I believe that this new knowledge will also turn medicine in the direction of greater humility, for we should see that whatever we achieve pales before the self-healing power latent in all organisms.—Robert O. Becker
I am a board certified anesthesiologist. My discovery of Selye's mechanism follows the pattern of scientific advance described Thomas Kuhn, and I fit Kuhn's description of amateurs who advance scientific theory. The fickle finger of fate caused my contribution. My basic sciences instruction at New York Medical College took place during the two years when when the school retained Dr. Johannes Rhodin, a famous researcher, to revise its basic sciences curriculum. His stress theory lectures seasoned my evolving medical viewpoint during an era when fresh ideas challenged orthodoxy. Many years later, my accidental recognition of the chimeric character of coagulation factor VIII inspired an extensive review of published research via personal computing and the Internet, which were unknown during the era of stress research. Six years of dedicated toil yielded mechanisms of coagulation, atherosclerosis, capillary hemostasis, and tissue repair. Finally I realized that these seemingly disparate mechanisms were elements of Selye's stress mechanism, which had been the subject of Dr. Rhodin's distant lectures.
Credit for the discovery belongs to Dr. Rhodin, as I could never have discovered Selye's mechanism without his lectures, which he provided to more than 5,000 medical students during his long and productive career. I'll always regret that I failed the chance to know him better.
Success comes after a lifetime of dedicated toil, soon followed by death; but science is seldom so kind. Ironically, Dr. Rhodin succumbed to cancer, the prototypical example of chronic stress mechanism hyperactivity. Had he lived but a few years longer he would have realized his dream that one of his students would discover Selye's mechanism. Had the mechanism been discovered a few years sooner, it would have enabled his cure. He was surely one of the finest people who ever walked the face of this earth. May his memory endure.
I would also like to acknowledge Dr. William Collins, my undergraduate academic advisor, who supervised my honors research project, which originally piqued my curiosity about CO2 pathophysiology. He emphasized the classical scientific method, in which hypotheses are proposed and tested under controlled conditions. Today statistical associations are sometimes confused with cause and effect. He also taught me that an amateur working outside the field could legitimately propose a fresh scientific theory without setting foot in a laboratory. He noted that medical journals are hardly paragons of progress, as exemplified by Dr. Bruce Glick, the Ohio State graduate student who was obliged to publish his revolutionary discovery of cellular immunity in a poultry journal after it was repeatedly rejected by prestigious medical journals. He prophetically cautioned that a medical career is no guarantee of gratification, regardless of remuneration. I'll always be grateful that I was able to show him my fledgling efforts to describe Selye's mechanism while he was still able to comprehend it. He gave his life to science, for he succombed to progressive brain damage that was most simply explained by irreversible carbamate insecticide toxicity despite his stringent laboratory precautions. He was the sole toxicology professor at Ohio State. He was not replaced, and his loss looms large.
Last, but not least, I would like to acknowledge the role of Dr. Ted Stanley, who supported and encouraged my adventure in stress theory. He helped me to refine my technique of general anesthesia with opioid supplementation and hypercarbia. He provided tips on medical publishing and coached my writing style. He arranged academic critiques of my early description of Selye's mechanism, and invited me to present my findings before the anesthesia research committee at the University of Utah. He assisted my "point-counterpoint" session at the American Society of Anesthesiology. He did his best to help me find a venue where I could perform clinical research to test my anesthetic technique, and thereby test the stress mechanism. I’ll always cherish the memory of his unexpected telephone call to tell me that my description of the unified theory of biology was the most exciting document he had ever read. Like Dr. Rhodin, he recently succumbed to cancer. The loss of his friendship is great.