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19.11.07

À mon chevet: The Immortalists

available at Amazon
À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.
When Dr. [Alexis] Carrel won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1912 he was the first scientist in the United States to win a Nobel and, at thirty-nine, the youngest person yet chosen for any Nobel Prize. The prize honored his perfection of vascular anastomosis, the technique that enables a surgeon to reconnect a blood vessel after it has been cut, patch it if it has been punctured, or attach one vessel to another, without damaging the vessel being repaired or rerouted. This new ability to cut and sew arteries and veins -- and keep them functioning -- made Carrel the father of organ transplantation, which is unthinkable without vascular anastomosis. Likewise, open heart surgery, coronary artery bypass grafts, kidney dialysis, and countless other procedures that have saved millions would be impossible without Carrel's pioneering work. In the long history of cutting open the body to heal it, Carrel's achievement is perhaps second in importance only to the discovery of anesthesia.

[Charles] Lindbergh, who did most of his reading in aviation journals, knew little of Carrel's achievements when he parked his car on November 28, 1930, near York Avenue and East Sixty-Sixth Street, a part of Manhattan where cows and goats had grazed on a dairy farm only thirty years earlier. Now this green campus was home to the nation's premier biological study center -- the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (funded by John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil) -- and its most celebrated department head, fifty-seven-year-old Alexis Carrel, whose laboratories and surgery rooms occupied the entire top floor and attic of a five-story, brick and stone building constructed in the plain style favored by Mr. Rockefeller, a churchgoing Baptist.

-- David M. Friedman, The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever (2007), p. 4
David Friedman spoke about his fascinating new book on the later career of Charles Lindbergh on a radio show I have not recommended enough lately, the Book Guys. This excellent weekly show, about books and book collecting, is recorded and supported right here in Washington, but one cannot listen to it -- still -- on any radio station in the city. (Shame on you, WETA and WAMU!) I listen to it as often as I can, on Baltimore's WBJC.

This book is about the partnership of the famous aviator and the mostly forgotten scientist to make it possible for human organs to survive outside the human body. The good news is that you can listen to the show on the Internet, in the form of MP3 files. The November 8 episode, with author David Friedman, is available here.

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