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.”
’s Recent Stories
Health Nov 30No, Oscar Wilde probably didn’t die of syphilis
The long-held theory was that Oscar Wilde succumbed to the ravages of end-stage syphilis. Fortunately, a London neurologist and two ear surgeons from South Africa have spent considerable time poring over Wilde’s medical and prison records to propose an entirely…
Health Oct 02When a secret president ran the country
All during September of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson became thinner, paler and ever more frail. Unfortunately, the president refused to listen to his body. He had too much important work to do.
Health Sep 22Celebrating the life of Alice Hamilton, founding mother of occupational medicine
No individual was more instrumental in warning people about the health risks and potential dangers of the industrial workplace than Alice Hamilton.
Health Aug 02The ‘strange’ death of Warren G. Harding
At 7:20 p.m. on the evening of Aug. 2, 1923, President Warren G. Harding’s wife, Florence, was reading the “Saturday Evening Post” to him in the presidential suite of San Francisco’s Palace Hotel. The article in question was about Mr.
Health Jul 19Happy birthday to the woman who revolutionized endocrinology
Rosalyn S. Yalow was a giant of medicine. A Nobel laureate and medical physicist, Yalow co-discovered the radioimmunoassay, an exquisitely sensitive means of using “radioactive tracers” to measure hormones in the bloodstream.
Health Jun 09In honor of Cole Porter’s 124th birthday, his story of triumph over pain
When Cole Porter died of kidney failure at age 73 on Oct. 15, 1964, only his closest friends knew the extent of the physical and mental anguish he had endured for 27 years. Against all clinical odds, even if only…
Health May 15In 1850, Ignaz Semmelweis saved lives with three words: wash your hands
On this date in 1850, a prickly Hungarian obstetrician named Ignaz Semmelweis stepped up to the podium of the Vienna Medical Society’s lecture hall to give his fellow doctors advice, which could be summed up in three little words: wash…
Health Apr 14April 14-15, 1865: The tragic final hours of Abraham Lincoln
The macabre details of Abraham Lincoln’s final hours were described in a report written by a 23-year-old Army captain named Charles A. Leale, a doctor who was at Ford's Theatre the night the president was assassinated.
Health Mar 24The day we discovered the cause of the ‘white death’
Robert Koch’s greatest evening unfolded 133 years ago today, when he solved the riddle that had plagued doctors for centuries: what, exactly, caused tuberculosis?…
Health Feb 07What a 1925 novel by Sinclair Lewis can teach us about health care today
Feb. 7 marks the 130th birthday of Sinclair Lewis, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930. At first glance, one might ask what does an American novelist have to do with a column devoted to medical discoveries and…