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Strong Verbs, Short Sentences | Revisionist History podcast with Malcolm Gladwell E9/S3

Strong Verbs, Short Sentences

Episode 9| Season 3| Revisionist History
Length: 43 mins | Released: July 12, 2018

The following podcast contains explicit language.

Malcolm Gladwell: August 1st, 1991, Washington DC; one of those sweltering DC summer days. Room 2322, the Rayburn House Office Building, the big grand congressional building right across from the Capitol, is packed. Press, lawyers, aides, a long row of congressmen up on the dais; and in the chairman’s seat is John Dingell, Democrat of Michigan. A big man, well past six feet, gruff, intimidating, giant bald head, thick black glasses, a bouncer in a business suit. In his heyday, Dingell was perhaps the most powerful man in Congress and on this August afternoon, he’s called in a who’s who of the American scientific establishment for a reckoning. The hearing was not recorded. All we have is the transcript.

Malcolm Gladwell: Dingell begins, “It is the practice of this subcommittee, since it was first constituted by Sam Rayburn in 1958, that all witnesses testify under oath. Do any of you have any objection to testifying under oath this morning?” They raised their right hands, a chorus of nos, a masterpiece of choreographed congressional theater until, in hour five, it all goes off the rails.

Malcolm Gladwell: My name is Malcolm Gladwell. You’re listening to Revisionist History, my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood. This episode is the second of two parts about the bizarre outbreak of insanity that swept the United States a quarter-century ago. A time when otherwise thoughtful and intelligent people took temporary leave of their senses and convinced themselves, against all evidence to the contrary, that American science was riddled with fraud.

Malcolm Gladwell: If you haven’t listened to the first part, you should before continuing on. Part one is about how the panic started. This episode is about how it ended when the immovable object named John Dingell ran into an unstoppable force named Bernadine Healy. I remember it well. I was there.

Bernadine Healy: My parents, and particularly my father, thought it was wonderful for a woman to be a doctor.

Malcolm Gladwell: The story of how the panic over science fraud ended revolves around three people — Congressman John Dingell, a brilliant scientist named Ramesh Sharma, and Bernadine Healy.

Bernadine Healy was the first woman to run the National Institutes of Health, the most important biomedical research institution in the world, with billions of dollars at its disposal. This is Healy in an interview a few years after she left the NIH, when she was head of the American Red Cross.

Bernadine Healy: When I was growing up, it was really exceptional, unusual for a woman to pursue a career in medicine and as far as my father was concerned, it was the perfect place for me to go. It was the place where I could use my intelligence and my hard work, but also make a difference.

Malcolm Gladwell: Healy grew up in a little apartment in Queens, upstairs from her family’s perfume business. Her parents were of Irish descent. She graduated number one in her class at Hunter College High School, then Vassar, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins.

Bernadine Healy: When I went to Harvard Medical School, there were roughly 10%, less than 10% of the class were women. And in those days, although they probably don’t like to remember this, medical schools had quotas and there was the prevailing attitude that women were taking up a spot that wasn’t necessarily going to be used as well as a spot filled by a man. Women had to have, I think, better academic credentials and often go through much tougher screening.

To see the full transcript, go here.

Transcripts for the entire Season 1–3 podcasts of Revisionist History are available here.

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