Norman Cousins, who died of a heart attack Friday at age 75, was remembered as an inspirational leader in trying to understand the grandeur of the human spirit and its promotion of health.
The emissary and author who helped inspire the holistic health movement with a strategy of humor and positive thinking died after falling ill at a hotel, where he had gone to visit a friend.The editor of the Saturday Review for more than 30 years found a new calling in 1979 with publication of the best-seller "Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient."
The book details Cousins' recovery from a life-threatening form of arthritis through a self-prescribed regimen of positive thinking and vitamin C. "He had a terrible illness, and after the doctors gave up hope he took charge of himself," said a colleague, Dr. L.J. West, who is a professor and past director of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"He got interested in how attitudes and feelings could influence a person's ability to cope with illness," West said.
Cousins' 1983 book, "The Healing Heart," detailed his recovery from earlier heart trouble.
He became editor of the Saturday Review at age 25, expanding the magazine's scope to include book reviews, politics and arts reviews. Two years later, he was named editor in chief. Cousins left the Review in 1978 to join UCLA and was named editor emeritus in 1980.
Cousins undertook numerous diplomatic missions on behalf of Pope John XXIII and Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. His negotiations with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev eventually led to a limited nuclear test ban treaty.
Cousins, who died at UCLA Medical Center, taught at UCLA's School of Medicine as an adjunct professor in the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences.
"Cousins was an inspirational leader in trying to understand the grandeur of the human spirit and its promotion of health and resistance to illness," said Dr. Sherman Mellinkoff, professor emeritus and former dean of the UCLA School of Medicine.
His studies found that a cancer patient's sense of well-being could positively affect the function of the immune system and production of cancer-fighting T-cells.
"He would talk to them and listen to them and help them understand that a diagnosis of cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence," West said.