Howard Markel

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Howard Markel
Born (1960-04-23) April 23, 1960 (age 59)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
OccupationAuthor, editor, pediatrician, professor, medical historian
Website[dead link]

Howard Markel (born April 23, 1960) is an American physician, author, editor, professor, and medical historian. Markel is the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan and Director of the University of Michigan's Center for the History of Medicine.[1] He is also professor of Psychiatry, Health Management and Policy, History, and Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases.[2][3] Markel, a best-selling author, writes extensively on major topics and figures in the history of medicine and public health.

Early life and education[edit]

Markel was born in Detroit and grew up in Oak Park and Southfield, Michigan. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree (summa cum laude) in English from the University of Michigan in 1982 and earned his M.D. degree (cum laude) from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1986, before completing his internship, residency, and fellowship in pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1993. Markel then joined the University of Michigan faculty as a Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of the History of Medicine. A medical historian by training, Markel earned his Ph.D. in the History of Medicine, Science and Technology from Johns Hopkins in 1994.[4]



Markel's writing focuses on major topics and figures in the history of medicine. A consistent theme in his work has been the historical relationship between epidemics, social stigma and immigration, and public health. His book Quarantine!: East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892, focuses on the complex interaction between anti-immigrant prejudices in the United States and the ways such prejudices were mobilized during the typhus and cholera outbreaks of 1892 in New York City.[5][6] The resulting quarantines, enacted largely on the basis of class and ethnicity, prompted Congress to pass a National Quarantine Act codifying standards for medically investigating immigrants and foreign cargo.[7] Markel's argument about the tension between isolating disease and the potential for social scapegoating[8] acquired new urgency during the 2014 Ebola epidemic. "Ebola is jerking us back to the 19th century", he stated in The New York Times.[9]

When Germs Travel[edit]

When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed expands the scope of Quarantine! by chronicling American epidemics during the two "great waves of immigration" that helped shape the 20th century. Markel argues that the association of immigrants with infectious disease is a key component of that history,[10] and that their stigmatization during 20th century American epidemics "reveal[s] much about our predispositions for dealing with the perpetual threat of contagious disease".[11] Health Affairs called When Germs Travel "a clarion call for the public (and the government) to recognize both the importance and the precariousness of the public health as we enter the twenty-first century".[12]

As with Quarantine, Markel writes that When Germs Travel developed out of his work as an AIDS physician during the late 1980s and early 1990s:

Every Monday and Wednesday evening for three years, I saw dozens of patients, mostly young gay men and intravenous drug users, with HIV or AIDS. I became especially intrigued by a question that kept popping up during our conversations: 'Dr. Markel, do you think I will be quarantined because I have AIDS?' Doctors rarely hear the same question from so many different patients, but when they do they listen carefully.[13]

An Anatomy of Addiction[edit]

Markel's An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine explores the lives and careers of Freud and Halsted through their relationship to cocaine. Sherwin Nuland's front page New York Times book review described An Anatomy of Addiction as "a tour de force of scientific and social history, one that helps illuminate a unique period in the long story of medical discovery".[14] Having treated patients suffering from various forms of substance abuse, Markel thought that sharing Freud and Halsted's struggles (both personal and scientific) with cocaine would raise awareness of the perniciousness of addiction while illuminating an important chapter in medical history. Discussing his work with Science Friday's Ira Flatow, Markel said "they were so compelling, and I thought using their lives and their struggles I could really put a human face on this terrible disease."[15] PBS Newshour and C-SPAN also broadcast discussions of his work.[16] A New York Times Best Seller, An Anatomy of Addiction was critically acclaimed in Nature,[17] NPR, The Wall Street Journal,[18] Los Angeles Times,[19],[20] The New Yorker, the San Francisco Chronicle,[21] Time,[22] and The Baltimore Sun.[23]

The Kelloggs[edit]

