From Heaven

Esteemed Canadian physician Sir William Osler is known by many as the “Father of Modern Medicine”. He both practiced and taught at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital, of which he was a founding professor, and helped to revolutionise medical education by introducing the now commonplace residency system: the training of doctors within the hospital itself.

Oh God for one more breath

On the morning of May 19th, 1902, a huge explosion ripped through Fraterville Coal Mine in Tennessee, its devastating power instantly killing most of the 216 miners who were below ground. For the 26 who survived the initial blast, a side passage of the mine proved to be a safe haven, but not for long—when

I am there in the sunset

There are more than 90,000 people buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, a beautiful and sprawling garden cemetery in Massachusetts that was first opened in 1831. Beside one of the graves sits the following letter, written by a lady to the love she left behind. Much needed transcript follows. Larger image here. Huge thanks to Rosie. (Kindly

Sleep well my love

The following heart-rending love letter was written by American World War II veteran Brian Keith to Dave, a fellow soldier he met and fell in love with in 1943 while stationed in North Africa. It was penned on the occasion of their anniversary and reprinted in September of 1961 by ONE Magazine, a groundbreaking pro-gay magazine first published in

Our Frank

On the night of December 21st, 1988, a bomb exploded on board New York-bound Pan Am Flight 103 and ripped the aircraft apart, its wreckage then raining down on the sleepy Scottish town of Lockerbie below. All 259 passengers and crew perished, as did 11 local residents. One of the passengers, 45-year-old Frank Ciulla (pictured above), had been travelling

How could you go ahead of me?

In April of 1998, shortly after excavating an ancient tomb in Andong City, South Korea, archaeologists were stunned to find the coffin of Eung-Tae Lee — a 16th-century male, now mummified, who, until his death at the age of 30, had been a member of the ancient Goseong Yi clan. Resting on his chest was

I am desperate to have some real fun

In January 1960, 9 years and 250 episodes after first being introduced to a baffled but delighted audience, The Goon Show’s final installment was broadcast on BBC radio, much to the dismay of its many fans. Written chiefly by Spike Milligan, the show’s 10 series had been a surreal mixture of sketches, music and general

What did you say? I can’t hear you…

On June 10th of 1967, Spencer Tracy — a Hollywood star who was nominated for nine Best Actor Oscars during his career, two of which he won — passed away after suffering a heart attack at the home he shared with his partner, Katharine Hepburn. Eighteen years later, Hepburn wrote him a letter. The clip above shows Katharine

Yours in distress, Alan

Alan Turing was a human being of exceptional intelligence — a mathematical genius — and worked as one of the leading code-breakers during World War II. He is also considered to be the “father of modern computing” thanks to his pioneering work in the field of computer science. In 1950, before the term “Artificial Intelligence” had been coined, he posed

He’s here, living and vivid and unforgettable forever

On September 30th of 1955, less than a month before his most celebrated turn as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause graced the screens, 24-year-old James Dean died shortly after his Porsche collided with another car at high speed. His funeral was held nine days later in Fairmount, not far from the farm on which he

I love my wife. My wife is dead.

Richard Feynman was one of the best-known and most influential physicists of his generation. In the 1940s, he played a part in the development of the atomic bomb; in 1986, as a key member of the Rogers Commission, he investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and identified its cause; in 1965, he and two colleagues

I shall always be near you

In 1861, as the American Civil War approached, a 32-year-old lawyer named Sullivan Ballou left his wife of five years and two sons at home, and joined the war effort as a major in the Union Army. On July 14th of that year, acutely aware that particularly perilous times were ahead, he wrote, but didn’t

To My Old Master

In 1864, after 32 long years in the service of his master, Jourdon Anderson and his wife, Amanda, escaped a life of slavery when Union Army soldiers freed them from the plantation on which they had been working so tirelessly. They grasped the opportunity with vigour, quickly moved to Ohio where Jourdon could find paid

“Our little baby is dead”

On April 14th of 1851, Dora Dickens, the ninth child of Charles Dickens and his wife, Catherine, died unexpectedly after suffering convulsions. She was just 8-months-old. The next morning, Charles wrote the following letter to Catherine — miles away from home recuperating from an illness, oblivious to the situation  —  and, in an effort to break the news

Good Bye, Son

Christopher was just 3 years of age and largely oblivious to the impending tragedy when, on August 11th of 1991, his dad wrote him this heartbreaking farewell letter. The next year, his father passed away after losing a battle with leukemia. He was 38-years-old. Transcript follows. (Source: Christopher; used with permission. Many thanks to Alec

Sweetheart come

On February 7th of 1909, a 30-year-old mother of two by the name of Emma Hauck was admitted to the psychiatric hospital of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, having recently been diagnosed with dementia praecox (schizophrenia). The outlook improved briefly and a month later she was discharged, only to be readmitted within weeks as her condition deteriorated

Darling Goodnight and Goodbye

In 1918, aged just 18, Rattanbai ‘Ruttie’ Petit converted to Islam and married a man 24 years her senior: then-president of the All-India Muslim League and eventual founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The following few years were blissfully happy for the newlyweds, but a rift soon developed as Jinnah’s hectic political life took hold. In

To: My widow

On January 17th of 1912, following years of preparation, British explorer Capt. Robert Falcon Scott and his team reached the South Pole — an incredible feat that was quickly overshadowed upon arrival by the news that the race had already been won 33 days previous, by the Norwegians. Scott’s team, demoralised and tired, soon began their ill-fated

