While [Leon Kass] was a medical student, he met and married his wife of nearly 52 years, the classics scholar Amy Kass. The couple went on to Boston, where he completed an internal-medicine internship and earned a biochemistry Ph.D. at Harvard.Share
"A funny thing happened to me in graduate school," he recalls. "My wife and I spent part of the summer of 1965 in Mississippi doing civil-rights work." The couple lived with a black farmer in Mount Olive, Miss., in a home that had no toilet or indoor plumbing. "I came back from this place with this conundrum: Why was there more honor, goodness and decency in these unschooled black farmers than I found in my fellow graduate students at Harvard, whose enlightened and liberal opinions I shared?"
The answer, he eventually concluded, was that his black hosts displayed "the dignity of honest work and religion"—things he didn't often find among his highly educated peers, most of whom "were only looking out for Number One." Around the same time, Dr. Kass's reading of Rousseau, C.S. Lewis's "The Abolition of Man" (1943) and Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel "Brave New World" (1931)—the latter remains a constant reference in his writings—led him to see that as science advances, morals don't necessarily improve; that the opposite might well be the case.
"And then it dawned on me that you didn't have to go Mississippi to find moral questions," he says. "There were big moral questions right at my feet in the biomedical profession." (Read entire article.)