In August 2017, Pantheon Books published Markel's latest book, The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek. The book tells the story of the lives and times of the Kellogg Brothers of Battle Creek, Michigan. The older brother, John Harvey Kellogg, was one of the most famous physicians in America and founded the Battle Creek Sanitarium. His concept of biologic living, or what we would today call “wellness and well-being," essentially paved the way for longer and healthier lives though prevention, healthy diets and exercise. His brother Will Kellogg, who co-invented corn flakes with John, quickly saw that the cereal would see far more briskly to healthy Americans when compared to only those who were ill with digestive complaints. In 1906, he founded what became the Kellogg’s cereal company. The book also explores the changing landscape of medicine, diet, religion, science, food manufacturing, advertising and marketing in the years after the Civil War to the post-World War II era. Along the way, the Kellogg brothers changed the way much of the world eats breakfast.

The Kelloggs was named a Finalist for the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award (Biography)[citation needed] and a semi-finalist for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award.[citation needed] It was also a Best Book of the Month (History, August 2017) by Amazon Books,[citation needed] one of the Best Summer Books of 2017 by Newsday,[24] and one of the Best Biographies of the Year (2017) by Kirkus Reviews[25] and one of the best books of 2017 by Boston Globe.[26] Lauded on NPR’s Fresh Air,[citation needed] the book garnered critical acclaim from The New York Times ("A compelling yarn and a fascinating window into the genesis of both modern medicine and management… a vivid portrait of the brothers and their era"),[27] Newsday ("Markel does an extraordinary job covering the many complex dimensions of this story… a rich and satisfying account of the lives, work and enmity of two warring brothers and of a pivotal epoch in American history"),[28] the National Book Review ("Insightful and entertaining… A revealing window into America as it evolved from the Civil War to World War II"),[29] the Chicago Tribune (“[the book is] lively throughout as it delivers a tale both personal in its intensity and grand in its scope”),[30] and The Dallas Morning News ("The Kelloggs is a serious and in every way commendable book — in its painstaking research, its superb prose and storytelling, and most importantly, its energy and spirit… chapter by chapter, in one finely crafted paragraph after another, Markel holds your interest… The Kelloggs is a highly satisfying book, a cultural history in the best tradition").[31]

Booklist, in a starred review, called the book an "amazing amalgamation of biography and history."[32] Pulitzer Prize-winner Siddhartha Mukherjee wrote:

Howard Markel's riveting, deeply researched new book covers vast territory: the saga of the squabbling Kellogg brothers ('magnificent showmen, resolute empire builders, and unwavering visionaries'), their mass-branding of breakfast cereals, their concept of 'wellness', and their enormous influence on the diet of millions of Americans. This book arrives at a pivotal moment in our own history when mass-marketing, showmanship, and the media deserve particularly deep study. Markel's incandescent scholarship and his incisive analysis shine through in this book. The Kelloggs can certainly be read as a biography of two visionaries (and their extended families), but it also deserves to be read as a case study by generations of future readers.[33]

Novelist-physician Abraham Verghese noted that “the story of the Kellogg Brothers is the story of innovation, of determination, and the creation of a giant industry as American business came of age just prior to the Second World War. It is a tale of grit, controversy, faith and the emergence of the ‘wellness’ movement. In the hands of Markel, a trained historian, physician, seasoned writer and chronicler of America, this tale comes alive. A fabulous read.”[33]

The Milbank Quarterly[edit]

From 2013 to 2017, Markel was the editor-in-chief of the Milbank Quarterly, a peer-reviewed public health journal of population health and health policy.[citation needed]

Academic and popular periodicals[edit]

Markel has also contributed over 450 articles to scholarly publications and popular periodicals, from The New England Journal of Medicine, the American Journal of Public Health,[34] and The Lancet[35] to The New York Times,[36][37][38][39] PBS Newshour's The Rundown,[40][41][42][43][44] Harper's Magazine,[45] The Atlantic,[46] CNN,[47] The New Republic,[48][49] and the International Herald Tribune.[50] He was a Contributing Writer to The Journal of the American Medical Association from 2007 to 2014.[51]

Markel was a regular guest on National Public Radio's Science Friday from 2010 to 2012,[52] and frequently shares his knowledge of the history of medicine and public health on programs such as NPR's All Things Considered,[53] Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation,[54] Here and Now, Tell Me More,[55] American Public Media's Marketplace, The Leonard Lopate Show,[56] ABC's Good Morning America and World News, NBC's Nightly News, Nova,[57] Frontline, NewsHour,[16] BBC's The World, CNN,[58] MSNBC, C-SPAN,[59] and History.

