Memo from MFJ

Thanks, Dad

May 2010

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I don’t think I’ve ever told you about my dad.

Larry Jacobson was born in Newark, New Jersey, was educated at MIT, and lived mostly in Chicago. From the time he was a young child, he was drawn to science—building radios and setting up a darkroom back in the 1920s, when only expert amateurs could explore those new technologies.

After careers as an electrical engineer and camera-storeoperator, my father started publishing a newsletter that camera stores around the country sent to their customers. He was always careful never to earn enough money to tempt him into a lifestyle of ease.

This apple didn’t fall far from the tree—after all, he started me on a certain path by naming me after English scientist Michael Faraday.

I, too, developed a love of radio and photography. (Too bad he also infected me with a devotion to the Chicago Cubs, which has led to six decades of heartbreak.)

Working at the camera store a couple of days a week and helping mail out thousands of copies of the Kady Camera Gazette each month while I was in middle school and high school fostered my work ethic. And seeing my father painstakingly edit each new issue of the Gazette fostered my punctiliousness in writing. I fear that both of those traits are the bane of some of the staff here at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

At some point, the tables turned, and I began infecting my father with ideas.

In the 1970s, my interest in nutrition got my dad thinking about how he could stay healthy as he aged. I introduced him to Nathan Pritikin, the messianic advocate of a low-fat, largely vegetarian diet.

Pritikin’s scientific evidence and zeal persuaded my father to adopt the diet—which was easy because my mother, a fabulous cook, turned the theory into practice. (Truth be told, she cheerfully snuck pastries and other no-nos into her diet, while he had the wherewithal to stick almost religiously to his.) Dad eschewed salt, fatty meat, cholesterol, and sugar until he loosened up a bit in his 80s and 90s.

Over the last three decades, my father looked forward to reading each new issue of Nutrition Action and was proud of saying that the publication was what kept him healthy and alive so long.

On March 19th, to celebrate my father’s 98th birthday, I visited him in Chicago, where he had just finished reading a biography of Charles Darwin. A week later, Dad died peacefully in bed.

I miss him dearly.

Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Center for Science in the Public Interest

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Look for Michael Jacobson's column in the Huffington Post.

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The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is the nonprofit health-advocacy group that publishes Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI mounts educational programs and presses for changes in government and corporate policies.

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