U-M Heritage

  1. January 23, 2023 James van Gundia Neel died of cancer at his home in Ann Arbor on the first day of February 2000. He was 84. He was promptly memorialized as one of the greatest scientists in U-M's history. But a few months after his death, he was accused of causing a deadly epidemic among Indigenous villagers in the Amazon rainforest.

    The fake news about James Neel

    James van Gundia Neel died of cancer at his home in Ann Arbor on the first day of February 2000. He was 84. He was promptly memorialized as one of the greatest scientists in U-M’s history. But a few months after his death, he was accused of causing a deadly epidemic among Indigenous villagers in the Amazon rainforest.

    Read a summary of this story
  2. January 16, 2023 “Tickled to Death,” a musical comedy written, staged and performed by U-M students, generated a buzz in the weeks before Christmas 1924. But U-M’s Chinese students were not laughing. For as much as “Tickled to Death” attracted large audiences, it also drew detractors upset with the portrayals of China and the Chinese.

    No laughing matter

    “Tickled to Death,” a musical comedy written, staged and performed by U-M students, generated a buzz in the weeks before Christmas 1924. But U-M’s Chinese students were not laughing. For as much as “Tickled to Death” attracted large audiences, it also drew detractors upset with the portrayals of China and the Chinese.

    Read a summary of this story
  3. January 9, 2023 J. David Singer was a pioneer in a new, scientific way of studying war, believing a way to lasting peace might be found if only humankind truly understood how war and peace are made. The question that would bedevil him was: Even if academic analysts gained that understanding, would people in power pay attention?

    The scientist of peace

    J. David Singer was a pioneer in a new, scientific way of studying war, believing a way to lasting peace might be found if only humankind truly understood how war and peace are made. The question that would bedevil him was: Even if academic analysts gained that understanding, would people in power pay attention?

    Read a summary of this story
  4. December 5, 2022 When the new novel "Arrowsmith" reached the nation’s bookstores in 1925, the author, Sinclair Lewis, was already the most celebrated American writer of the day. What neither Lewis nor his publishers said — at least not very loudly — was how much "Arrowsmith" owed to Paul De Kruif, an obscure young U-M scientist.

    The Michigan scientist who was ‘Arrowsmith’

    When the new novel “Arrowsmith” reached the nation’s bookstores in 1925, the author, Sinclair Lewis, was already the most celebrated American writer of the day. What neither Lewis nor his publishers said — at least not very loudly — was how much “Arrowsmith” owed to Paul De Kruif, an obscure young U-M scientist.

    Read a summary of this story
  5. November 21, 2022 Astronomer James Craig Watson was U-M's "brightest son." After discovering 22 asteroids between 1863-77, during a solar eclipse in 1878, Watson was sure he’d observed the rumored intra-mercurial planet Vulcan. He had hoped to better observe Vulcan and and record more extensive calculations but died two years later.

    Vulcan’s muddy light

    Astronomer James Craig Watson was U-M’s “brightest son.” After discovering 22 asteroids between 1863-77, during a solar eclipse in 1878, Watson was sure he’d observed the rumored intra-mercurial planet Vulcan. He had hoped to better observe Vulcan and record more extensive calculations but died two years later.

    Read a summary of this story
  6. November 14, 2022 Heritage Project — When heads rolled

    When heads rolled

    When William W. Cook gave his alma mater an extraordinary financial gift to transform the Law School, he imagined a setting so beautiful it would lure the nation’s brightest law students to Ann Arbor. What he did not envision was the whimsical likeness of Dean Henry Moore Bates, a man he reviled, carved in stone.

    Read a summary of this story
  7. November 7, 2022 By all signs, the future was very bright for Douglas Joy in the summer of 1881. At age 27, he was a physician in the Department of Medicine and Surgery at U-M and working alongside doctors who had been his professors. By June 1882, Douglas Joy was fighting for his job and, more important, his reputation. 

    Dr. Joy’s undoing

    By all signs, the future was very bright for Douglas Joy in the summer of 1881. At age 27, he was a physician in the Department of Medicine and Surgery at U-M and working alongside doctors who had been his professors. By June 1882, Douglas Joy was fighting for his job and, more important, his reputation. 

    Read a summary of this story
  8. October 31, 2022 You may never have heard of the Michigan law professor who was baked to a crisp in the oven of the Lawyers Club kitchen. Or the English professor presumed dead when his face suddenly went missing. If not, then you’ve missed out on the shelfload of not-so-cozy mystery novels set in a fictionalized University of Michigan.

    Mysteries at Michigan

    You may never have heard of the Michigan law professor who was baked to a crisp in the oven of the Lawyers Club kitchen. Or the English professor presumed dead when his face suddenly went missing. If not, then you’ve missed out on the shelfload of not-so-cozy mystery novels set in a fictionalized University of Michigan.

    Read a summary of this story
  9. October 24, 2022 Three years after accepting the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in the land, Tom Harmon and his his World War II fighter were shot down. A dogfight with Japanese pilots had exploded the plane’s fuel line and he was being burned alive from the legs up. He needed to eject or he would die.

    Tom Harmon is missing

    Three years after accepting the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in the land, Tom Harmon and his his World War II fighter were shot down. A dogfight with Japanese pilots had exploded the plane’s fuel line and he was being burned alive from the legs up. He needed to eject or he would die.

    Read a summary of this story
  10. October 17, 2022 Every alumnus carries a cherished memory of Michigan — then returns in 20 years and realizes that “my Michigan” is hard to find among the new construction of someone else’s Michigan. Those old Michigans – the Cat Hole, the Boulevard, Sleepy Hollow, and more – make up what we might call the Lost Campus.

    Lost campus

    Every alumnus carries a cherished memory of Michigan — then returns in 20 years and realizes that “my Michigan” is hard to find among the new construction of someone else’s Michigan. Those old Michigans – the Cat Hole, the Boulevard, Sleepy Hollow, and more – make up what we might call the Lost Campus.

    Read a summary of this story