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The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever Hardcover – August 21, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1 edition (August 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006052815X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060528157
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,582,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

World-famous after his pioneering 1927 nonstop transatlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh, says Friedman, thought he was a god, and after a 1928 otherworldly experience in the Utah desert, he committed himself to exploring the science of eternal life. His sister-in-law's damaged heart valve led Lindbergh to seek out Nobel laureate Alexis Carrel, whose vascular-suturing technique made open-heart surgery and other advances possible. The pair embarked on an immortality project at New York's Rockefeller Institute. Utilizing Carrel's expertise with tissue culture and Lindbergh's mechanical engineering genius, they kept extracted organs alive and functioning for weeks at a time. As Friedman (A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis) demonstrates, these biological experiments were integral to the pair's obsession with eugenics, their belief that the white race was endangered by lesser organisms and to Lindbergh's later enthusiasm for the Nazis. Friedman, who has written for GQ and Esquire, makes complex science accessible and serves as an absorbing cautionary tale on how two heroic reputations were marred by fascism and anti-Semitism. Photos. (Aug. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A. Scott Berg's masterful biography Lindbergh (1998) encompassed a relationship that author Friedman expands in full: the Lone Eagle's friendship with Alexis Carrel (1873–1944). Carrel received a 1912 Nobel Prize for a surgical procedure essential to performing organ transplants and, in 1930, received visitor Charles Lindbergh in his New York laboratory. In retrospect, this appears to be the first of Lindbergh's flights from fame, and Friedman follows the deepening influence Carrel had on Lindbergh in the 1930s, ultimately arriving at Lindbergh's controversially diffident attitude toward the Nazi regime in Germany (though the Frenchman Carrel disliked it). Thorough in his narrative, astute in his appraisals, Friedman underscores the haven and scientific validation that Carrel provided for Lindbergh, who constructed special pumps for Carrel. Friedman weighs as well the effects on Lindbergh of Carrel's quasi-Darwinist ruminations about eugenics. Laying bare Lindbergh's faults, Friedman also displays his ability to change and his depth while giving the once-renowned Carrel his due. A boon for fans of aviation and medical history. Taylor, Gilbert

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Customer Reviews

So I considered giving the book just four stars, but, heck, it was a really good read!
James O. Lee
Friedman offers a well-researched, balanced view that includes shortcomings as well as triumphs of these collaborators.
Evan Rosen
Paradoxically, if he had done this, he would also have exposed the true anti-Semitism lurking in the U.S. government.
Christian F. Hansen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on July 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Careful textbooks in my home state, Minnesota, portray Charles Lindbergh as an "isolationist" opponent to US participation in World War II. After all, he was a hero - OUR hero - a Swedish American from our state. Author David Friedman, with quite thorough evidence, portrays Lindbergh differently, as an admirer of Hitler and Hitler's Germany, who wrote to his American friend that Hitler "is undoubtedly a great man, and I believe he has done much for the German people. He is a fanatic in many ways, and anyone can see that there is a certain amount of fanaticism in Germany today... On the other hand, Hitler has accomplished results...which could hardly have been accomplished without some fanaticism."
Friedman explains: 'For Lindbergh, Germany seemed everything that America was not and probably could never be: a country composed of one virile, morally and ethically pure race committed to science, and united in a vision of national greatness. That such unity came at teh cost of democratic institutions, individual rights, and a free press didn't alienate him. Democracy was anoble idea, Lindbergh believed, but the reality was quite the United States, where social and political equality, together with a free press...produced a climate of degeneracy... Only a strong visionary, and yes, even fascist, leader was best equipped to restore moral order to western civilization.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Plus on September 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charles Lindbergh's and Alexis Carrel's views on eugenics, democracy and race don't sound so unusual when you consider how many European, British and American writers in the early 20th Century professed similar beliefs. H.G. Wells, for example, would have agreed with much of what Carrel writes in "Man, the Unknown," especially about the need for a technocratic elite to make binding decisions (including reproductive ones) for the whole world. Nobel Prize winning geneticist Hermann Joseph Muller advocated eugenics like his fellow Nobelist Carrel (an enthusiasm Muller failed to convey to his student Carl Sagan). H.P. Lovecraft's fiction, now held in higher regard than during his lifetime, expresses a disgust with non-Anglo immigrants, race mixing and racial degeneration. And many American science fiction writers during the field's "golden age" in the 1930-1960 era professed similar racist, Social-Darwinist, elitist and anti-democratic sentiments.

Today's elites at least have the sense not to promote such beliefs in public, even if they express them privately. The open avowal of racism has moved down the social scale, along with fighting duels to settle disputes over matters of "honor." The individual today who expresses racist beliefs, or regularly gets into street fights, signals himself as lower class.

Ironically, Lindbergh's and Carrel's other ideas, about treating the human body as a machine with potentially replaceable parts and greatly extending human life thereby, make them seem remarkably visionary even by 21st Century standards.
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Format: Hardcover
This book centers on the period of Charles Lindbergh's life when he was working with Dr. Alexis Carrel of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. Carrel had won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1912 for his work on suturing blood vessels. He had also been lauded for his method of disinfecting wounds with chlorine (this was decades prior to the development and use of antibiotics). They were both famous men and, when introduced, they found they had many interests and views in common. Lindbergh's sister-in-law, Elizabeth Morrow, had a very weak heart that was going to shorten her lifespan and he felt medicine should have a way of replacing worn out organs just as he replaced parts in an airplane engine. Carrel was the leading authority in that field at that time and their work together is the central story of this book.

During their years of working together, Lindbergh designed and developed the world's first perfusion pump that allowed entire organs to be kept alive for extended periods without becoming infected. Both Lindbergh and Carrel were interested in pursuing an extended lifespan and rejected the inevitability of death. Of course, the popular press misunderstood what they were after and what Lindbergh had developed. It was regularly called a glass heart or an artificial heart, but it wasn't.

Lindbergh and Carrel also shared similar views on the superiority of the European or White race and the necessity of preserving and defending it. They both saw the coming war in Europe as a disaster that might go far beyond the losses and devastation of the Great War (World War I, we call it). Yes, Lindbergh favored Germany over Britain, but not for the reasons usually ascribed to him.
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