Dr. Howard Markel writes a monthly column for the PBS NewsHour, highlighting the anniversary of a momentous event that continues 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.
He is the author or editor of 10 books, including “Quarantine! East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892,” “When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed” and “An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine.”
Arts May 17How ‘Raisin in the Sun’ author Lorraine Hansberry defined what it meant to be ‘young, gifted and black’
Before her early death of pancreatic cancer, the groundbreaking writer made history with "A Raisin in the Sun."…
Health Apr 23Why Shakespeare’s own finale remains a closed book
In "Hamlet," William Shakespeare contemplated the fact that once a person dies, no living person knows where that departed soul goes. That same uncertainty hovers around the final hours of the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon.
Health Mar 24What caused Harry Houdini’s mysterious death?
He may have escaped his dangerous feats, yet his death has remained a source of conjecture among both magicians and surgeons.
Health Feb 28The ‘awful’ work of the real doctors who inspired M*A*S*H
The people in MASH units worked long hours and endured horrific stresses of warfare.
Health Jan 19Edgar Allan Poe’s greatest mystery was his death
A man was discovered lying in the gutter, confused, bedraggled, and under the influence. Shabbily dressed (in someone else’s clothing, as it turned out), Edgar Allan Poe was in dire need of medical assistance.
Health Dec 17How a strange rumor of Walt Disney’s death became legend
When you hear "Disney on Ice," you may think of the wildly popular ice shows featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse and others skating in hockey arenas across the nation. But there's also the disturbing urban legend that Walt Disney’s corpse…
Health Nov 11The medical story behind Thomas Eakins’ gory masterpiece
It is difficult for the 21st century observer to imagine the shock and revulsion Thomas Eakins provoked with both "The Gross Clinic" in 1876.
Health Oct 22The medical mystery that helped make Thomas Edison an inventor
Deafness allowed Edison to shut himself off from “all the meaningless sound that normal people hear.” But what caused his deafness is still debated by doctors and hearing experts to this day.
Health Sep 26George Gershwin’s too-short life ended on a blue note
The cause of his untimely death was most likely glioblastoma, the same type of brain cancer that killed Senators Edward M. Kennedy in 2009 and John McCain this September.
Health Aug 16Elvis’ addiction was the perfect prescription for an early death
Like so many rock stars, Elvis employed an all-too-willing physician to feed his addiction and hasten his death.