Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher: A Monkey’s Head, the Pope’s Neuroscientist, and the Quest To Transplant the Soul

S. & S. Mar. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781982113773. $27. MED
The mid-20th century brought about great strides in organ transplantation. Robert White, fresh from the U.S. Army Medical Corps toward the end of World War II, was a surgical resident at Peter Brent Brigham Hospital in Boston when the first successful kidney transplant was conducted there. As Schillace (Death’s Summer Coat) explains in this readable account, White was a dedicated neurosurgeon, working late into the night after his surgeries were done for the day, and often bringing lab mice and monkeys home to keep a close eye on them. He was also a devoted husband and father and a devout Catholic, who founded Pope John Paul II’s Committee on Bioethics and belonged to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Schillace expertly narrates White’s exploration of the intersection of faith and science, and his determination to find a way to transplant the human soul. Ultimately, White became known for performing head transplants on living monkeys, giving himself the nickname Humble Bob while animal rights activists and skeptics referred to him as Dr. Butcher.
VERDICT Schillace brings her expertise as a medical historian to this carefully researched, pioneering biography of an eccentric doctor. A compelling read that will draw in variety of readers.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing