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 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.
Health May 21How Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle cracked the case of the tuberculosis ‘remedy’
Today marks the birth of the man who created the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes. To celebrate, here's one of the great detective stories in medical history.
Health Apr 08Remembering Ryan White, the teen who fought against the stigma of AIDS
Today we celebrate one of the great heroes in the war against AIDS: a brave young man named Ryan White. He was only 18 when he died of the disease on April 8, 1990.
Health Mar 09Celebrating Rebecca Lee Crumpler, first African-American woman physician
Today we celebrate the life of Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African-American woman physician in the United States. On this anniversary of her death, let us applaud her courage, perseverance and pioneering achievements. Her passion “to mitigate the afflictions of…
Health Feb 06Was Charles Dickens the first celebrity medical spokesman?
This Feb. 6, we celebrate Charles Dickens, the novelist and literary superstar of his day. He may well have been the first celebrity spokesman for a medical charity. The cause was London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and it first…
Health Jan 14Dr. Albert Schweitzer, a renowned medical missionary with a complicated history
In 2016, Albert Schweitzer may be a somewhat forgotten, or even a controversial, figure but a half a century or more ago, the mere mention of the name Schweitzer instantly conjured up images of selflessness, heroism and the very model…
Health Dec 10The story behind Alfred Nobel’s spirit of discovery
Every Dec. 10 for the past 114 years, the eyes of the world have turned to Stockholm, Sweden, where the Nobel Prizes are formally awarded to the brilliant men and women who have made exemplary inroads in Medicine or Physiology,…
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…