Paul Kalanithi

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Paul Sudhir Arul Kalanithi (April 1, 1977 – March 9, 2015) was an Indian-American neurosurgeon and writer. His book When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir about his life and illness battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer. It was posthumously published by Random House in January 2016.[1] It was on The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller list for multiple weeks.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Paul Kalanithi was born on April 1, 1977 and lived in Westchester, New York. He was born to a Christian family hailing from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, India. Kalanithi had two brothers, Jeevan and Suman; Jeevan is a computer/robotics engineer and Suman is a neurologist. The family moved from Bronxville, New York to Kingman, Arizona when Kalanithi was 10. Kalanithi attended Kingman High School, where he graduated as valedictorian.[3][4]

Kalanithi attended Stanford University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in English Literature and a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology in 2000.[4][5] After Stanford, he attended the University of Cambridge, where he studied at Darwin College and graduated with a Master of Arts in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine.[5] Although he initially considered pursuing a Ph.D. in English Literature, Kalanithi then attended the Yale School of Medicine, where he graduated in 2007 cum laude, winning the Dr. Louis H. Nahum Prize for his research on Tourette’s syndrome.[6] He was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha national medical honor society.[5]

At Yale, Kalanithi met Lucy Goddard, who would become his future wife.[4]


After graduating from medical school, Kalanithi returned to Stanford to complete his residency training in neurosurgery and a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience at Stanford University School of Medicine.[4][5]

In May 2013, Kalanithi was diagnosed with metastatic stage IV non-small-cell EGFR-positive lung cancer.[4][7] He died, aged 37, in March 2015.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Kalanithi was married to Lucy (née Goddard), with whom he had a daughter, Elizabeth Acadia ("Cady").[5][8] Lucy is an internist at Stanford University School of Medicine's Clinical Excellence Research Center and wrote the epilogue to When Breath Becomes Air.[9][10][11]

Although Kalanithi was raised in a devout Christian family, he turned away from the faith in his teens and twenties in favour of other ideas.[5] However, he retained "the central values of Christianity — sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness" and returned to Christianity later in his life. In his book, he even states that if he had been more religious in his youth, he would have become a pastor.[5]


Non-fiction books[edit]


Scholarly articles[edit]

Only first-authored articles are listed below


  1. ^ Maslin, Janet. "Review: In 'When Breath Becomes Air,' Dr. Paul Kalanithi Confronts an Early Death". New York Times. Retrieved 16 January 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Print and E-book Nonfiction". New York Times. Retrieved 10 March 2016. 
  3. ^ Steele, Kim. "Obituary: Paul Kalanithi". Daily Miner. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Spector, Rosanne (11 March 2015). "Paul Kalanithi, writer and neurosurgeron, dies at 37". Stanford Medicine News. Stanford University School of Medicine. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Kalanithi, Paul (27 May 2016). "Paul Kalanithi: Why I gave up on atheism". Fox News. Fox News Network. 
  6. ^ Reisz, Matthew. "Paul Kalanithi, 1977-2015". Times Higher education. Retrieved 16 January 2016. 
  7. ^ Kalanithi, Paul. "My Last Day as a Surgeon". New Yorker. Retrieved 16 January 2016. 
  8. ^ O'Kelly, Lisa (14 February 2016). "Lucy Kalanithi: "Paul's view was that life wasn't about avoiding suffering"". The Guardian. The Guardian. 
  9. ^ Smith, Duncan (25 April 2018). "Lucy Kalanithi: Work, life, grief, love". BMJ: k1220. doi:10.1136/bmj.k1220. 
  10. ^ Kalanithi, Lucy (6 January 2016). "My Marriage Didn't End When I Became a Widow". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 
  11. ^ Stanford University School of Medicine. "Lucy Kalanithi". Stanford University School of Medicine. 
  12. ^ Kalanithi, Paul (2014-01-24). "How Long Have I Got Left?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-12-27. 
  13. ^ Kalanithi, Paul. "Before I Go". Stanford Medicine Magazine. Retrieved 17 January 2016. 
  14. ^ Kalanithi, Paul (2016-01-11). "My Last Day as a Surgeon". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2016-02-22. 
  15. ^ Kalanithi, Paul. "Remembering Sherwin B. Nuland, the author of How We Die". Retrieved 2016-12-27.