Neurosurgeon Who Dreamed of Doing a Head Transplant Subject of New Book 'Dr. Butcher'

Neurosurgeon and scientist Dr. Robert White is the subject of a new book by Brandy Schillace, “Mr. Humble & Dr. Butcher.”

Dr. Robert J. White was a brilliant neurosurgeon and scientist who had an unusual aim in life, medical historian Brandy Schillace told Inside Edition Digital. The Cleveland-based researcher is the subject of a new book by Schillace, “Mr. Humble & Dr. Butcher.”

“One of his goals was to perform a head transplant,” Schillace said.

White drew inspiration from Russian animal experiments. He first operated on several monkeys before turning his attention to a potential human subject. 

"One of Dr. White's favorite books was Frankenstein," Schillace said.

According to the historian, White was immensely interested in the preservation of life. For White, placing a healthy and alive brain into a safe place made sense if your body was dying.

"He really thought that you might be able to live longer if you could transplant another body to your head and brain," Schillace said.

White started experimenting on monkeys in the '60s after watching a video of Vladimir Demikhov, who had created a surgically connected two-headed dog.

In 1971, White was the first neurosurgeon to perform a successful “cephalic exchange” on monkeys, according to the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

But not everyone was a fan of White's experiments. His experiments with primates caught the attention of animal rights groups like PETA. However, White continued to try to convince the world that he should perform a human head transplant.

"He never got to perform the surgery he dreamed of doing," Schillace said.

He died in 2010 at the age of 84.

White's lasting legacy is his work as a brain surgeon and as a researcher perfecting therapeutic hypothermia, which is still used today. He also contributed tremendously to the field of neuroanesthesia and bioethics. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize.

In Cleveland, White is remembered as a well-regarded surgeon who performed thousands and thousands of brain surgeries and saved many lives.