2013 Student Research Conference:
26th Annual Student Research Conference

"A Martyr to Quacks": The Death of Eben Byers and the Federal Regulation of Radium Quackery
Jonathan H. Ryder
Dr. Torbj√∂rn Wandel , Faculty Mentor

In April 1932, Eben M. Byers, a millionaire manufacturer and amateur golf champion, tragically died from radium poisoning, a result of drinking over 1,400 bottles of Radithor, a patent medicine made by quackery extraordinaire William J. A. Bailey. This study of the historical impact of Byers' death contributes to the understanding of the development and passage of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938 (FDCA) as well as the historical legacy of Byers. The literature attributes the Byers incident to single-handedly beginning the movement that led to the passage of the FDCA. However, close examination of relevant newspaper and magazine articles, medical literature, and government documents demonstrates that Byers' death served as a catalyst for a pre-existing movement for drug reform, stemming from multiple failures of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, and this movement ultimately failed to directly result in the federal regulation of radium quackery.

Keywords: Eben M. Byers, William J. A. Bailey, Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938, Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, Radium, Quackery, Radithor


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 205-1
Location: VH 1232
Time: 9:30

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