Berrett-Koehler Publishers, July 2008 (with permission)

• “With the atomic secret out in the open … constructing a genocidal nuclear device is no longer a dream for lunatics. Today’s suicide bombers will strap themselves with nuclear devices tomorrow.”

• Early on, Lown did a case study of the impact if greater Boston were hit with 10 nuclear weapons totaling 56 megatons.

Of its nearly 2.9 million people, 1 million would be instantly killed, 1 million fatally injured.

“To acquire data, I exploited everyone around me, including my daughter Anne, then age twelve, who counted the number of hospital beds in the blast, fire and radiation zones. Her nightmares endured for years.”

• Lown made a point of not calling too early and startling his 89-year-old mother with news of his Nobel award, only to find CBS had woken her at 6 a.m.

“Oh, it does not surprise me,” Bella Lown told the caller. “Better he should have received a Nobel Prize in medicine, which he deserves. You know he invented the defibrillator.”

• Once, in his travels, Lown was asked to see a sick relative of Jordan’s King Hussein. When the relative got better quickly, a slate of people asked if he could see them, too, including the king.

“Regrettably, I did not keep notes of my conversation with one of the most important political figures in the Middle East. From the medical examination, I recall only my silly remark in response to his offering to disrobe. ‘No Your Majesty, you don’t have to let your trousers down.'”

• “I hear you are a medical expert. Is your specialty the right or left nostril?”

A joke by Mikhail Gorbachev, early in their first meeting.

• When Lown and his family flew into Oslo for the big award ceremony, no one greeted them and airport officials seemed confused.

“Eventually, we were deposited in a private locked lounge without an explanation for our detention. I was convinced that the Nobel had been rescinded. I did not dare share my thoughts. … The single hour we were sequestered dragged on. Then, like magic, members of the Nobel Committee burst in with flowers, good cheer and apologies. Apparently, our private jet, propelled by powerful tail winds, had arrived an hour earlier than expected.”

• After they were awarded a gold medal and a diploma, Lown asked Eugene Chazov which he wanted. The reply:

“‘Neither. They both belong to you, dear Bernie. You brought the doctors’ movement into being.’ We never talked about this again. I could not think of a single American colleague who would have behaved in like manner. I am ashamed to admit, this includes me.”

• “Perhaps the most important message of this memoir is that a small group can – and in our case did – affect the traverse of history.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.