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Lewis Thomas was a 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.
He was invited to write regular essays in the New England Journal of Medicine, and won a National Book Award for the 1974 collection of those essays, Lives of a Cell. Two other collections of essays (from NEJM and other sources) are The Medusa and the Snail and Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. 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 entitled 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.
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