Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D. is the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine and Director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. He is also a professor of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, Psychiatry, Public Health Management and Policy, History, and English Literature and Language. He was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 23, 1960 and grew up in Oak Park and Southfield, Michigan. Educated at the University of Michigan (A.B., 1982, summa cum laude; M.D., 1986, cum laude eruditionis causa) and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Hospital (Intern, Resident and Fellow in General Pediatrics, 1986-1993 and Ph.D., in the History of Medicine, Science and Technology, 1994), he joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1993.
An acclaimed social and cultural historian of medicine, public health, and epidemics, Dr. Markel is the author, co-author, or co-editor of ten books including the award winning Quarantine! East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997; paperback, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999) and When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed (Pantheon Books/Alfred A. Knopf, 2004; paperback Vintage/Random House, 2005).
His book, An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine (Pantheon Books/Alfred A. Knopf, 2011) garnered wide critical praise and was a New York Times Best Seller, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Seller, an ABA IndieBound Best Seller, an Amazon Best Seller, a Barnes and Noble Best Seller, and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. Sherwin Nuland, in his front-page review of the July 22, 2011 issue of the New York Times Book Review called it a “tour de force of scientific and social history”. The New Yorker reported that “Markel creates rich portraits of men who shared, as he writes of Freud, a “particular constellation of bold risk taking, emotional scar tissue and, and psychic turmoil.” Deborah Blum in The Wall Street Journal described the book as “incisive…an irresistible cautionary tale”; The Los Angeles Times stated it was “terrific…this rich engrossing book reminds us of the strangeness of even heroic destinies;” and Lev Grossman, in Time, called it a “rich, revelatory book.”
In August 2017, Pantheon Books published Markel’s most recent book, The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek, which was a semi-finalist for the PEN America Literary Prize in Biography. The Kelloggs was named “Best Book of the Month (History, August 2017) by Amazon Books, Best Book of the Summer, 2017 by Newsday, Best Nonfiction Book (Biography) of the Year, 2017 by Kirkus Review, and Best Nonfiction Book of the Year, 2017 by The Boston Globe. The Kelloggs was also chosen by the State of Michigan Department of Education and the Library of Michigan as the “Michigan Notable Book for 2018.”
Lauded on NPR’s Fresh Air, the book also 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”), 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”), The National Book Review (“Insightful and entertaining . . . A revealing window into America as it evolved from the Civil War to World War II”), The Chicago Tribune (“[the book is] lively throughout as it delivers a tale both personal in its intensity and grand in its scope”), 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”). Booklist, in a starred review, called it an “amazing amalgamation of biography and history.” Pulitzer Prize winner Siddhartha Mukherjee wrote “Markel’s incandescent scholarship and his incisive analysis shine through in this book.” Novelist-physician Abraham Verghese noted, “In the hands of Markel, a trained historian, physician, seasoned writer and chronicler of America, this tale comes alive. A fabulous read.”
From 2005 to 2006, Professor Markel served as a historical consultant on pandemic influenza preparedness planning for the United States Department of Defense. From 2006 to 2015, he served as the principal historical consultant on pandemic preparedness for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From late April 2009 to February 2011, he served as a member of the CDC Director’s “Novel A/H1N1 Influenza Team B”, a real-time think tank of experts charged with evaluating the federal government’s influenza policies on a daily basis during and after the outbreak. His historical research has played a pivotal role in developing the evidence base for many community mitigation strategies employed by the World Health Organization, the CDC, the Mexican Ministry of Health, and numerous state, provincial and municipal health departments around the globe during the 2009 influenza pandemic.
In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Michigan and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Markel is Co-Editor-in-Chief of The 1918-1919 American Influenza Pandemic: A Digital Encyclopedia and Archive, which was first published in 2012 by the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine and the University of Michigan Scholarly Publications Office. Funded by grants and contracts from the CDC, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the digital encyclopedia represents one of the largest collections of historical documents ever assembled on a single epidemic and is accessible on the Internet at www.influenzaarchive.org. The second edition of the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic: A Digital Encyclopedia and Archive 2.0 was released in 2016 and a third edition is now in the works.
Since 2000, Dr. Markel has been a frequent contributor to the Science Times, Week-in-Review, Op-Ed, and Book Review sections of New York Times. From 2010-2012, he was a regular “on the air” contributor for Public Radio International’s Science Friday; his monthly segment, “Science Diction,” discussed the history, evolution and meaning of scientific words. From 2012 to the present, he has contributed a monthly column on important events in the history of medicine for PBS NewsHour.org
In addition, Dr. Markel has contributed over 450 articles, reviews, essays and book chapters to a wide range of scholarly publications and popular periodicals, from The New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, The Lancet, The American Scholar, and The Journal of the American Medical Association (for which he was a contributing writer from 2007 to 2014), to his many essays and reviews in the The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, The Detroit News, The New Republic, The International Herald Tribune, and The Wall Street Journal.
