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 Jun 15Dr. Alzheimer and the patient who helped reveal a devastating disease
This week marks the 153rd birthday of Alois Alzheimer, the German psychiatrist who is often credited for first describing the clinical and micro-anatomic features of a brain disease that steals the memories of millions of people each year.
Health May 12How Florence Nightingale cleaned up ‘hell on earth’ hospitals and became an international hero
On Florence Nightingale’s birthday and International Nurse’s Day, we celebrate Nightingale's multitude of accomplishments and those of the legion of nurses who followed in her path and continue to make a huge difference in caring for the ill.
Health Apr 11F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life was a study in destructive alcoholism
This is a red-letter week for American literature because it marks the debut of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby in 1925. The book was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons and both Scott and his editor, the legendary Max…
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…