Heart of darkness: Lindbergh's pursuit of immortality
<b>Heart of darkness: Lindbergh's pursuit of immortality</b>The title of David M. Friedman's new book is slightly misleading. Although <b>The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever</b> does cover the subject described, it also covers much more. It is the story of two famous men, their deep friendship, their brilliant work, their detestable philosophy and the earth-shattering event that changed one of them forever. Friedman must be lauded for turning an arcane medical subject into history both illuminating and affecting.
In 1930, the most famous man in the world, Charles A. Lindbergh, sought the advice of Nobel laureate Dr. Alexis Carrel. Lindbergh hoped Carrel would know how to repair a defective valve in his sister-in-law's heart. The great physician, inventor of the technique for suturing blood vessels, could not help. But in that meeting a partnership was forged that produced advances in the study of living tissue and organs so profound that the most amazing medical procedures in use today organ transplant, repair and in-vitro growth are their direct medical descendants. Lindbergh and Carrel graced the cover of <i>Time</i> magazine in 1938 and lectured far and wide about the possibility of perpetually repairing human organs, effectively rendering death obsolete. It was a dream that, for a time, seemed perfectly reasonable.
Unfortunately, as Friedman states, the duo's search for a biological path to immortality was not intended as a public health initiative. Carrel and Lindbergh were racists, and sought to conquer death not to advance all humanity, but to ensure the continued supremacy of white civilization. So when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, Lindbergh embraced the Nazi regime, dismissing their brutality as a passing aberration. His public advocacy for Hitler earned him scorn throughout the rest of Europe and the United States and caused a breach with the French-born Carrel, who feared German militarism. Friedman's revelation of what happened to Carrel and Lindbergh during the subsequent global conflagration is the emotional heart of <b>The Immortalists</b>, in which he shows readers what can happen to men confronted by the logical extreme of their deeply held beliefs.