Thank You For Not Smoking


It was like any other Tuesday lunch hour, until the sheriff’s deputies walked in. Mr. Ernest Bamberger, general manager of the Keystone Mining Company and recent (unsuccessful) Republican candidate for United States senator, and Mr. John C. Lynch, manager of the Salt Lake Ice Company, finished their meals at the Vienna Café, an unpretentious but respectable businessmen’s restaurant on Salt Lake City’s Main Street, and prepared to savor their customary post-luncheon cigars. A few tables away, near the back of the crowded establishment, Mr. Edgar L.Read more »

A Bulwark Against Mighty Woes

The Hundredth Anniversary of the American Red Cross


The Red Cross “shall constitute a bulwark against the mighty woes sure to come sooner or later to all people and all nations,” said Clara Barton in 1904, toward the end of her stewardship of the durable institution she had organized in 1881.Read more »

Sigmund Freud’s Sortie To America

The Father of Psychoanalysis came, saw, conquered—and didn’t like it much

In 1908 the American medical profession was becoming aware of a new method of treating mental disease. It had first been advocated during the 1890’s by two Viennese doctors, Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud. Breuer ceased to practice the method, but Freud had developed the theory on which it rested, had described its applications to everyday life in a number of books, notably The Interpretation of Dreams , and had become the center of a small group of supporters.Read more »

“Gentlemen, This Is No Humbug”

The single greatest medical discovery of the last century began as a parlor game, and brought tragedy to nearly everyone who had a hand in it

In the early 1840’s a visiting surgeon approaching the main building of Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, an imposing granite structure designed by Charles Bulfinch, could consider that he was about to enter one of the foremost temples of his art. From a parklike garden he ascended a flight of stone steps that led him through a portico of eight towering Ionic columns, then continued his climb inside the building up a gracefully winding cantilever staircase.Read more »

The White Plague

A young girl’s memories of life in a community haunted by

The mothers of my childhood friends paid special attention to me, and I never understood why. I was dimly aware that something about me made them pat my shoulder and murmur sympathetically or, on the other hand, quite as inscrutably, bar me from their homes and keep their children from visiting me. Grown-up behavior was difficult to fathom, and I did not question it.

I never connected it with the fact that my mother suffered from tuberculosis. Read more »

America’s Cities Are (mostly) Better Than Ever

Today’s city, for all its ills, is “cleaner, less crowded, safer, and more livable than its turn-of-the-century counterpart,” argues this eminent urban historian. Yet two new problems are potentially fatal.

More than a decade ago the phrase “urban crisis” crept into our public conversation. Since then it has become a cliché, connoting a wide range of persistent and dangerous problems confronting our cities. Moreover, the phrase, like “missile crisis” or “energy crisis,” suggests both newness and immediate danger. The rioting, arson, and looting that erupted in the 1960’s fortified this general impression. Presumably something unprecedented had happened.Read more »

The Story Of The Pill

How a Crash Program Developed an Efficient Oral Contraceptive in Less Than a Decade

A good beginning for this story is a meeting in early 1951 of three remarkable people—the greatest feminist of our age, a great philanthropist who was as notably eccentric as she was fantastically wealthy, and a biological scientist whose subsequent world fame was achieved in large part because of this meeting. Would that it could be described in circumstantial detail and invested with the drama it should have in view of what followed from it. Read more »


Of herbal medicine, a “doctor” named Samuel Thomson, and a sure cure for almost everything…

In the late 1820’s and 1830’s American physicians found themselves with a major rebellion on their hands. The rebels were their own patients, or ex-patients, and the rebel leader was a onetime New Hampshire farmer and itinerant herb-and-root doctor named Samuel Thomson, who had published, in 1822, a book called Thomson’s New Guide to Health; or, Botanic Family Physician. Read more »

The Greats Wine Flu Epidemic Of 1918

In the last week of October, 1918, 2,700 Americans died “over there” in battle against the kaiser’s army. The same week 21,000 Americans died of influenza in the United States. Read more »

Johns Hopkins


In 1884, after he was offered an appointment to the medical faculty of the newly created Johns Hopkins University, Dr. William Henry Welch wrote to his stepmother: “Such great things are expected of the medical faculty at the Johns Hopkins in the way of achievement and of reform of medical education in this country that I feel oppressed by the weight of responsibility. A reputation there will not be so cheaply earned as at Bellevue, but in so far the stimulus to do good work will be the greater.Read more »