The documentaries Rx for Survival (PBS),[60] We Heard the Bells: The Influenza of 1918 (,[61] Forgotten Ellis Island (PBS),[62] and PBS' Ken Burns and Siddhartha Mukherjee production of Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies[63][64] all feature Markel's commentary and expertise.

Government advice and media appearances[edit]


Markel advises U.S. agencies studying past and planning for potential future influenza pandemics. From 2005 to 2006, Markel served as a historical consultant on pandemic influenza preparedness planning for the United States Department of Defense. From 2006 to 2016 he served as principal historical consultant on pandemic preparedness for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[65] Markel advised the federal government's response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic on the CDC Director's "Novel A/H1N1 Influenza Team B" real-time think tank. He and a team of researchers at the Center for the History of Medicine collaborated with the CDC to publish a digital encyclopedia of the 1918 influenza pandemic, of which he is editor-in-chief, the largest available digital collection of materials pertaining to the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century and one of the largest collections of historical documents ever assembled on a single epidemic.[66] The collaboration between Markel and the CDC continued with analysis and documentation of non-pharmaceutical interventions deployed during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic.


During the 2014 Ebola epidemic, Markel contributed his expertise on the history of epidemics and quarantines to public forums such as NPR's All Things Considered,[67] the BBC World Service,[68] CNN/Sanjay Gupta MD,[69] PBS NewsHour,[70] and The New Yorker.[71] He reminded readers in The New York Times that "we are a global village. Germs have always traveled. The problem now is they can travel with the speed of a jet plane."[72] Markel additionally sought to enhance public understanding of the Ebola outbreak through op-eds for Reuters Opinion[73] and The New Republic.[74]

Wuhan Coronavirus[edit]

Markel wrote a piece in the New York Times criticizing the Chinese government for their response to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. He argued that the Wuhan lockdown, which had completely shut all transportation in Wuhan and surrounding cities, was "too much too late", and that "Incremental restrictions, enforced steadily and transparently, tend to work far better than draconian measures."[75]

Honors and awards[edit]

Markel's historical, medical, and health policy research has been recognized with numerous grants, honors and awards. In 1996 he was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar for his work on American Doctors and Foreign Patients; Health Care Delivery for Russian, Jewish, Mexican, and Chinese Immigrants to the United States between 1880 and 1995, while his work titled U.S. Immigration Policy and the Public Health, 1880-1995 received the National Institutes of Health's James A. Shannon Director’s Award for 1997-1999.[76] He was named a Centennial Historian of the City of New York in 1998 for his role in advising and planning the New York City 100: Greater New York Centennial Celebration.[77] Markel was also an inaugural fellow at the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writers from 1999-2000.[78][79]

In 2003 Markel's Quarantine!—by that time established as "a classic in the history of public health"—was recognized by the American Public Health Association with The Arthur J. Viseltear Prize "for the outstanding book in the History of Public Health in America".[80] In 2007, he received the Theodore Woodward Award from the American Clinical and Climatological Association for his presentation on "Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions Employed By Major American Cities During the 1918-19 Influenza Pandemic"[81] and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy, also awarded on the basis of Markel's work on the 1918-1919 pandemic.[82]

In 2008, in recognition of contributions made throughout his career to the fields of medicine and public health, Markel was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.[83] In 2011 he was appointed to the Institute of Medicine's Board of Population Health and Public Health Practices and was Chair of its Section on Social Sciences from 2013-2015. In 2015, the Institute of Medicine was renamed the National Academy of Medicine, of which Dr. Markel is an elected member.[84]

In 2015 Markel was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for demonstrating "exceptional capacity for productive scholarship.[85]

In 2016, Markel was elected into the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars, in recognition of his career achievements and as a distinguished alumnus of that institution.[86] That same year, the University of Michigan Medical School awarded Markel the Distinguished Alumnus Service Award, which honors alumni who exemplify the Michigan tradition of excellence and have brought credit to the University and their profession though their achievements and service to the welfare of mankind.

