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The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged

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  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc; Library ed edition (1 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400135265
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400135264
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 2.3 x 16.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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"* 'The Immortalists tells a wonderful tale that sounds like mythology, but it's true' The Boston Globe * '...for a demonstration of the bizarrely particular nature of human intelligence... forget Jekyll and Hyde and Frankenstein: this is the book to read.' The New York Times 'The history of these two brilliant achievers going so off-track because of their intellectual hubris is quite compelling...' USA Today" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

David M Friedman has written for Esquire, GQ, and Rolling Stone, and has been a reporter for New York Newsday and the Philadelphia Daily News. His first book was published in more than a dozen countries. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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By davidh on 20 Mar. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Carrrel was a skilled self-publicist and never corrected the many stories about him in the papers. The poor-quality science reporting of the day considered fancifully that using this Carrel/Lindbergh pump he was seeking immortality, an irresponsible journalist's fantasy. Sadly this book accepts this media invention and perpetuates the poor science reporting of the 1930s, adding invented dialogue. The Carrel/Lindbergh pump didn't work well either.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
found it truly inspiring.Beryl Moorehead
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 20 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
America's Faulty Hero 11 July 2008
By Reviewer - Published on
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.'

In Lindbergh's own words, from an article he published in Reader's Digest in 1939: Aviation "is a tool especially shaped for Western hands, a scientific art which others copy in a mediocre fashion, another barrier between the teeming millions of Asia and the Grecian inheritance of Europe -- one of the priceless possessions which permit the White race to live at all in a pressing sea of Yellow, Black, and Brown.... We, the heirs of European culture, are on the verge of a disastrous war, a war within our own family of nations... Our civilization depends on a united strength among ourselves, on a Western Wall of race and arms which can hold back either a Genghis Khan or an infiltration of inferior blood..." Aviation, by the way, was in Lindbergh's opinion the Third Reich's strong suite; neither England nor the USA could match the Luftwaffe in technology or skill, as he consistently testified to the Congress and war departments of the USA.

Friedman documents Lindbergh's enthusiasm for "social Darwinist" eugenics, his anti-Semitism and overall racism, his contempt for the rule of rules, and his indifference to dialogue and compromise. In all of this ideological extremism, however, Lindbergh had a mentor, one of the few humans he respected as his own equal or even superior, the French Nobel-winning Dr. Alexis Carrel, the WW1 discoverer of battlefield antisepsis and the first developer of techniques for suturing arteries. Through much of the 1930s, Lindbergh trained himself in biology and worked side by side with Carrel to develop instruments and methods to maintain the life of organs outside the bodies of mammals. Lindbergh's mechanical genius, in fact, enabled him to invent waht might be called the first artificial heart. The story of this collaboration is the heart of Friedman's book; he clearly sees it as a story of gigantic psychological hubris, almost a gothic horror story of Mankind striving for immortality. (I confess that the scientific aspects of this story are truly fascinating to me, as a tale of genius without a speck of rational sense!)

In every way except sympathy for Germany, Carrel was more a Nazi than Lindbergh - a virulent racist, an explicit eugenicist, a visionary whose vision was the creation of a "high council of experts" who would guide humanity behind the scenes. "There is no escaping the fact that men are not created equal," he told a reporter once, "as democracy, invented in the 18th century -- when there was no scienc to refute it -- would have us believe." The human race is moved forward, he continued, "by great men... Unfortunately, we don't understand the genesis of great men. Perhaps it would be effective to kill off the worst and keep the best, as we do in the breeding of dogs."

Lindbergh's strident opposition to FDR on every front, and his enthusiasm for letting Germany expand at the expense of the Soviets earned him some interesting support in the months before the die was cast at Pearl Harbor, especially from a group of young students at Yale, who called themselves The Committee to defend America First, and who inlcuded, among others, Douglas Stuart Jr., Kingman Brewster, Potter Stewart, Sargeant Shriver, and Gerald Ford.
Once the war involved American soldiers, however, Lindbergh found himself isolated, ostracized, even despised by his previous idolators and friends. Harold Nicholson, a close family friend and the biographer of Lindbergh's father-in-law, wrote of him that "his virility and ideas became not merely inflexible but actually rigid; his self-confidence thickened into arrogance and his convictions hardened into garnite. He became impervious to anything outside his own legend," largely because of the trauma of the kidnapping of his first son. It's an assessment that reminds me a good deal of Sen. John McCain's description of General Douglas MacArthur in the book Hard Call, and strangely enough, of McCain himself, whose formative experience was the trauma of captivity.

