Little Bits of History

Jealousy Is Not Good For Your Health

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 10, 2015
Cover of The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet

Cover of The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet

March 10, 1980: Herman Tarnower is murdered. Herman, known to his friends as Hy, was born in 1910 to Jewish immigrant parents. He was a cardiologist practicing in Scarsdale, New York. During World War II he served with the US Army Medical Corps and attained the rank of major. After the war, he returned to private practice. He had friends in the publishing business and they encouraged him to write a book on the innovative diet he used to treat his patients. The novel concept included cutting back on carbohydrates, fats, and salt. He and his friend, Samm Sinclair Baker published The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet in 1978 and it became a best seller. The doctor’s grisly death may have contributed to the best seller status.

Tarnower was a lifelong bachelor and dated a number of women over the course of his life. He met Jean Harris (nee Struven) in 1966, a year after her divorce. Harris had two children from her marriage – David born in 1950 and Jim born in 1952. Harris and Tarnower had a 14-year long relationship during which time he showered her with exotic vacations and gifts. Throughout the relationship, he continued to see other women. Harris did not approve, but the long-distance relationship continued. She worked as a headmistress at the Madeira School in McLean, Virginia while he continued to practice medicine in Scarsdale. He hired Lynne Tryforos, a woman more than 30 years his junior, to work there as a secretary-receptionist. She was also one of his lovers.

On March 9, the students at Madeira School were getting ready to leave for spring break, but before they left, they held a sit-in to protest against the staff and headmistress. Harris was troubled by these events. On this day, she left the school and was carrying a .32-caliber handgun. She went to Tarnower’s house, ostensibly to speak to him in person one last time before committing suicide. When she got there, she found Tryforos’ lingerie in the bedroom and began arguing with the doctor. Tarnower’s last words were, “Jesus, Jean, you’re crazy! Get out of here!” whereupon she fired her gun at him at close range and killed him. She stated the gun was fired accidently as they fought over possession.

Harris’s trial began on November 21, 1980 and lasted 14 weeks making it one of the longest in the state’s history. The press sensationalized the story and her name became known across the country. She was found guilty of second-degree murders and also found to be ineligible to inherit the $220,000 left to her in Tarnower’s will. She was hoping for a complete acquittal and so the option of first-degree manslaughter was not an option. She was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison and numerous appeals determined she had received a fair trial. While in prison, she helped improve educational options for female inmates and helped them obtain GEDs or college degrees while incarcerated. She also provided parenting classes. She was paroled by Governor Mario Cuomo on December 29, 1992. She died in 2012 of natural causes at the age of 89.

It is not love that is blind, but jealousy. – Laurence Durrell

Anger and jealousy can no more bear to lose sight of their objects than love. – George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

Jealousy is all the fun you think they had. – Erica Jong

Jealousy contains more of self-love than of love. – François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

Also on this day: Slavery – In 1910, China (theoretically) ends slavery.
Never Surrender – In 1831, the French Foreign Legion was created.
The Odd Couple – In 1965, Neil Simon’s play, The Odd Couple, opened.
Coal Explosion – In 1906, Europe experienced their worst coal mine accident.
Punic Wars, Part I – In 241 BC, the Battle of the Aegates Islands was fought.


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