Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection

Sam Apple. Liveright, $28.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-63149-315-7
Memoirist Apple (American Parent) delivers a gripping account of biochemist Otto Warburg (1883–1970) and the origins of modern cancer science in his excellent latest. Warburg, “a gay man of Jewish descent,” remained safe in Nazi Germany because of his work on cancer; among his discoveries was that cancer cells ferment glucose “just as simple organisms like yeast and bacteria do.” Apple casts his subject as a hubristic, flawed figure whose research came at the price of a precarious compromise to Nazi Germany: among other things, he was used in German propaganda as proof that a “Jew could still live and work in Germany” leading up to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Apple describes how Hitler and the Nazi leadership were obsessed with the rise in cancer rates across the modernized world and with its potential connection to diet, and outlines recent cancer research that has brought Warburg’s forgotten findings back to the field’s leading edge. As he draws fascinating insights from the interplay between science and ideology (rising cancer rates “fit all too neatly with the Nazi view that modern, urbanized life was profoundly corrupt”), Apple keeps the scientific explanations easy to understand, while interviews with a slew of characters add color. This is a bona fide page-turner. (May)
Reviewed on : 04/29/2021
Release date: 05/25/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-1-324-09201-8
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