Dr. Howard Markel writes a monthly column for the PBS NewsHour, highlighting momentous historical events that continue to shape modern medicine. He is the director of the Center for the History of Medicine and the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan and the author of “The Secret of Life: Rosalind Franklin, James Watson, Francis Crick and the Discovery of DNA’s Double Helix” (W.W. Norton, September ’21).
Health Sep 24How Irving Berlin’s blue skies turned to blue days
Irving Berlin has no place in American music; he is American music,” legendary composer Jerome Kern once wrote. Yet for his final 25 years, Berlin led a rather reclusive existence.
Health Aug 14How the talented Oscar Levant broke taboos by talking about mental health
In today’s socially mediated 24/7 news cycle, it is difficult to imagine just how taboo the topic of prescription opiate addiction was back then, let alone how much courage it took for Levant to bring it to such national prominence.
Health Jul 10Arthur Ashe’s other great serve? As activist for health
Ashe served as a beacon of kindness and courage for generations of African Americans, tennis players and fans, HIV/AIDS patients, nurses, health care workers, and doctors like me.
Nation Mar 31How the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire transformed labor laws and protected workers’ health
The fire and its aftermath is a big reason American factories and offices are now far safer than they once were only a century ago.
Health Feb 27How a medical student helped discover lifesaving insulin
Dr. Charles H. Best made his most important discovery before he turned 23.
Science Jan 23The day Marie Curie got snubbed by the French science world
One hundred and ten years ago, Marie Sklodowska Curie was formally rejected for membership by the French Academy of Sciences.
Health Dec 08A childhood accident didn’t impair James Thurber’s comic vision
This minor genius of mirth lost his left eye at the age of 6.
Health Nov 07How a mysterious ailment ended Eleanor Roosevelt’s life
None of her doctors knew what was causing her rare blood disorder. And given this was more than 50 years ago, the treatment options were rather limited.
Health Sep 09The sexual assault case that shocked Hollywood almost a century ago
On Sept. 9, 1921, a young actress named Virginia Rappe died of a ruptured urinary bladder, days after a Labor Day party where she alleged that silent movie star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle had assaulted her.
Health Aug 28Why you can thank Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. for doctors washing their hands
In the mid-19th century, doctors in elite teaching hospitals would unknowingly spread deadly bacteria to expectant mothers. Here's how Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. helped change that.