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.”
Health Mar 30Diagnosing Vincent Van Gogh
Every schoolchild knows that Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear. The bloody event occurred on Dec. 23, 1888. But how much he sliced away (the entire ear, a chunk of his earlobe, or a mutilation in between) and why…
Arts Feb 23How poet John Keats met his early end
Before he turned to writing, the famous poet was an indifferent student. So he left school to become an apothecary-surgeon's apprentice.
Health Jan 25The infectious disease that sprung Al Capone from Alcatraz
after he was finally imprisoned for his life of crime, it was neither case law nor strong-armed tactics that set him free. It was, in fact, a tiny microbe called Treponema pallidum.
Health Dec 05A symphony of second opinions on Mozart’s final illness
On Dec. 5, 225 years ago, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart drew his last breath, at age 35. Ever since, generations of doctors have been obsessed with figuring out what caused his premature death.
Health Nov 04Unlocking the medical mysteries of King Tut’s tomb
On this day in 1922, the tomb of Tutankhamun, or King Tut as he is better known, was discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter. The news grabbed the world by the scruff of its collective neck. Most compelling was…
Health Oct 10Column: The failed Broadway musical I wish every medical student could see
On Oct. 10, 1947, this “medical musical” opened on the Great White Way. Alas, the production costs were so high and, once the bad reviews came in, the ticket sales so low that the play closed after 314 unprofitable performances.
Health Sep 16The dirty, painful death of President James A. Garfield
Editor’s note: This post contains graphic content and may be disturbing to some readers. On Sep. 19, 1881, James Abram Garfield, the 20th president of the United States, died. His final weeks were an agonizing march towards oblivion that began…
Health Aug 05Column: Marilyn Monroe and the prescription drugs that killed her
Long before the opiate and opioid epidemics struck American life with such resounding force, there were plenty of other prescription drugs abused to excess with deadly results. Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe consumed, if not abused, a great deal of them.
Health Jul 07Louis Pasteur’s risky move to save a boy from almost certain death
Louis Pasteur was hard at work developing a rabies vaccine, using dogs as his experimental subjects. Up until now, however, he had not administered the vaccine to a human being.
Health Jun 17Did Lou Gehrig actually die of ‘Lou Gehrig’s disease’?
Lou began experiencing his first neurological symptoms in 1938, right around the time of his 35th birthday. But was ALS the cause of Lou Gehrig’s death? Maybe not, say a group of neurologists, physicians and pathologists.