Lindbergh may have been rigid, but he was far from unchangeable. As gracefully and patiently as such a man could, he reinserted himself in the military campaign to defend America, first as an advisor and then as a comabt pilot, showing a courage in the air war against Japan that restored him almost entirely to the good graces of the American people. And then, in the aftermath of the war, when he inspected sites in Europe and encountered the evidence of Nazi brutality and genocide, Lindbergh re-invented himself once more... as an incipient pacifist and critic of war crimes committed by any country. Inspecting the ash pit into which twenty-five thousand human slaves had been shoveled, worked to death at the Nazi's V-2 factory, Lindbergh had an epiphany; he wrote: "What the German has done to the Jew in Europe, we have done to the Jap in the Pacific. As Germans defiled themselves by dumping the ashes of human beings into these pits, we have defiled ourselves bulldozing bodies into shallow, unmarked tropical graves. What is barbaric on one side of the Earth is barbaric on the other... It is not the Germans alone, or the Japs, but men of all nations to whom this war has brought shame and degradation."

One might think that Lindbergh had traveled as far and as fast as a lone eagle ever could, but there came still a later epiphany, in the 1950s, when Lindbergh turned against the technological, mechanical values he'd so ardently championed, and became a fierce crusader for conservation of Africa and of pre-modern cultures! This time, he wrote: "..the African framework of life contains ideas and values which may seem backward... but who is to say that the record of future evolutionary ages will prove the black to be less progressive than the white?...If civilization is progress in the basic sense of life, then why have past civilizations fallen -- sixteen of them in the last few thousand years, according to arnold Toynbee?" Is civilization progress, Lindbergh asked. "The final answer will be given not by the discoveries of our science, but by the effect our civilized activities as a whole have upon the quality of our planet's life."

Wow! I couldn't say it better myself! My childhood hero was quite a man!
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A clear look at the time Lindbergh and Carrel worked together on organ transplantation 26 Oct. 2007
By Craig Matteson - Published on
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. Yes, he and Carrel viewed Jews as a separate race and they talked of good and bad Jews. However, they also helped Jews including a former assistant who went on to a brilliant medical career. Carrel and his wife were also mystics and impressed the Lindberghs and many others in ways that would embarrass anyone of a scientific reputation today.

While I don't want to be seen as defending Lindbergh's views at this time in his life, it does have to be noted that eugenics was in the air and various strains of it were advocated by many famous people. Many of these advocates of this now discredited movement still have a solid reputation today (even if their views on eugenics are kept hush hush in popular discussions). And one can still hear eugenics arguments made today, but it is never called by that name.

Essentially, Lindbergh saw Germany's manufacturing efficiency, engineering supremacy, and military discipline as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. He did not want the United States drawn in to a war that would leave Europe vulnerable to an expansionist communist movement. Carrel shared his anti-war views. However, once war came, Carrel went back to France to help as best as he could with his medical abilities. His reputation was smeared and was called a collaborationist, but all evidence shows this was not true. Lindbergh wanted to enlist, but was blackballed by FDR, so he went to the Pacific theater and flew several dozens of combat missions as a uniformed civilian. He shot down enemy fighters, dropped bombs, engaged in air battles, and shot up Japanese military assets on the ground.

After the war, Lindbergh's views on religion, science, and nature changed. He became a pioneering environmentalist and stirred up as much controversy supporting species preservation and natural habitat as he had when he was speaking against the United States entering World War II.

