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William Coley, Quack or Prophet?

I love stories about quacks who become prophets. Medical breakthroughs are often made by doctors who are first ridiculed by their peers. In 1890, Dr. William Coley, a bone surgeon in New York City, found the medical records of a patient who was dying from cancer that had spread through his body and he...

Kurt Masur, Conductor and Hero

The world lost one of its great orchestra conductors when Kurt Masur died this week at age 88. He helped to prevent a massacre in East Germany in 1989, and helped to sustain American spirits after the attack on New York's World Trade Center in 2001. On October 9, 1989, after the fifth successive Monday...

Bret Michaels and Juvenile Diabetes

Bret Michaels is the lead vocalist of the metal-band Poison that has sold more than 45 million records , including their most famous song, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn". He has also written, directed, and appeared in several TV shows and movies such as "A Letter from Death Row". He has done all...

Ron Clarke and High Altitude

Australian runner Ron Clarke died this year from an event that occurred at the Olympics in Mexico City 47 years ago. Clarke was one of the greatest distance runners who ever lived, even though he never won an Olympic gold medal. He was my hero when I competed in long distance races in the 1960s,...

Ingrid Bergman’s Breast Cancer

Ingrid Bergman was one of the best actresses ever. She won three Academy Awards, two Emmys, four Golden Globes and a Tony Award for Best Actress. Many of her more than 50 films are among the most popular films of all time: Intermezzo (1939), Casablanca (1942), Notorious (1946), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1950), Spellbound...

Jerry Quarry: Dementia from Head Injuries

Jerry Quarry was one of the toughest fighters who ever lived. He was never world champion, but: • He fought main bouts from 1965 through 1975, a time when there were arguably more good heavyweights than at any other time period. • He was never knocked out in his 66 fights even though, at only...

Waylon Jennings’ Years of Pain

Waylon Jennings was a country singer and songwriter who rose from poverty to great wealth and fame, with 54 albums and 96 singles listed among the top sellers between 1966 and 2002. He gave concerts and recorded with most of the popular artists of his time including Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bobby...

Tchaikovsky’s Death: Cholera, Suicide or Murder?

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the first Russian composer to become known throughout the world. He conducted major classical orchestras in Europe and the United States, and was elevated from commoner to nobility by Czar Alexander III. How He Became One of the Greatest Composers He was born in 1840 to a successful engineer father and a...

Ty Cobb: Anger in Athletes

Ty Cobb was probably the most aggressive baseball player who ever lived. He was better than everyone else at almost every baseball statistic except fielding, for which he still holds the American League record for errors (271) by an outfielder. During his baseball career, he set 90 major league baseball records and today still...

Did Roy Orbison Work Himself to Death?

Roy Orbison was one of America’s top singers and songwriters from 1957 to 1988. He sang his emotional ballads while standing still and wearing black clothes and dark-framed tinted glasses. Between 1960 and 1964, 22 of his songs placed on the Billboard Top 40. Elvis Presley said that his voice was the greatest and...

Paul Prudhomme: The Perils of Morbid Obesity

Paul Prudhomme died Thursday, October 8, 2015, at age 75. He was an internationally famous chef and restaurateur who, in the early 1980's, used blackening and spicing of fish and chicken in the Cajun and Creole traditions to build a food empire. He started a cooking craze that spread worldwide through his...

Marian Anderson, a Voice that Made History

In 1930, 33-year-old Marian Anderson responded to this discrimination by going to Europe where she was acclaimed as one of world's greatest singers. Back in the United States in 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) would not allow the now world-famous contralto to give a concert in Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. Because of this, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR and asked her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to have Harold L. Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, open the Lincoln Memorial for Anderson to perform a concert on Easter Sunday.

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner

From 1934 to 1977, Al Capp wrote the most-read comic strip in North America, Li'l Abner, about hillbillies in the fictional town of Dogpatch, Kentucky. It had 60 million daily readers in more than 1000 newspapers in 28 countries. Li'l Abner Yokum, a stupid but good-natured hayseed, was the son of...

Moses Malone and Darryl Dawkins, NBA Giants

In the past month, two former National Basketball Association giant centers died of heart attacks: Daryl Dawkins on August 27 at age 58 and Moses Malone on September 13 at age 60 . Both were 6' 10" tall, weighed more than 250 pounds, and went directly from high school into professional...

Oliver Sacks and Melanoma of the Eye

Oliver Sacks died this week at age 82 of a melanoma in his eye that was diagnosed 11 years ago and recently had spread to his liver. He was a neurologist who wrote more than a dozen popular books that sold millions of copies, making him probably the most-read physician-author in the world. His...

