Claudia Kalb

Stories by Claudia Kalb

  • The Pill That Transformed America

    FROM THE DAY SHE opened her first clinic in 1916, Margaret Sanger longed for a simple, reliable, nonintrusive birth-control technique: a pill. Traditional "barrier" methods failed too often. They were overmatched by human error, mechanical failure and the ever-present factor of lust. Finally, in 1951 Sanger found a wealthy kindred spirit to fund her dream. She teamed up with Katharine McCormick, an MIT graduate whose father-in-law, Cyrus McCormick, had invented the mechanical reaper. Together they set out to help people prevent reaping what they were about to sow.First, they needed a biologist. They found him in Gregory Pincus, head of the Worcester (Mass.) Foundation for Experimental Biology. Pincus was renowned for his breakthrough work fertilizing rabbit eggs in a test tube and he was a man who reveled in meeting a challenge.McCormick gave Pincus a $40,000 check. (She would be the pill's chief benefactor, contributing almost $2 million to the research.) Two strokes of good...
  • A Struggle By Degrees

    FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY, CERTAIN GRADUATION requirements at Boston University's College of Arts and Sciences have remained unchanged: no math and foreign-language credits, no diploma. So two years ago, when Jon Westling, BU provost at the time and now president, discovered that about a dozen learning-disabled students each year were substituting classes like ""Anthropology of Money'' for algebra and ""Arts of Japan'' for Spanish, he says he was ""astonished.'' While course substitutions are granted to learning-disabled students at many colleges, they're not required by law. And Westling was adamant that BU abolish them. ""We have a responsibility to ensure that our degrees mean what they say,'' he says.Twenty years ago, learning-disabled students were largely unheard of at the college level. But with greater support in earlier school years, many now consider higher education a reasonable goal. Since 1988, the number of college freshmen reporting a learning disability has more than...
  • Caring From Afar

    SEVERAL MORNINGS A WEEK, Marti Kotin Mirken calls her mother, Yadeh Kotin, in Hollywood, Fla. The 79-year-old Kotin suffers from emphysema and was hospitalized earlier this year with a collapsed lung. On a recent morning, all Mirken got was a ceaseless, nerve-racking ring. By late afternoon, after repeated unanswered calls, Mirken, in Boston, and her sister in New York were on the verge of panic. They didn't find their mother until evening. She'd been hospitalized in the middle of the night after calling 911 and complaining of shortness of breath. Kotin was never in serious danger, but the anxiety attack that triggered her breathing difficulties had engulfed the whole family. ""We're very close to my mom. We want to care for her,'' says Mirken, a divorced mother of four. ""Still, it's hard. I work, I worry about my children and I worry about my mother, who's 1,500 miles away.'' ...
  • Living The Island Dream

    LIKE HUNDREDS OF OTHER FAMILIES, John Osbon, 45, his wife, Andrea Lee, 44, and their 9-year-old son, Max, are spending their summer on the glistening beaches of Nantucket Island, 25 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. But in a few weeks, when the suntanned hordes are back on the mainland, the Osbons will still be on Nantucket. ""I haven't found any other place I would like to live,'' says Osbon, an investment adviser who traded the suburbs of New York City for a new house--complete with traditional widow's walk--on the island. ""It's pretty much a fairy-tale existence.'' ...
  • Our Embattled Ears

    KATHY PECK, A MUSICIAN, NEVERthought much about her ears. Sure, she relied on them every day as a bass player and singer/songwriter in an all-girl punk band. But it took five years of thunderous rehearsals and concerts be-fore Peck realized that her ears had been damaged--permanently--by noise. Frank Goral, a Marine Corps naval flight officer, didn't think much about his ears, either--despite exposing them to the screaming roar of jet engines five days a week for a decade and a half. But the day Colonel Goral left the skies for quieter office work, he discovered that his ears weren't up to the job. ""I found I was bumping guys on the left and the right and asking them, "What did that gentleman just say?' '' he says. ...
  • New Homes On The Range

