Arno Karlen

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Arno Karlen
BornMay 7th, 1937
Philadelphia, Pynselvaia, U.S.
DiedMay 13, 2010(2010-05-13) (aged 73)
Greenwich Village, New York City, U.S.
OccupationWriter, poet, psychoanalyst, therapist
Notable worksSexuality and Homosexuality, The Biography Of A Germ, Plague's Progress: A Social History Of Man And Disease

Arno Chanoch Karlen (May 7, 1937 – May 13, 2010[1]) was an American poet, psychoanalyst, and popular science writer.[2] He won the 1996 Rhone-Poulenc Prize for science books with Plague's Progress.[3]


Early life[edit]

Arno Karlen was born on May 7, 1937 in Philadelphia. His parents were Jewish immigrants from modern-day Belarus and Ukraine who immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s.

Arno was a talented child who was promoted two grades and finished high school at the age of 15. As a teenager, he was very interested in literature, science and classical music and went on to study music and graduating from Antioch College having majored in English and French literature.

Academic career[edit]

After finishing college, Karlen went on to write for many magazines and spent a couple of years traveling around Europe writing about food, culture, etc. Later on he became an editor of a few magazines including Holiday and Newsweek and published a short stories book called White Apples at the age of 24.

In the 1970s, Karlen became an Associate Professor in the English Department Writing Program at Penn State University. In the coming years he wrote books in fields of history, medicine and science. He then returned to New York to serve as Executive Editor of Penthouse Magazine and Physicians World magazines.[4]

In the 1990s Karlen achieved a doctorate in sexology and while studying three years in an institute of psychoanalysis. Karlen won the 1996 Rhone-Poulenc Prize for science books with Plague's Progress, but was unable to attend the award ceremony due to illness.

In the ten years before his death, Karlen worked as a psychotherapist and kept on writing articles and publishing books.

Personal life[edit]

Karlen had two children from his first marriage, which ended in divorce. He lived many years with his second wife in Greenwich Village, New York City until his death. By the time of his death, he had six grandchildren.

On May 13, 2010, Karlen died from emphysema. He was still working until three months before his death as a therapist in private practice.

Karlen was also a relative (first cousin, once removed) of the pianist Mischa Levitzki and was also a relative of Irving R. Levine.


Notable Works[edit]

  • Sexuality and Homosexuality (1972)[5]
  • Huneker and Other Lost Arts. [6]
  • The MacGregor Syndrome and Other Literary Losses [7]
  • Napoleon’s Glands and Other Ventures in Biohistory (1984)
  • UK: Plague's Progress: A Social History Of Man And Disease;[8] US: Man and microbes: disease and plagues in history and modern times (1996)
  • The Biography Of A Germ (2000)

The Biography Of A Germ[edit]

Karlen's book tracks the friends, foes and ancestors of Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), a "silvery, wriggling corkscrew-like" bacterium which causes Lyme disease. Asides include the naming of living things and the history of germ theory.[9] Bb is named after Willy Burgdorfer who isolated the cause of an illness affecting residents of Lyme, Connecticut.[10]


  1. ^ Obituary: Arno Karlen
  2. ^ The Daily Telegraph, Science prize, 16 May 1996
  3. ^ The Observer Pendennis: The Observer diary, 26 May 1996
  4. ^
  5. ^ Display Ad, The Guardian, 23 Mar 1972
  6. ^ Antioch Review (Autumn 1981) Vol. 39, no. 4, pp. 402-421. Available on JSTOR (
  7. ^ Allen, Bruce. Reviewer's choice: the five best magazines, The Christian Science Monitor, 12 August 1983
  8. ^ Porter, Roy, Books: Bugs and drugs. The Guardian, 27 August 1995
  9. ^ Mulvihill, Mary, Biography of a Germ by Arno Karlen. Irish Times, 18 May 2002
  10. ^ Lezard, Nicholas. Saturday review: books: Pick of the week: A bug's life, The Guardian, 6 October 2001