A while back, I wrote about several history blogs that I enjoy reading. I promised to return with the work of more exemplary history bloggers (or in some cases teams of bloggers), and here are the results. All of these blogs share the virtues of delivering unexpected, informative, and entertaining history content. • The Literary Detective. It…

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In 1960, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a manuscript credited with saving more lives than any other medical article of the previous hundred years.CPR training using a life-saving mannequin Modestly titled “Closed-Chest Cardiac Massage,” it described a simple method of keeping alive people in cardiac arrest. “Anyone, anywhere, can now initiate cardiac resuscitative procedures,” the manuscript’s…

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Last month, I posted the first in a series of short essays adapted from an article on hypnotists and hypnotism that I wrote for (but was never published in) Harper’s magazine several years ago. What follows is the second part of the series, which focuses on my meeting with a working stage hypnotist. I met Frank Pruden, who uses…

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I’ll be posting sparingly over the next week or two, but I wanted to let you know about a contributing gig I now have with the wonderful history blog Wonders and Marvels. (I covered Wonders and Marvels last month here when I wrote about four top history blogs.) My first post for Wonders and Marvels is about the…

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Kim Peek, the autistic savant who inspired the movie Rain Man

Last month I wrote a post on my experiences with Max Weisberg, a mentally disabled savant who put his numerical talents to work as a sports bookmaker. I’ve long been interested in people like Max with an extraordinary mental gift amid deficits or disabilities. Commonly called savants (sometimes with the obsolete and inaccurate prefix idiot), those people often…

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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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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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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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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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