A. Stone Freedberg

Photo by Jodi Hilton for The New York Times Photo by Jodi Hilton for The New York Times

On this date in 1908, Abraham Stone Freedberg was born in Salem, Mass. Freedberg attended Harvard College and the University of Chicago Medical School (graduating in 1934). A professor at Harvard who taught medical students physical diagnosis techniques, Freedberg also became chairman of cardiology and internal medicine at the Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. As a professor and member of the admission's committee, he set out to help disadvantaged students navigate the admissions process at the medical school. Until Freedberg invented a treatment in the late 1940s, involving a radioactive iodine technique, patients with severe angina had no way to relieve their pain. In 1940, Freedberg was the first to scientifically study ulcers, but his findings were not confirmed until 1983 by two Australian scientists, who would each win a Nobel Prize in 2005 for those findings. It has been confirmed by medical scientists that if Freedberg's findings had been recognized earlier, treatments for ulcers would have been available decades sooner. Dr. Freedberg later became a critic of doctors relying too heavily on technologically advanced testing methods, preferring the less expensive and, to him, more reliable practice of physical diagnosis. He stopped practicing medicine in his mid-90s. Freedberg, who attended 100 classical music concerts in his 101st year, was an atheist. According to The New York Times, in Freedberg's last days, he assessed his body and said there were no prospects "of a significant improvement in my basic status . . . It is time to draw the curtain" ("A. Stone Freedberg: The Good Doctor," by Jonathan Mahler, Dec. 23, 2009). He died in his sleep at age 101. D. 2009.

"He always said that he just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. He said to us, ‘It’s time,’ and he went to sleep."

—Freedberg's son Richard about his father, quoted in "A. Stone Freedberg, 101, Harvard med school professor," by Bryan Marquard in The Boston Globe, Aug. 24, 2009

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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