A groundless hypothesis, megaloblastic madness, and the founding of Duke University.
In a recent issue of Medical Hypotheses, Dr H L Newbold repeats the assertion that the cause of James B Duke's death in 1925 was pernicious anemia. Dr Newbold postulates that Mr Duke was neurologically impaired as a result of vitamin B-12 deficiency and that he suffered from depression. In an attempt to relieve this depression, Dr Newbold argues that James B Duke donated the money necessary to found Duke University. Had he been properly treated for pernicious anemia, James Duke might have not been depressed nor made his donation. The historical record does not substantiate this hypothesis. Dr George Minot, Novel Laureate for his work on pernicious anemia, was a consultant to Mr Duke's physicians, and felt that the patient did not have pernicious anemia. There is no independently verifiable evidence to demonstrate that Mr Duke ever suffered from depression. Duke made his first donations to Trinity College, later named Duke University, in 1900--25 years before his death. The available data discounts the hypothesis that depression related to pernicious anemia played any role in the founding of Duke University.
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