Saturday, January 9, 2016

I maintain, despite the moment's evidence against the claim, that we are born and grow up with a fondness for each other, and we have genes for that. We can be talked out of it, for the genetic message is like a distant music, and some of us are hard-of-hearing. Societies are noisy affairs, drowning out the sound of ourselves and our connection.

~ Lewis Thomas (1913-1993)

Dr. Thomas was Chair from 1954 to 1958 and, in this short time, broadened the role of the Department from academic morphologic pathology to experimental pathology with a strong emphasis on immunology and inflammation, turning NYU Pathology into one of the preeminent pathology departments in the country. Until his departure from NYU in 1969, he also served as Chair of Medicine at Bellevue Hospital and Dean of the NYU School of Medicine. Among his many interests were infectious diseases, post streptococcal rheumatic fever and glomerulonephritis. He was a gifted teacher, noted author of The Lives of a Cell, and founder of the School of Medicine Honors Program and an experimental pathology training program, both supported with NIH funding. Thomas recruited many significant faculty members and profoundly shaped the leadership role of the Department. His extraordinary work provided the basis for genuine interdisciplinary and collaborative research at NYU. Frequently hailed as the "father of experimental pathology," Thomas was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1961 and the National Academy of Science in 1972.


  1. He probably never heard of mirror neurons...

    1. I doubt if there was much in the know body of knowledge that he didn't know and understand as well as anyone could. The guy had a protean intellect, and was tremendously accomplished in several fields.

  2. I think that there's also a genetic role in the distrust of "the other."

    1. He seems to think all that is a matter of acculturation. I tend to agree. At the deepest, primal levels we must love each other. If we ddid not, we would have become extinct untold aeons ago.

      Dr. Thomas appears to have been one of those extremely rare persons born both hemispheres of the brain equally well-developed.

      He was at the same time both scientist and mystic.

    2. FT,
      It's the unresolved argument: Environment or genetics?

      I don't think that anyone really has a handle on the role of each. The human psyche is unbelievably complex.

  3. Lewis Thomas

    From Wikipedia,

    Born November 25, 1913
    Flushing, New York
    Died December 3, 1993 (aged 80)
    Waldenstrom's disease
    Nationality American
    Fields Biology, Science writer, Academic administration
    Institutions Tulane University School of Medicine (medical researcher)
    Alma mater Princeton University, Harvard Medical School
    Notable awards National Book Award (3)

    Lewis Thomas (November 25, 1913 – December 3, 1993) was an American physician, poet, etymologist, essayist, administrator, educator, policy advisor, and researcher.

    Thomas was born in Flushing, New York and attended Princeton University and Harvard Medical School. He became Dean of Yale Medical School and New York University School of Medicine, and President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute. His formative years as an independent medical researcher were at Tulane University School of Medicine.

    He was invited to write regular essays in the New England Journal of Medicine. One collection of those essays, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), won annual National Book Awards in two categories, Arts and Letters and The Sciences (both awards were split).[1] (He also won a Christopher Award for that book.) Two other collections of essays (originally published in NEJM and elsewhere) were The Medusa and the Snail and Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony. In its first paperback edition, The Medusa and the Snail won another National Book Award in Science.[2][a]

    His autobiography, The Youngest Science: Notes of a Medicine Watcher, is a record of a century of medicine and the changes which occurred in it. He also published a book on etymology titled Et Cetera, Et Cetera, poems, and numerous scientific papers.

    Many of his essays discuss relationships among ideas or concepts using etymology as a starting point. Others concern the cultural implications of scientific discoveries and the growing awareness of ecology. In his essay on Mahler's Ninth Symphony, Thomas addresses the anxieties produced by the development of nuclear weapons.[3] Thomas is often quoted, given his notably eclectic interests and superlative prose style.

    The Lewis Thomas Prize is awarded annually by The Rockefeller University to a scientist for artistic achievement.

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  6. The mind of the dreamer
    _____ is a secret storehouse
    __________wherein may dwell
    _______________ all youthful fond illusion ––
    The embryo of each utterance of hope ––
    _____ each word of comfort ––
    __________ and each song of joy.

    The mind of the cynic
    _____ is a well-known asylum
    __________ wherein lies disenchantment ––
    _______________ destruction and despair ––
    The insidious, lisping voice of the serpent.

    O, foolish Man! Why choose strife,
    _____ when only what you choose to dwell upon
    __________ has life?

    ~ FreeThinke, c. 1960 (revised, 5/12/13)



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