Some mean man killed my dady too

Above: Monroe Young Jr. III On November 22nd of 1963, whilst travelling through Dealey Plaza in an open-top limousine, then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy was tragically shot dead; millions of stunned people around the world immediately began to mourn. On December 1st, 1963, just over a week later, a young empathetic schoolboy named Monroe Young Jr. wrote the following heartbreaking

Be an unbeatable person and avenge my death

On the evening of May 23rd, 1945, in the Japanese town of Chiran, Masanobu Kuno sat down and hand-wrote the following farewell letter to his 5-year-old son, Masanori, and 2-year-old daughter, Kiyoko. The next day, Captain Kuno proudly boarded his explosive-laden aircraft, took to the skies and, as did thousands of other Kamikaze pilots during World War

We are sinking fast

Two telegrams, both sent within hours of each other and both painting an entirely different picture of the same tragic situation. The first, received by S. S. Birma at approximately 01:40hrs on April 15th, 1912, is the last complete distress call to have left the radio room of RMS Titanic, the passenger steamship which –

I am excited about going into space

In 1985, having been selected by NASA from a pool of thousands, 37-year-old social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe began preparations in an effort to become the first ‘teacher in space’. The project was the result of a very successful effort by the U.S. government to provoke wider public interest in the STS-51-L space program, and

Lou Gehrig’s Disease

In July of 1939, after nine years of fruitless treatment, multiple sclerosis sufferer Bess Bell Neely took a chance and wrote to baseball legend Lou Gehrig in the hope that he may be able to help. Gehrig himself had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis the previous month following a visible decline in his health

I had seen Amelia Earhart!

On July 2nd of 1937, 39-year-old Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean whilst attempting to circumnavigate the globe in a Lockheed Model 10 Electra, just five years after famously becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Despite multiple search efforts, neither Earhart or her navigator Fred Noonan were ever found. Weeks

I am to be executed

For the best part of twenty years until she died, Mary Stuart was either imprisoned or on trial in England at the behest of her first cousin, Elizabeth I. Her entire life was anything but normal, having been crowned Queen of Scots at nine months of age, married and widowed by the time she was

Ordinary standards do not apply to Tesla

On January 4th, 1943, Slovenian-American author Louis Adamic wrote the following heartfelt letter to ex-President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. The letter concerned the alarming treatment and general well-being of Adamic’s friend, Nikola Tesla; an immeasurably important inventor whose impact on the modern world is still difficult to appreciate and who, despite his numerous

I wish I could spare Nancy from this painful experience

On November 5th of 1994, five years after leaving office, 83-year-old Ronald Reagan hand-wrote the following open letter to the American people and revealed that he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a surprisingly common, incurable form of dementia that affects many millions of people around the world. He lived with the disease for a further ten

This rain of atomic bombs will increase manyfold in fury

At 11:00am on August 9th, 1945, just a minute before the second atomic bomb in the space of three days was dropped on Japan, a B-29 bomber named The Great Artiste quietly dropped three canisters from the sky. Inside each of the canisters, alongside a shockwave gauge designed by American physicist Luis Alvarez, was an

THIS IS NO DRILL

At 07:58am on December 7th, 1941, Commander Logan C. Ramsey ordered the following telegram to be sent to all ships in the Hawaiian area after watching a low-flying plane drop a bomb on Ford Island. Ramsey had in fact just witnessed the very beginning of a coordinated attack on Pearl Harbor in which the Japanese, over the

Thousands of other Daddies went too…

On October 21st of 1942, not long after being called to New Guinea to fight the Japanese forces during World War II, a young Australian soldier named John Byrnes decided to write to his 2-year-old daughter in an effort to explain his situation. His letter can be seen below. It’s beyond beautiful. (Update: It seems

To my good friends ye Postmasters

Over 70,000 Londoners were left homeless in 1666 when, in the early hours of September 2nd, a fire that began in a bakery on Pudding Lane swiftly grew to consume and devastate the entire city. It is believed that approximately 13,000 residences burnt to the ground. As London’s first Post Office at Cloak Lane surrendered

The result would be a catastrophe

Just 73 seconds after launch on January 28th, 1986, the Challenger space shuttle broke apart over the coast of Florida and ended the lives of all seven crew members. A subsequent investigation determined that an O-ring failure on one of the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters, coupled with extremely cold weather around the time of launch,

The things I saw beggar description

The concentration camp in Ohrdruf was the first to be liberated by U.S. forces during World War II, and just a week later, General Dwight D. Eisenhower paid a visit in order to survey the scene. The following letter, in which Eisenhower describes said experience, was written by the future President three days later and

It will be sunny one day

Early-2006, during a bout of depression, a young lady by the name of Crystal Nunn wrote a desperate letter to Stephen Fry. Says Crystal: “I had no idea who to turn to. But I really needed someone to turn to and to ease the pain. So I wrote to Stephen Fry because he is my hero, and

It was hard to give five sons to the Navy

November, 1942: Five brothers, all serving on the same vessel during World War II, are killed in action as a result of said warship sinking at the Battle of the Solomons. Two months later, after hearing no word from the Navy regarding her sons’ well-being, Alleta Sullivan writes the following, deeply moving letter to the