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August 19, 1968

HELEN KELLER (1880-1968)

JAMA. 1968;205(8):584. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03140340054014

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The miracle of Helen Keller owes nothing to medical science. No wonder drugs, no fanciful electronic equipment, no sophisticated prosthesis relieved her blindness, her deafness, and her muteness. No psychiatrist helped dispel her fears and none guided her from the dark abyss to illuminated peaks. No organized community health program assisted her in this miraculous ascent. A unique combination of her genius and the devotion of a dedicated nurse worked the miracle, and the implications of this extraordinary achievement extend far beyond the people involved and the immediate circumstance.

Helen Keller's life challenges many accepted and half-accepted ideas about the nature of man and mind. It defies the notion that man is a passive automaton whose sole purpose is to reduce tension by adaptive responses to threatening environmental changes. It questions the concept that complex phenomena can be explained only by reduction to simple elements accessible to measurement. It undermines