William A. Nolen

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William A. Nolen (March 20, 1928 – December 20, 1986) was a surgeon and author who resided in Litchfield, Minnesota. He wrote a syndicated medical advice column that appeared in McCall's magazine for many years, and was the author of several books.[1] He died on December 20, 1986, at the University of Minnesota Medical Center from heart disease.


His best known book is The Making of a Surgeon, which continues to be a popular (though now dated) narrative about his experiences as an intern and resident surgeon-in-training at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.[2] Many students contemplating medical school find that it guides their decision.[citation needed]

Nolen conducted research at a 1967 Kathryn Kuhlman fellowship in Philadelphia, with 23 people who claimed to have been cured during her services.[3][4][5][6] Nolen's long term follow-ups concluded there were no cures in those cases.[7][8] Furthermore, "one woman who was said to have been cured of spinal cancer threw away her brace and ran across the stage at Kuhlman's command; her spine collapsed the next day, according to Nolen, and she died four months later."[9]

Nolen is also known for his book Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle (1974). He spent two years examining faith healers and concluded that no patients with organic disease had been cured.[10] He investigated psychic surgery and discovered it was based on sleight of hand trickery.[11] He uncovered many cases of fraud.[12]


  • The Making of a Surgeon. Mid List Press (1970, 1990) ISBN 0-922811-46-6
  • A Surgeon's World. New York: Random House (1972) ISBN 0394467450
  • Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle. New York: Random House (1974) ISBN 0-394-49095-9
  • Surgeon Under the Knife. Book World Promotions (1976) ISBN 0-698-10743-8


  1. ^ "Dr. William Nolen, 58, Dead; Author of Books on Medicine". Associated Press. Dec 23, 1986. Retrieved 2007-11-12 – via The New York Times.
  2. ^ Folkart, Burt A. (Dec 23, 1986). "William Nolen Dies; Wrote `Making of a Surgeon'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  3. ^ "Psychic Healing? Investigator declares no". The Greenville News. Aug 16, 1975. Retrieved 2007-11-12. Also see: William Nolen, Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle. New York: Random House ISBN 0-394-49095-9
  4. ^ "Dr Nolen Looks at Faith Healing". The San Mateo Times. Mar 7, 1975. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  5. ^ Michaelson, Michael (February 2, 1975). "Men of medicine and a medicine man". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  6. ^ "Extra-Dispensary Perceptions". Time. Mar 17, 1975. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  7. ^ "Inside Religion: Kuhlman Tested By md's Probe". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Nov 8, 1975. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  8. ^ "A follow-up study of 23 patients 'cured' in a Kathryn Kuhlman service". St. Petersburg Times. Nov 2, 1974. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  9. ^ Randi, James (1989). The Faith Healers. Prometheus Books. p. 228. ISBN 0-87975-535-0.
  10. ^ Hyman, Ray. (1989). The Elusive Quarry: A Scientific Appraisal of Psychical Research. Prometheus Books. p. 342. ISBN 0-87975-504-0
  11. ^ Neher, Andrew. (2011). Paranormal and Transcendental Experience: A Psychological Examination. Dover Publications. pp. 170-171. ISBN 0-486-26167-0
  12. ^ Williams, William F. (2000). Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience: From Alien Abductions to Zone Therapy. Facts on File Inc. p. 287. ISBN 1-57958-207-9 "Minnesota physician William A. Nolen researched faith healing in general and wrote Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle (1974), a book that uncovers many cases of fraud, including the first exposure in the United States of psychic surgery."

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