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To the Last Breath

To the Last Breath

A Memoir of Going to Extremes

A journey to the most extreme points on Earth and deep inside the human spirit
     Before Georgetown physics professor Francis Slakey set out to climb the highest mountain on every continent and surf every ocean, he had shut himself off from other people. His lectures were mechanical; his relationships were little more than ways to fill the evenings. But as his journey veered dangerously off course, everything about him began to change.
     A gripping adventure of the body and mind, To the Last Breath depicts the quest that leads Slakey around the globe, almost takes his life, challenges his fiercely held beliefs, and opens his heart. The scientist in Slakey explores the history of Robert Falcon Scott’s doomed Antarctica expedition, the technology of climbing, and the geophysics of waves. But it is the challenges he endures and the people he encounters—a Lama who gives him a mysterious amulet, a life-or-death choice atop Everest, an ambush at gunpoint in Indonesia, a head-on collision in the high desert—that culminate in a moving lesson about what it means to be human.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 272 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439198957 | 
  • May 2012
List Price $28.99

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Francis Slakey on Fitness

Being so adventurous takes the proper fitness. Francis Slakey tells how he knows he's ready for his next physical challenge.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

BEYOND THE SKY

I am out of balance. I hang dangerously off center but I’m oblivious, until some dim awareness of the world shakes me awake.

I lift my head up slightly and look toward my feet. Sure enough, I’m not flat. My body is sloping downward and I can barely see the tips of my toes in the faint moonlight. This wouldn’t be anything to worry about if it weren’t for the fact that I’m on a cot pinned to a sheer granite wall two thousand feet above the valley floor.

My shifting around was enough to wake my climbing partner, Tom Paxton. Pax is lean, but with a... see more

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About the Author

Francis Slakey
Photograph by Matt Girard

Francis Slakey

Francis Slakey is the Upjohn Lecturer on Physics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and an Associate Director of Public Affairs at the American Physical Society, where his focus is the intersection of science and society. The founder and co-director of the Program on Science in the Public Interest, a Lemelson Associate of the Smithsonian Institution, and a MacArthur Scholar, Dr. Slakey has been featured by NPR, National Geographic, and others, and his writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Slate, and Scientific American.

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