    IT WAS A SUBLIME MOMENT. SUSAN Hurst, 33, crafted a tiny cup out of white chocolate, filled it with coffee mousse, attached an edible handle, balanced it on a chocolate saucer, garnished it with a miniature raspberry cake - and then breathed a deep, tasty sigh of satisfaction. Hurst uttered very different sighs when she was an attorney, digesting legal codes and cooking corporate enemies as a litigator for a leading Chicago law firm. But last December Hurst ditched her job, her suit and her six-figure salary - and signed up for culinary school. ""I thought, Why not do something I love?'' she says. ...
  • How Old Is Too Old?

    WHEN A HEALTHY WOMAN walked into Dr. Richard Paulson's Los Angeles infertility clinic four years ago, he saw no reason to reject her as a patient. Her medical records indicated that she was 50 years old--five years younger than Paulson's upper limit for in-vitro candidates--and she passed rigorous physical tests, including a treadmill jog. By the time Paulson found out she was actually a decade older than she claimed (she had been lying to her previous doctors), the woman was already pregnant with an embryo created from her husband's sperm and an anonymous donor's egg. Late last year, at 63, she delivered a normal baby girl--and went into the record books as the world's oldest first-time mom. ...
  • The Top 10 Health Worries

    YOU'VE JUST BEEN HANDED your seven-pound bundle of joy and your first reaction is: Help! How do I keep from breaking it? Take heart. Babies may not bounce, but neither do they get a fatal infection if they suck a dirty thumb. Here are the top 10 conditions that parents of 0-to-3s should look out for: ...
  • When A Child's Silence Isn't Golden

    MALINDA Boyd is increasingly worried about her 18-month-old son, Ryan. At 15 months, Ryan said absolutely nothing. Now he has a handful of words--"mama," "dada," "duck," "ball"-but far fewer than the norm for his age. Ryan's pediatrician has suggested that he be tested for a speech delay, but Boyd has resisted, concerned that her son will be labeled developmentally impaired simply because he's not talking as much as his playmates. "I think he'll talk when he's ready," she says. "You've got to give kids a little room to grow and be themselves." ...
  • A Room Of Their Own

    WHO CAN FORGET THE PUBESCENT pain of junior high? Boys sprout pimples, girls sprout attitude and both genders goad each other into a state of sexual confusion. Teachers in Manassas, Va., figured that all these colliding hormones were distracting students from their academic tasks. So officials at Marsteller Middle School decided to try something old: dividing girls and boys into separate academic classes. Eighth-grade girls say they prefer doing physics experiments without boys around to hog the equipment. Boys say they'd rather recite Shakespeare without girls around to make them feel "like geeks." An eerie return to the turn of the century, when boys and girls marched into public schools through separate doors? Yes, say education researchers. But will it work--and is it legal? ...
  • They Log On, But They Can't Log Off

    What would you say about someone who spent 18 hours a day online? Not a research scientist, mind you, but a stay-at-home more from Texas. What if she lied to her husband about the monthly phone bills, as high as $400, she was racking up in her marathon chat sessions-then enlisted a computer hacker to wangle her free access when money ran low? What if you heard that her marriage dissolved and she became estranged from her children as she obsessively tapped away, chewing the fiber-optic fat with her online pals? You might have a few choice words, but Glenda, 43, calls herself an addict. She worries about what's going to happen as more Americans encounter the Internet. "I believe it could be really bad and really dangerous for this country." ...
  • Harvard Held Up

    Women have never had an easy time getting the men who run Harvard to take them seriously. The gender war once centered on such antiquities as male-only dining halls and library stacks. Today the battleground is Harvard's pathetic number of tenured women--one of the nation's worst records. For eight years, the Committee for the Equality of Women at Harvard--an independent group of Radcliffe alumnae--blanketed the school with polite reports and even more polite complaints. Now the members have decided. to take off their white gloves and fight with hard cash. ...