The Great Radium Scandal; August 1993; Scientific American Magazine; by Roger M. Macklis; 6 Page(s)
Eben M. Byers died early on the morning of Thursday, March 31, 1932, the victim of a mysterious syndrome that for 18 months had ravaged his body, corroding his skeletal system until one by one his bones started to splinter and break. Byers had been a powerful man, a broad-chested athlete and sportsman who was an expert trapshooter and had been the U.S. Amateur Golf Champion in 1907 at the age of 27. As chairman of the A. M. Byers Iron Foundry, he had personified the Roaring Twenties, a millionaire socialite and tycoon who had clambered into the upper reaches of New York society. He continued to lead a life of privilege even after the stock market crash, maintaining homes in Pittsburgh, New York, Rhode Island and South Carolina, as well as horse-racing stables in New York and England.
When Byers died, his shriveled body must have been barely recognizable to friends who had known him as a robust athlete and ladies' man. He weighed just 92 pounds. His face, once youthful and raffishly handsome, set off by dark, pomaded hair and deep-set eyes, had been disfigured by a series of last-ditch operations that had removed most of his jaw and part of his skull in a vain attempt to stop the destruction of bone. His marrow and kidneys had failed, giving his skin a sallow, ghastly cast. Although a brain abscess had left him nearly mute, he remained lucid almost to the end. He died at 7:30 A.M. at Doctors' Hospital in New York City.