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June 24: Norman Cousins

June 24, 2014

293462_900Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review from 1942 until 1971, and again from 1973 to 1977, was born in West Hoboken, New Jersey on this date in 1915. An esteemed cultivator of good writers and good writing, Cousins grew SR's circulation from 20,000 to 600,000. He was an eloquent champion of nuclear disarmament, leading the Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) in the 1950s, and his unofficial “shuttle diplomacy” among the White House, the Kremlin, and the Vatican helped lead to the U.S.-USSR nuclear test ban treaty of 1963. “There is one way and only one way to achieve effective control of destructive atomic energy,” said Cousins, a strong supporter of the United Nations throughout his life, and “that is through centralized world government.” His many awards included the Eleanor Roosevelt Peace Award in 1963, the Family Man of the Year Award in 1968, the United Nations Peace Medal in 1971, and the Tokyo-based Niwano Peace Prize in 1990. Cousins was also an adjunct professor at the University of California's School of Medicine in Los Angeles, where he investigated the biochemistry of human emotions and their links to disease. He battled his own fatal heart and auto-immune disease with laughter, as described in his Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient: “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter [prompted especially by Marx Brothers films] had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep. When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.”

“What emerges from my mailbag each day is the sense that I'm not just dealing with customers but with members of the family.” —Norman Cousins