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January 1: Linking Tobacco to Cancer

January 1, 2014
srvrOscar Auerbach, a pathologist who produced the first extensive evidence of a causal link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, was born in New York to immigrant Jews on this date in 1905. Auerbach examined thousands of lung tissue samples under the microscope, research that was prominently cited in Surgeon General Luther L. Terry’s landmark report (January 11, 1964) about the threats posed by tobacco to human health. That report gave rise to an anti-smoking movement that eventually forced the labeling of cigarette packages and restrictions on tobacco advertising and sales, and probably saved more than a million lives by convincing Americans never to start smoking. Auerbach also studied the effects of second-hand smoke and determined that it, too, damaged human lung tissue. Although a medical doctor who received his MD from the New York Medical College, Auerbach never finished either high school or undergraduate studies in college. He lived to be 92. “He could look at 2,000 slides a day, when others were looking at 200 a day.” —Dr. Lawrence Garfinkel