... admirable ... [Schillace] deftly persuades the reader to take White seriously (he wasn’t even eccentric) and to ponder profound medical-scientific-philosophical issues. Best of all, the book is fascinating ... well-researched and well-written, and has its suspenseful moments. Readers might find themselves admiring and perhaps even sympathizing with White, whose attitude toward brain transplants was always motivated by a principled desire to alleviate human misery. But the book’s value lies in challenging readers to contemplate some momentous concerns. What is life? What is death? Should religion play a role in medical decisions? Should scientists experiment on animals? Can technology that saves lives still be immoral? Who gets to answer these questions?
Robert J. White [...] didn’t see why he should be content replacing individual organs when he could theoretically replace all the organs at once — by transplanting a sick patient’s head onto an entirely different body ... White’s unorthodox quest made national news several times over the course of his long career, but in Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher, Brandy Schillace finally gives it the thoughtful book-length treatment it deserves ... although [...] technical hurdles to White’s dream were being overcome, the moral impediments — not least the cruelty of causing so much animal suffering in the name of medical research — were another matter ... Even more intriguing, however, are the philosophical issues raised by White’s work, and Schillace’s book is most fascinating when discussing how he did and didn’t address them ... As this spirited and breezily provocative book makes clear, we’ll have to grapple with the implications of a human White Operation much sooner than we think.
... readable ... 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 ... 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.
... science at its weirdest ... Schillace, editor of a British journal of medical humanities, artfully addresses such ethical issues as animal rights, how we define death, and playing God in the laboratory. In her unnerving chronicle of neuroscience experimentation, she also ponders notions of self and soul, hubris and horror.
... fascinating ... Schillace explores White’s deep Catholic faith and outsized ambitions and contextualizes his experiments with lucid discussions of the primitive state of American medicine in the 1950s and how Cold War tensions fueled an 'inner space' race between U.S. and Soviet doctors to perform the first human head transplant ... Schillace explains the medical nuances of White’s surgeries without too much gruesome detail, and her lyrical prose and psychological insights keep the pages turning. Readers will be riveted by this story of how White tried 'to stretch the limits of what science could do.'
... captivating ... With ease, [Schillace] explains in detail White’s complex medical research and procedures ... Swirling around inside this absorbing biography are Schillace’s thoughtful discussions of the knotty issues involved in medical and religious ethics. At times Frankenstein-esque, it’s unquestionably a 'strange journey from science fiction to science fact' ... Odd, engrossing science history capably related.