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Archive for July 2012

Did Abraham Lincoln Have Ataxia?

Abraham Lincoln

Recent research suggests that the U.S. President may have suffered from this mysterious neurological disease.  For nearly twenty years, people who have a kinship to Abraham Lincoln have been gathering for reunions in Indiana, Iowa, and Kentucky – and medical researchers have been there along with them.The last known photo taken of Abraham Lincoln before…

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Important Historical Finds in Attics and Basements

history hunters in Naples

My research for the book I’m currently writing, The Nazi and the Psychiatrist, relies on a large collection of medical records, letters, artifacts, and clippings that sat undisturbed for more than 60 years with the family of my subject, Douglas. M. Kelley, M.D. Without those papers — and without their long-unseen nuggets of information — my…

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At a Convention of Hypnotists

This past weekend, The Guardian of London published an excellent article by Vaughan Bell on the resurgence of hypnotism in the treatment of a variety of behavioral disorders. The report reminded me of an article I wrote six years ago on assignment for Harper’s magazine about the conflicts between clinicians who practice therapeutic hypnosis, lay hypnotists who cover some of the same ground,…

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The Power of Narratives: A Tale of Lobotomist and Patient

St. Elizabeths Hospital, Washington, D.C., c. 1930

Sometimes I find that a tale does not belong in a book or article I am writing, but it is too good to forget. This is one such example. On March 19, 1945, Walter J. Freeman, M.D., the subject of my book The Lobotomist who popularized and developed the psychosurgical procedure known as the lobotomy, paged open the…

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Amateur Historians in the News

Douglas Brinkley

While I was researching my book The Lobotomist, one of my most valuable resources was a lanky and slow-moving man who granted me interviews in the book-filled living room of his apartment in San Carlos, California. He was Franklin Freeman, a son of the subject of my book, the lobotomy advocate and developer Walter Freeman. In…

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The FBI’s File on Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright

When I researched a project years ago with Freedom of Information Act expert Michael Ravnitzky, he showed me a copy he had acquired of the FBI’s file on the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It included a wealth of detail on several themes (real or imagined by the FBI) in Wright’s life that I found fascinating. So…

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The Story of Max Weisberg, Savant Sports Bookie

A few months ago I published a short Kindle ebook about Max Weisberg, a remarkable mentally disabled savant I met during the 1990s. Max could barely read and didn’t know how to pay his monthly electric bill, but he was mysteriously gifted at setting odds and point spreads for football and basketball games. He grew notorious as…

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Four Top History Blogs

Since starting my own blog last month, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the efforts of other history enthusiasts who have produced impressive blogs for a long time. How do you find these worthwhile history blogs?  A Google search turns up much bad with the good. The History News Network publishes a list of history blogs,…

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U.S. Supreme Court Decides Whether the Tomato is Fruit or Vegetable

tomato slices

All of last week’s attention on the U.S. Supreme Court reminded me of an earlier decision that was downright pedestrian compared with the court’s judgment on healthcare law. The big legal question in Nix v. Hedden (1893) was whether federal law should view tomatoes as vegetables or fruits.Fruit or vegetable? The Supreme Court had an opinion. How…

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