A Curious Life: From Rebel Orphan to Innovative Scientist

A Curious Life: From Rebel Orphan to Innovative Scientist

by Thomas H. Haines, Mindy Lewis


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The funny, moving, and surprising story of how Thomas Haines—who grew up in the famed Graham School orphanage—became a prominent scientist, social activist, New York City landlord, educator, and founder of the City University of New York Medical School.

A Curious Life chronicles the remarkable life of preeminent biochemist Thomas Haines. Born in 1933, Haines was barely four when he was sent by court order to The Graham School, an orphanage in Hastings-on-Hudson NY founded in 1806 by Isabella Graham and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. His trajectory is a series of radical reversals: from penniless orphan to innovative scientist and educator; from right-wing McCarthyite to left-wing activist; founder of the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education of The City University of New York, a medical school designed to bring in low-income and minority students; New York City landlord; husband of a successful artist whom he nursed through a long illness; father of a brilliant and prominent daughter. Now eighty-six, Haines is Professor Emeritus at the Rockefeller Institute and the only alumnus of the Graham School to serve on its board. A diminutive dynamo in a bow tie, Dr. Haines recently participated on a panel at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and jogs every morning at four a.m. in Central Park. Above all a formidable storyteller, Haines provides an intimate look at his relationships and conveys the excitement of a life in science.

“Who could have possibly imagined that the four-year-old boy looking out at the sunset across the Hudson River from the grounds of the Graham School would have been able to live such an incredible and productive life? From abandoned toddler, to homeless vagabond, to research chemist, to husband and father, to university professor, to innovative educator, to New York building landlord, Tom has always placed a premium on personal connections and interactions. He has benefitted from the kindness of strangers and mentorship, and in turn he has mentored and helped countless others along the way on his amazing life’s journey. What a lucky life he has lived.”

—Thomas P. Sakmar, “Foreword”

“Tom combines a charming, generous and curious demeanor with a fierce inner determination to understand the world and how it works. Perhaps because of his unconventional childhood, Tom has spent his life challenging conventional wisdom. As you will experience in Mindy Lewis’s fabulous telling of Tom’s life, the world is a more enchanting place with Dr. Haines in it.”

—Jess Dannhauser, “Introduction”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781642931938
Publisher: Post Hill Press
Publication date: 08/06/2019
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 343,120
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Thomas Henry Haines is a Visiting Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Rockefeller University. Since 2007, Dr. Haines has been a Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Biochemistry of City College of New York. In the early 1970s, he worked under City College President Robert E. Marshak to establish The Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, where he taught biochemistry for thirty-five years. Dr. Haines specializes in the study of lipids and biological membranes. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from City College in 1957, his M.S. in Education from City College in 1959, and his Ph.D. from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in 1964. Dr. Haines and his wife Polly Cleveland live on Manhattan’s West Side close to Central Park, where he enjoys running each morning. He also serves on the board of Graham Windham Services to Families. More about Dr. Haines can be found online: http://thomashaines.org

Mindy Lewis is the author of Life Inside: A Memoir (Washington Square Press), the editor of DIRT: The Quirks, Habits and Passions of Keeping House (a Seal Press anthology), and winner of New Letters 2015 Best Essay Award. Her essays, articles, and book reviews have been published in Newsweek, New York Times Book Review, Lilith, Body & Soul, Poets & Writers, Arts & Letters Journal, New Letters, Psychoanalytic Perspectives, in anthologies and online. She teaches at The Writer’s Voice in New York City. Visit her website: www.mindylewis.com

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A Curious Life: From Rebel Orphan to Innovative Scientist 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous 2 days ago
Dear Tom, I am reading your book in-between getting my basement turned into a rental space, (it is nothing but concrete floors and cement walls at the moment), and as I am readying to leave for Florida for the winter. I have also co-authored a memoir, edited a history of the SUNY Upstate Medical Center, and written an authorized biography of the late timber baron and conservationist, Charles Lathrop Pack. So I think I come to your book with a special knowledge of what it took for you to create it. Your story and the writing are so captivating that my intention to take only short breaks from my daily duties and read just a few pages each time, almost always abandons me, and I read for far longer than I should if I want to accomplish all of my tasks for the day. without getting rushed and frantic! Congratulations to you and Mindy and fact-checker and fill-in-the-blanker, Polly Cleveland. The writing is both fluid and vivid. I see each scene of your story as though I am there, thanks to your descriptions, especially of people. You bring them to life in describing their physiques, their energy, their varying personalities, and so you make me feel I'm seeing them in action. Right now, I am reading about your efforts to establish the City College medical program. What could be a dull story to someone not in academics or medicine is lively and engrossing, thanks to your ability to bring situations and people to life. Crazy-busy as I am (I am supposed to leave this Saturday for Florida), I can't wait to finish your book! With all Best Wishes and Much Awe, Alexandra (Alix) Eyle