From 2013 to 2017, Dr. Markel served as the Editor-in-Chief of The Milbank Quarterly, a peer-reviewed, health policy and population health journal.
Dr. Markel has delivered hundreds of prominent lectures at numerous major universities, museums and libraries across the United States and in Europe as well as U.S. government agencies, departments, and at the White House. He has been a frequently commentator on numerous national radio and television news broadcasts including NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation, Science Friday, Here and Now, Tell Me More, On Point, Radiolab, and Marketplace, ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, NBC’s Nightly News, PBS’s Nova, Frontline, and NewsHour, BBC’s The World and World Service, CNN, MSNBC’s The Cycle and All In, C-SPAN’s Book Notes, and the History Channel. Dr. Markel has also appeared in several critically acclaimed film documentaries including Murder Hotel: The Story of America’s First Serial Killer, Dr. H. H. Holmes (BBC), Rx for Survival: A Global Health Challenge (PBS), We Heard the Bells: The Influenza of 1918 (flu.gov), Forgotten Ellis Island (PBS), and, most recently, the Ken Burns and Siddhartha Mukherjee documentary Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies (PBS).
Dr. Markel’s renown as a public intellectual might be exemplified by noting that he is, perhaps, the only person to have written a front-page article for the New York Times (with Gina Kolata on April 29, 2001), had a book reviewed on the cover of the New York Times Book Review (July 22, 2011), uttered the “Quotation of the Day” in the New York Times (October 9, 2014) and was quoted in a story on the front page of the New York Times (October 19, 2014). During the Ebola epidemic of 2014, he was a much sought after expert on the history of epidemics and quarantines. Aside from wide press coverage, in the form of interviews, and his contributing several influential op-eds for the New Republic and Reuters Opinion, Professor Markel was the lead interview on NPR’s All Things Considered, BBC World Service, CNN/Sanjay Gupta MD, and PBS NewsHour. Dr. Markel’s landmark scholarship on the tangled history of stigma, politics and contagion was also lauded on Page One of The New Yorker, (Talk of the Town/Comment, November 10, 2014). In the aftermath of the Ebola crisis, in February of 2015, the Presidential (Barack Obama) Commission on Bioethical Issues invited him to consult on the ethical issues surrounding the stigma of epidemic and infectious diseases.
Professor Markel’s work has been recognized with numerous grants, honors and awards. In 1996, he received the James A. Shannon Director’s Award of the National Institutes of Health, the Burroughs-Wellcome Trust 40th Anniversary History of Medicine Award, and the Robert Wood Johnson Generalist Faculty Scholars Award. In 1998, he was named a Centennial Historian of the City of New York and was an Inaugural Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers of the New York Public Library for 1999-2000. He was elected into the membership of the American Pediatrics Society in 2001. In 2003 he received the Arthur Viseltear Award from the American Public Health Association. In 2006, he was the John Rich Professor at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities. In 2007, he received the Theodore Woodward Award from the American Clinical and Climatological Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Health Investigator’s Health Policy Award. From 2009 to 2012, Dr. Markel was a senior fellow of the Michigan Society of Fellows. He was elected into the membership of the American Epidemiological Society in 2012.
In 2008, in recognition of his scholarly achievements, Dr. Markel was elected as a Member of the National Academy of Medicine (of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine), which cited his influenza research as “one of the most novel and potently practical applications of medical history research ever conducted.” In 2011, he was appointed to the National Academy of Medicine’s Board of Population Health and Public Health Practices and from 2012-2013 served as the Vice Chair and from 2013- 2015, as Chair, of the NAM’s Section on Social Sciences.
In April of 2015, he was awarded one of the signal honors of scholarly and creative enterprise: the Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for demonstrating “exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”
In 2016, Markel was inducted into the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars. The Johns Hopkins University’s Board of Trustees created the society, the first group of its kind in the nation, in 1967 to honor distinguished former Johns Hopkins postdoctoral fellows and faculty who had formative experiences at the university early in their academic careers. That same year, the University of Michigan Medical School presented Dr. Markel with its Distinguished Alumnus Service Award.
In 2017, the Rockefeller Foundation awarded Professor 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 and to promote the well-being of humanity.
He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.