and big news at the end of this post
That manuscript’s first editor wanted the book reworked to make it more marketable, but after much dickering Toole refused, sank into a warren of depression and paranoia, and committed suicide. Toole’s tormented mother spent a decade fielding rejection notices from publishers before the book was finally published—and won the Pulitzer Prize.
Institutions—entrenched in the status quo, jealous guardians of their turf—stomp out creativity and color inside the lines. The result is that throughout history many brilliant, defiant minds have lived haunted lives of ridicule and disaster, while their sheep-like counterparts prosper. The abuse the gifted suffer from those who are not is, like all cowardly acts, based on fear.
The midwives, however, didn’t conduct autopsies, so their hands were, relatively speaking, clean. Now known as sepsis, in Semmelweis’s time the infection was called childbed or puerperal fever. But Semmelweis’s theory was dismissed, and his distress over thousands of women needlessly dying landed him in a mental institution, where he spent the remainder of his life.
The late physicist and science historian Thomas Kuhn, who authored the groundbreaking book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, believed the lag between the emergence and acceptance of new ideas is natural and inevitable. Change, he postulated, can come about only after long periods of stasis because “frameworks must be lived with and explored before they can be broken.”
Abram Hoffer and Linus Pauling
In the 1950s, the great Canadian psychiatrist Abram Hoffer, an early proponent of vitamin therapy, and two of his colleagues discovered that high-dose niacin lowered bad cholesterol and raised good cholesterol. Later, Hoffer joined Nobel laureate Dr. Linus Pauling to test out Pauling’s theory that Vitamin C was an effective adjunct therapy for cancer patients. The duo found that the vitamin prolonged the length and the quality of life, and in some cases, particularly in lung cancer, effected long remissions.
In response to both findings, the medical establishment vilified them. The bruised Pauling was offended that no one would listen. But the circumspect Hoffer reasoned that it can take two generations—forty years—for new ideas to be accepted. With all the speed of a glacier melting (in pre-global-warming time), scientific derision morphed into doubt and, finally, acceptance of niacin as a cholesterol remedy. While vitamin C hasn’t exactly been embraced as a cancer treatment, in the past few years researchers at the NIH and elsewhere have found it to be effective.
Paul Cheney and Daniel Peterson
In 1984, Dr. Paul Cheney and Dr. Daniel Peterson contacted the CDC about an outbreak of a debilitating illness afflicting the residents of Incline Village, Nevada. As chronicled by Hillary Johnson in her book Osler's Web, epidemiologists Jon Kaplan and Gary Holmes arrived at the tony resort town, saw about 10 ME/CFS patients, then went gambling and skiing. Twenty-six years later, not much has changed as far as the government response to ME/CFS is concerned. As a result, many physicians, researchers and citizens still don't understand that it's a grave and sometimes fatal neuroimmune illness. Some continue to debate its existence, as if the disease were a matter of theology, not science.
Was Abram Hoffer right? Will it take another 14 years before the government stops shrinking back and dismissing the collection of scientific data, if by their denial they could make fact fiction and alter the grim misadventure this disease has become? Or, perhaps the fed-up patients will push through and the FDA/NIH XMRV Chronic Fatigue Syndrome study will be published intact in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and, like the flip of a switch, the energy changes.