the more of the individual stories was annoying as well as the grossly repetitive advertising of his “podcasts” in practically every other footnote. I should have known if NPR was pushing it on the cover it would be a disappointment. If there is one thing that ...more
Jun 11, 2021 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 01, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
TLDR: The Road to Hell is Paved in Good Intentions.

We've all heard that they used to rob graves so that doctors-in-training could use them as cadavers. This book covers this and more, stemming all the way into the modern day.

This book was interesting overall, but I deeply disliked the constant reference to go see Podcast A or B. Because it comes in the form of the narrator listing off the URL. It reminds me of when someone prints off a document that used a hyperlink to link to other resources. I
Justice Simanek
Sep 06, 2021 rated it liked it
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 ...more
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Sam Kean is a writer in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Mental Floss, Slate, The Believer, Air & Space, Science, and The New Scientist. He is currently working as a reporter at Science magazine and as a 2009 Middlebury Environmental Journalism fellow.

From SamKean.com

(Un)Official Bio:
Sam Kean gets called Sean at least once a month. He grew up in South Dakota,

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