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Publisher's Summary

The “delightfully macabre” (The New York Times) true tale of a brilliant and eccentric surgeon...and his quest to transplant the human soul.

In the early days of the Cold War, a spirit of desperate scientific rivalry birthed a different kind of space race: not the race to outer space that we all know, but a race to master the inner space of the human body. While surgeons on either side of the Iron Curtain competed to become the first to transplant organs like the kidney and heart, a young American neurosurgeon had an even more ambitious thought: Why not transplant the brain?

Dr. Robert White was a friend to two popes and a founder of the Vatican’s Commission on Bioethics. He developed lifesaving neurosurgical techniques still used in hospitals today and was nominated for the Nobel Prize. But like Dr. Jekyll before him, Dr. White had another identity. In his lab, he was waging a battle against the limits of science and against mortality itself - working to perfect a surgery that would allow the soul to live on after the human body had died.

This “fascinating” (The Wall Street Journal), “provocative” (The Washington Post) tale follows his decades-long quest into tangled matters of science, Cold War politics, and faith, revealing the complex (and often murky) ethics of experimentation and remarkable innovations that today save patients from certain death. It’s a “masterful” (Science) look at our greatest fears and our greatest hopes - and the long, strange journey from science fiction to science fact.

©2021 Brandy Schillace. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

“Spirited and breezily provocative.... White’s unorthodox quest made national news several times over the course of his long career, but in Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher, Brandy Schillace finally gives it the thoughtful book-length treatment it deserves.” (The Washington Post)

“Engrossing. Schillace is a first-rate historian with the perceptive eye of a storyteller.” (Lindsey Fitzharris, New York Times best-selling author of The Butchering Art

“A rollicking, irresistible tale of doctors playing God, science facing off with ideology, and fate being sorely tempted at every turn.” (Robert Kolker, New York Times best-selling author of Hidden Valley Road

What listeners say about Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher

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Thinly veiled anti-communist propaganda

I was incredibly excited by the science of this book, but once we arrived at discussing the contributions of the USSR, science went out the window for politics. We heard more about the poor quality of Soviet souvenirs than we did about their contributions to medical science, and what contributions WERE discussed were trivialized or framed as mad scientist insanity - even when it very closely mirrored what was being done in the US.

Moreover, the author's outright dismissal of the USA's history of experimentation on POC communities as Soviet propaganda beyond the days of slavery was disturbing and wildly inaccurate, while also someone trivializing experimentation on human beings as long as it was only on enslaved human beings.

I didn't just hate this book, I'm insulted by it. Shame on Brandy Schillace.

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Amazing!

It really is a shame that ethics and human sensibilities have held back the research to make the "White Surgery" a reality. Maybe one day soon...

Excellent book and narration. The ending brings it all together perfectly.

1 person found this helpful

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Animal cruelty.....

Unless you like hearing about really awful experiments done on dogs, I'd steer clear. Really awful subject matter. I tapped out 90 minutes in.

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struggle to finish this book

when I first picked up the book I thought I was really excited to read it. however it has deemed itself to be extremely and graphically gory. not my cup of tea or my kind of book.

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Great!

This is a great book. Intelligently written. I enjoyed this book very much. Thank you

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What If?

I enjoyed the book! it was a fascinating story that makes you think what if?