Today in Boston by Ethan Underhill: 3/30/1973 — The Pathologist ⛑

“Any man who predicts a date for discovery is no longer a scientist,” he cautioned in 1971.

But he clarified.

"We have a solid basis of accomplishment in research and treatment to permit controlled optimism and expectation of rapid progress."

This was the precise, diplomatic, and inspiring doctor’s way of insisting that as long as society kept up its intellect, its investments, and its compassion, a cure for cancer would come.

Then, today in Boston, 1973, 69-year-old Sidney Farber passed on from cardiac arrest. Perhaps too appropriately, he was still at work in his Binney Street office, searching for a cure.

What a legacy he left behind.

The jury’s out on how early Simon and Matilda Farber figured out their third of fourteen children would father pediatric pathology 🧬, but surely, the couple knew of the barriers in front of their son.

See, Jews didn’t have a fair shot at getting into American medical schools in the 1920s, so the Farbers helped their boy venture from his native Buffalo to the Universities of Heidelberg and Freiburg in Germany 🇩🇪. Eventually, Sidney transferred to @harvardmed and graduated in 1927.

In 1929, the 26-year-old was named the first full-time pathologist @bostonchildrens. 20 years into the job, Dr. Farber shocked the medical world when he suggested that blocking folic acid — which makes bone marrow grow — could stop leukemia from spreading in the body.

Hardened by a) the fact that no one had ever concocted an effective leukemia treatment and b) their egos, scientific stalwarts bristled at the idea.

But 10 of Farber’s 16 trial patients saw temporary remissions from his treatment, and the idea caught fire.

From his revolutionary treatment techniques to his kind yet deliberate style; from his work to establish @thejimmyfund to his role in tripling the National Cancer Institute’s budget, it’s hard to boil down a life like Sidney Farber’s to a post.

So, let’s stick with this.

He brought the scientific community closer than anyone thought possible to unqualified victory over the mysterious evils of cancer.

May we get there someday.

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