The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science Audiobook, by Sam Kean Play Audiobook Sample

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

The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science Audiobook, by Sam Kean Play Audiobook Sample
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Read By: Ben Sullivan Publisher: Little, Brown & Company Listen Time: at 1.0x Speed 7.83 hours at 1.5x Speed 5.88 hours at 2.0x Speed Release Date: July 2021 Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download ISBN: 9781549102929

Quick Stats About this Audiobook

Total Audiobook Chapters:


Longest Chapter Length:

65:32 minutes

Shortest Chapter Length:

27 seconds

Average Chapter Length:

39:13 minutes

Audiobooks by this Author:


Other Audiobooks Written by Sam Kean: > View All...

Publisher Description

From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes the gripping, untold history of science’s darkest secrets

Science is a force for good in the world—at least usually. But sometimes, when obsession gets the better of scientists, they twist a noble pursuit into something sinister. Under this spell, knowledge isn’t everything, it’s the only thing—no matter the cost. Bestselling author Sam Kean tells the true story of what happens when unfettered ambition pushes otherwise rational men and women to cross the line in the name of science, trampling ethical boundaries and often committing crimes in the process.

The Icepick Surgeon masterfully guides the reader across two thousand years of history, beginning with Cleopatra’s dark deeds in ancient Egypt. The book reveals the origins of much of modern science in the transatlantic slave trade of the 1700s, as well as Thomas Edison’s mercenary support of the electric chair and the warped logic of the spies who infiltrated the Manhattan Project. But the sins of science aren’t all safely buried in the past. Many of them, Kean reminds us, still affect us today.

We can draw direct lines from the medical abuses of Tuskegee and Nazi Germany to current vaccine hesitancy, and connect icepick lobotomies from the 1950s to the contemporary failings of mental-health care. Kean even takes us into the future, when advanced computers and genetic engineering could unleash whole new ways to do one another wrong.

Unflinching, and exhilarating to the last page, The Icepick Surgeon fuses the drama of scientific discovery with the illicit thrill of a true-crime tale. With his trademark wit and precision, Kean shows that, while science has done more good than harm in the world, rogue scientists do exist, and when we sacrifice morals for progress, we often end up with neither.

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“Narrator Ben Sullivan’s strong, clear voice and intentional pacing complement these tales of scientific misdeeds perfectly…Sullivan’s straightforward narration of these unbelievable events will remind listeners of where the road of supposedly good intentions leads.”

— AudioFile 


  • “Gripping stories about evil scientific deeds, corrupt rivalries, and skulduggery.”

    — New York Times Book Review
  • “Imagine a novel full of true crime thrillers with just one twist—every crime in it was committed in the name of science.”

    — NPR
  • “An engrossing—and sometimes horrifying—historical tour of the many ways the search for knowledge can go wrong.”

    — Washington Post
  • “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
  • “Deftly considers ethical questions within an engaging narrative.”

    — Library Journal (starred review)
  • “This engrossing look at crimes often committed by otherwise moral people."

    — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • “[An] interesting discussion of the meaning of true progress and its cost is a thoughtful look through history and into the future.”

    — BookRiot
  • “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.”

    — BookPage

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About Sam Kean

Sam Kean is the author of several books, including the New York Times bestseller 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.

About Ben Sullivan

Ben Sullivan is an actor, voice artist, and Earphones Award–winning audiobook narrator.