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Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher
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Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher

Monkey's Head, the Pope's Neuroscientist, and the Quest to Transplant the Soul

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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.


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