In 2017, the Rockefeller Foundation awarded Markel with a prestigious academic writing residency at its Bellagio Center in Italy, which over the past 57 years has included Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, leading academics, artists, thought leaders, policymakers, and practitioners recognized for their bold thinking and promise to further change the world for the better to promote the well-being of humanity.

In 2018, the Regents of the University of Michigan awarded Markel the Regents' Award for Distinguished Public Service.

In 2019, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine named Markel the Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award.


  • Markel, Howard; Oski, Frank A. (1990). The H.L. Mencken Baby Book: Comprising the Contents of H.L. Mencken's 'What You Ought to Know About Your Baby', with commentaries. Philadelphia: Hanley & Belfus. ISBN 9780932883223. OCLC 20353016.
  • —— (1992). The Portable Pediatrician. Philadelphia: Hanley & Belfus. ISBN 9781560530077. OCLC 26060532.
  • ——; Oski, Frank A. (1996). The Practical Pediatrician: the A-to-Z Guide to Your Child's Health, Behavior, and Safety. New York: W.H. Freeman and Co. ISBN 9780716728979. OCLC 34564899.
  • —— (1997). Quarantine!: East-European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9780801855122. OCLC 35566332.
  • —— (2004). Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America and the Fears They Have Unleashed (1st ed.). New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 9780375420955. OCLC 52980646.
  • —— (2011). An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted and the Miracle Drug, Cocaine (1st ed.). New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 9780307379818. OCLC 759513453.
  • —— (2017). The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek (First ed.). New York. ISBN 9780307907288. OCLC 964624787.


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  31. ^ "Do you know the story behind your cereal? 'The Kelloggs' does, and it's fascinating". Dallas News. August 10, 2017.
  32. ^ "FThe Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek". Booklist Review. June 1, 2017.
  33. ^ a b "ABOUT THE KELLOGGS". Penguin Random House Review.
  34. ^ Markel, H (February 1987). "When it Rains it Pours: Endemic Goiter, Iodized Salt, and David Murray Cowie, MD". American Journal of Public Health. 77 (2): 219–229. doi:10.2105/AJPH.77.2.219. PMC 1646845. PMID 3541654.
  35. ^ Markel, Howard (August 21, 1999). "Charles Dickens' work to help establish Great Ormond Street Hospital, London". The Lancet. 354 (9179): 673–675. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(98)10108-3. PMID 10466687.
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  38. ^ "Burning Money". The New York Times. August 22, 2005.
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  40. ^ "'The Big Book' that gave alcoholics hope in 12 steps turns 75". PBS Newshour. April 10, 2014.
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  42. ^ "The Day Polio Began Losing Its Grip on America". PBS Newshour. April 12, 2013.
  43. ^ "How a Doctor Discovered U.S. Walls Were Poisonous". PBS Newshour. March 29, 2013.
  44. ^ "The Day Doctors Began to Conquer Smallpox". PBS Newshour. May 14, 2013.
  45. ^ "Germ culture: New armies in the never-ending war". Harper's Magazine. March 2002.
  46. ^ "The Heart of the Matter: Is Dick Cheney physically a good risk as Vice President? Seven cardiologists weigh in". The Atlantic. June 1, 2004.
  47. ^ "Sigmund Freud's cocaine problem". CNN. July 22, 2011.
  48. ^ "A Deadly Virus Just Arrived in the U.S.: Here's what you need to know about it". The New Republic. May 4, 2014.
  49. ^ "The Very Deadliest Habit". The New Republic. March 29, 2012.
  50. ^ "How Two Rights Can Make a Wrong". International Herald Tribune. February 25, 2007.
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  55. ^ "Study: Most Americans Skeptical Of H1N1 Vaccine". Tell Me More. NPR. November 5, 2009.
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  73. ^ "How the Ebola quarantine became a 'states' rights' issue". Reuters.
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External links[edit]