Emile Zola and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Emile Zola was a famous French writer of the late 19th century and perhaps one of the most honorable and courageous men of all time. He repeatedly risked his life to defend Alfred Dreyfus, an innocent man who was falsely accused by corrupt French military and government officials of spying for...

Mike Pyle: Head Injuries and Dementia

Former Chicago Bears tight end Mike Pyle died this month of a brain hemorrhage at age 76. He had been one of the smartest players in the National Football League. In 1960, he was captain of the undefeated Yale football team that destroyed Harvard 39–6, and received the Lambert Trophy as...

E.L. Doctorow: Tobacco Claims Another Victim

E.L. Doctorow was a best-selling author whose stories often showed how past experiences influence present behavior and how people fail to learn from their mistakes or the mistakes of others. On July 21, 2015, he died of lung cancer at age 84, after a lifetime of heavy smoking. Nearly 90 percent of...

Rachel Carson: Is Breast Cancer an Environmental Disease?

Rachel Carson was an environmental scientist and writer who alerted the world to the health dangers of pesticides and fertilizers. Her best-selling book, Silent Spring, led to formation of a presidential commission that recommended banning DDT, and to creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 1964, she died of breast cancer.

Amy Winehouse: Sudden Death from Alcohol Poisoning

Amy Winehouse was a British jazz singer and songwriter who won five Grammy Awards and had an album, Back to Black, that became the best-selling album so far in 21st century Britain. The BBC called her "the pre-eminent vocal talent of her generation." Her rise from poverty to wealth and fame was such a burden...

Blaze Starr’s Flaming Couch

On June 15, 2015, 83-year-old Blaze Starr, probably the most famous burlesque stripper in North America, died of heart failure. She was famous because she: • had a 38DD bra size, a 24 inch waist and flaming red hair • was the prime tourist attraction of "The Block" in Baltimore in the 1950's, 60's and 70's •...

Dr. Michael DeBakey’s Famous Surgery

If you were a heart surgeon, would you operate on this patient? • He is 97 years old • He will certainly die in the next few days if you do not operate • He invented the surgical procedure that he now needs, more than 40 years ago • He did research that has saved millions of lives •...

Al Oerter: Weak Heart in a Strong Body

Al Oerter won the gold medal in the discus throw in four consecutive Olympics over a span of 16 years. Each time he: • was not the favorite to win, • was beaten by another American in the Olympic trials, • beat the world-record holder and broke the Olympic record for the discus. His winning throws were 184'11"...

John Kerry: Hip Replacements and Fractures

On May 31, Secretary of State John Kerry fell while cycling in France and broke his right femur (upper leg bone). He was riding slowly on level ground and struck a curb with the front wheel of his bicycle. His long history of competing in sports means that he probably has strong...

John Nash: A Beautiful Mind Dies

On May 23, 2015, John Nash and his wife were killed while riding in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike. The driver hit a guardrail and another car, and the Nashes, who were not wearing seatbelts, were thrown from the taxi. John Nash was 86 and Alicia Nash was 83. Nash...

Fausto Coppi’s Mysterious Death

Fausto Coppi was the best international cyclist in the years before and after World War II because he was the best climber, time trialer and sprinter. He won the Giro d'Italia five times (1940, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953), the Tour de France twice (1949 and 1952), and the World Championship in 1953. ...

Gerhard Hansen and Leprosy

Diana and I just returned from a riverboat/cycling trip with almost 400 other bicyclists from Memphis to New Orleans. We visited the National Hansen's Disease (leprosy) Museum in Carville, Louisiana and learned about Dr. Gerhard Hansen, a Norwegian physician who discovered the bacteria that cause leprosy in 1873. This was the first bacterium to...

Toulouse-Lautrec: Inbreeding, Alcohol and Syphilis – a Bad Mix

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec ranks with Cezanne, van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin as one of the best painters of the late 19th century. Throughout his career, which spanned fewer than 20 years, Toulouse-Lautrec created 737 surviving canvases, 275 watercolors, 363 prints and posters, and thousands of drawings. Ten years ago one of his paintings...

Famous Athletes with Asthma

Paula Radcliffe holds the world’s record in the women's marathon, has won the world championships in the marathon, half marathon and cross country, has won the European championship of 10,000 meters and cross country and the Commonwealth Games in the 5000 meters, has represented Great Britain in four Olympic games, and has won both...

Dmitri Mendeleev, Father of the Periodic Table

Dmitri Mendeleev developed the Periodic Table that organized all of the chemical elements known at that time and many that were not yet known. He placed them in their correct order by their number of atoms (not their weight) and predicted elements that would be discovered in the future. It is...