This is a very interesting story and supplements Berg's famous biography of Lindbergh. The author, David Friedman, even quotes from Berg's "Lindbergh" a few times. This is a well-balanced book that shows the complications of these men without feeling the need to make simplistic judgments or justifications. I found it very much worth reading.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, Michigan
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Lindbergh and Carrel spoke for many intellectuals. 29 Sept. 2007
By M. A. Plus - Published on
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. You have to wonder how far they could have gotten if Carrel had secured funding for his own lab after the Rockefeller Institute had forcibly retired him, and trained a scientist to carry on the work with Lindbergh after his death; and if Lindbergh's crushes on Goering and Hitler hadn't distracted him from helping Carrel with their joint project. Lindbergh and Carrel's experiments anticipated today's research into regenerative medicine, engineered negligible senescence and transhumanism.

Other interesting aspects of the book: We think we have a celebrity-obsessed culture now, but Lindbergh and his family received a level of press harassment that looks extreme even by today's standards. And Carrel combined legitimate scientific accomplishments with some very crank-sounding ideas, especially about the paranormal; today he would make a plausible guest for "Coast to Coast AM."

I would have given the book more stars, but Friedman really hadn't done enough homework to show how Lindbergh's and Carrel's less defensible beliefs (from our perspective) reflected the thinking of many early 20th Century intellectuals. These intellectuals' beliefs formed a continuum with what became official policy in Nazi Germany. They didn't arise in a vacuum, in other words.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An excellent book, but keep it in perspective. 4 Feb. 2009
By Christian F. Hansen - Published on
Format: Paperback
The first half of this book is superb in detailing the development of the organ perfusion pump and related scientific breakthroughs made by Dr. Carrel and Mr. Lindbergh in the 1930s. In this part, Mr. Friedman relies mostly on his own research.

The second half describes the sad fate of Mr Carrel, who was unfairly accused of collaboration, and the unique fate of Mr Lindbergh, who was demonized during the neutrality debate in 1939-41 (and still is). Here Friedman draws heavily on the work of A. Scott Berg, whose biography of Lindbergh is fair but obviously incomplete, and on Max Wallace's The American Axis, which is not fair.

Carrel, a brilliant scientist with controversial opinions, in now mostly forgotten, but Lindbergh certainly isn't. There is a vast chasm between Lindbergh's reputation in the aviation community and his vilification among the chattering classes. In the former, he is esteemed not so much for his rather elementary 1927 flight, but for his subsequent contributions, not least flying fifty combat missions as a civilian, and developing engine management techniques which continue to be taught and have probably saved many lives. In the latter domain, Lindbergh is a piñata, but an unusually enduring one who keeps getting hung up and whacked for the views he is supposed to have held. Friedman is in the second domain, but his approach is new in looking at the Carrel-Lindbergh collaboration.

Anti-Lindberghists are faced with a terrible dilemma. It is impossible to examine the pilot's work, utterances, and voluminous writings without concluding that he was an earnest, well-meaning, humanitarian, and patriotic person who made substantial contributions in every field he entered, and whose main fault was political dyslexia.

To get around this, anti-Lindberghism must extrapolate and exaggerate. Of course, the media simply lied, and the writer Philip Roth, borrowing from the tactics of the authors of the Chronicles of the Elders, writes a whole parallel history in his recent The Plot against America. In contrast, Friedman is honest, but spins some facts against the flier.

The blood libel against Lindbergh - that he was a racist, Hitler-loving, anti-Semitic eugenicist - is now such a shibboleth that it's risky to set the facts straight. Lindbergh had nothing against Jews, but he was worried about the power of the Jewish lobby over American foreign policy. In a peculiar statement such as "it's good for a country to have some Jews but not too many" one senses a puzzled mechanic trying to adjust the mixture so that the engine will run smoothly.

In warning about the Lobby, he said what everybody knows. Friedman parrots Berg in countering that only a few percent of the total media is Jewish-owned, but everyone can see that is an artful evasion. On the other hand, that power is perfectly legitimate, and Lindbergh was clearly wrong to suggest that a Mr Goldberg's opinion is less "American" than a Mr Lindberg's.

He was completely mystified by the media vendetta against him after his 9.11.41 speech in which he said the English, the Jews, and the FDR folks were trying to get us into the war - the same speech in which he said he understood their anguish and deplored the outrages being carried out in Germany.

