A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas--a place where history comes to life." - Norman Cousins
Norman Cousins (1915-1990) was an American political journalist, author, professor and world peace advocate. He was born in New Jersey and educated in the Bronx, New York City, where he edited the school paper; after which he attended and received a bachelor's degree from Columbia University in New York.
He joined the New York Evening Post in 1934 and soon after was hired by Current History (the oldest US publication devoted exclusively to world affairs) as a book critic and later became managing editor. By 1940 he was also on the staff of The Saturday Review of Literature (later The Saturday Review), and was editor-in-chief for 30 years from 1942, instructing his staff to "not just to appraise literature, but to try to serve it, nurture it, safeguard it." During his time as editor-in-chief, The Saturday Review's circulation grew from 20,000 to 650,000.
He was a tireless advocate of liberal causes including nuclear disarmament and, in the 1960s, began the American-Soviet Dartmouth Conferences (funded by the Ford Foundation and the Kettering Foundation on the US side). This was a forum where leading American and Soviet non-governmental intellectuals could meet and discuss peace initiatives, and was used as an unofficial communication channel between the two governments. The Conferences still continue.
Cousins is the author of a number of nonfiction books on the topic of world peace and nuclear disarmament; and facilitated communication between the Holy See, the Kremlin and the White House which helped lead to the Soviet-American test ban treaty. He received a number of awards including the Eleanor Roosevelt Peace Award and the United Nations Peace Medal. He also wrote a collection of best-selling books on illness and healing as well as his memoir, Human Options: An Autobiographical Notebook.
In addition, Cousins was an Adjunct Professor of Medical Humanities at the University of California, Los Angeles where he did research on the biochemistry of human emotions, believing they were key to fighting illness. He tackled his own illnesses with huge doses of Vitamin C, a positive attitude, and laughter induced by Marx Brothers films. "I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep," he reported. "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."
Cousins and his wife Ellen raised four daughters. He died of heart failure in 1990 having lived years longer than his doctors predicted.
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