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 Jul 21How mental health struggles wrote Ernest Hemingway’s final chapter
On a Sunday morning, the famed writer awoke early in a discombobulated and distressed mood. The rest is literary history -- and part of a family’s legacy of pain.
Health Jul 13Analysis: Why some schools stayed open during the 1918 flu pandemic
During the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, when an estimated 675,000 people died in the U.S. alone, the majority of public schools were closed for weeks to months on end. But three major cities kept their schools open amid valid questions and…
Health Jun 12‘One day they simply weren’t there.’ How researchers reconstructed Anne Frank’s last months
Today would have been the 91st birthday of Anne Frank, the girl who left behind a tattered, hidden diary, now known as the gem-like book that's treasured by many millions. But the exact date of her death is unknown, and…
Health Apr 20What history revealed about cities that socially distanced during a pandemic
In 2005, in response to the threat of H5N1, a flurry of pandemic preparedness planning began in Washington and across the nation that would set the groundwork for what’s happening now.
Health Apr 16‘The Plague’ perfectly captures the risk in returning to normal
It's the most vexing phase of an epidemic -- once an illness peters out, healthy people begin to place it in the past.
Health Apr 04Dorothea Dix’s tireless fight to end inhumane treatment for mental health patients
Today marks the 218th birthday of Dorothea Lynde Dix, one of the America’s most eminent reformers of the living conditions and treatment of the mentally ill.
Health Mar 24How the discovery of HIV led to a transatlantic research war
As the world struggles to constrain the new coronavirus, it's worth remembering the discovery of another deadly, global virus and a controversy that played out among the researchers who brought it to light.
Health Feb 21The dramatic death of a former president at the U.S. Capitol
Perhaps the strangest event that ever occurred in the House chamber of the Capitol harkens all the way back to 1848.
Health Jan 21How the quest to preserve Lenin’s body helps the living
Over the last century, the Lenin preservation laboratory has created a long list of measures that help patients.
Health Dec 17What caused Beethoven’s deafness?
It is a query that has invited many diagnoses over the last 200 years.