Agree with neutrality or not, what he said was true, but his timing was certainly abominable. Friedman, to be fair, emphasizes the case of a Jewish scientist whom Lindbergh helped escape Germany in 1936. In that man's words, the Colonel was not "sophisticated." Had he been more "sophisticated" he could have used this period to also agitate for the acceptance of European Jews into America - with his access, Berlin would have had to listen. Paradoxically, if he had done this, he would also have exposed the true anti-Semitism lurking in the U.S. government.

Lindbergh wasn't a racist, but he was certainly a racialist. He had no interest in denying anyone their rights, but he repeated the common contemporary prejudices about the characteristics of races and ethnic groups. "I admire both races" (English and Jews) sounds weird today, but such terminology was in common use in the first half of the 20th century. And it's a strange racist who spends much of the rest of his life as a spokesman for indigenous peoples worldwide.

The Colonel was sent to Germany to report on German air power for the U.S. Army. Being gullible, he was taken in by German efficiency propaganda and overestimated the relative strength of the German air force. Nonetheless, his maligned predictions to Mr Chamberlain and the French were quickly proved correct. People who have carefully studied the 1938 correlation of forces tend to agree with him that the decision not to go to war over the Sudetenland was wise.

Lindbergh was pro-republic and anti-democracy, in sharp contrast with FDR, whose New Deal was almost openly fascistic. He tried to be impartial in the European civil war, and held both sides equally responsible. He favored a negotiated settlement. Though these views sound naïve today, they were standard U.S. foreign policy up until the war. Would it have been better to take his advice? Who knows - the whole thing could have ended a million different ways and all we know for sure is that we'd all be taught that the good guys won. You can read Niall Ferguson, not usually considered a monster, and find very similar assessments.

Lindbergh favored eugenics because it's common sense. Ever noticed that people shopping for genetic material tend to favor Nobel winners and avoid Death Row? Eugenics has only gotten a bad name because it was used coercively by governments.

The neutrality debate of 1939-41 has a lot in common with the intervention debate of 2001-03. The Colonel didn't realize that reasoned argument is not the currency of public debate. What happened to Messrs Blix, Ritter, and Wilson in 2003 is chicken scratch compared to what they did to Lindbergh. (And what Bush did to the Constitution pales compared to FDR's scorched-earth war against it.)

In the end, one senses that anti-Lindberghism has more to do with the idea of Lindbergh than Lindbergh's ideas. (Amusingly, something similar might be said about anti-Semitism, which caters to the base psychological needs of the mob.) The media made him into a Nordic superhero; then they went berserk tearing him apart. His firstborn was killed, he was run out of the country, and then Lucky Lindy was made into an American Hitler. You don't have to agree with him to see the calumniation. People who say only what they are supposed to, aren't worth listening to; Lindbergh and Carrel certainly weren't in that category.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant analysis of two brilliant minds (perhaps three) 15 Oct. 2007
By R. Goodkin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Never having read a real biography of Lindberg, and never having heard of Alexis Carrel, this book introduced me to a new universe of thought. Friedman is empathetic and compassionate when he describes the tragic (as in Greek tragedy, a flaw that dooms greatness) shortcomings of men he obviously very much admires. Carrel and Lindberg thought of themselves, with some justification, as Olympians. Carrel didn't suffer fools gladly - or at all - but he comes across as a far more human being than the driven, dispassionate, aloof Lindberg. It's easy to understand Lindberg's fascination with Nazism - all that counts is getting the trains to run on time, no matter whose bodies lie across the tracks. Friedman paints two very complex pictures of 'great men', and great men they truly were, and their close personal and professional relationships. Friedman also portrays Ann Morrow Lindberg as a brilliant although self-doubting artist of great sensitivity. Reading of Lindberg's treatment of his wife reinforces the general portrait of a cold, humorless, obsessive tyrant. Finally, the author gives the reader enough detail to understand the what, how and why of the Carrel/Lindberg quest for immortality through organ replacement without ever losing me in a flood of technical minutia. One of the most fascinating tales I've ever read and extremely well told.
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