In 1974, a doctoral student at the Penn Biology Department named Joseph (Joe) Eyer was in the process of crossing disciplinary borders in his scholarly work on social causes and health effects of stress. His research reflected an eclectic fusion of natural and social sciences. However, it is his unpublished personal essay (Jeremy Brecher collection of Joseph Eyer papers, Box 2, Folder 8, “Some Things About Myself,” undated) during his time in graduate school that leaves one in awe of the uniquely reflective nature of this individual. Below you may see a graph of Eyer’s life, in which the vertical axes represent “up” or as he identifies it with enthusiasm, attraction, fulfillment versus “down” or frustration, anger, depression. This graph is a perfect illustration of how he used his natural sciences background to reflect on the personal.
His essay gives a glimpse into his childhood, his struggles with mourning and mental health. In this writing, Eyer provides the reader with a multi-faceted perspective on his parents, in particular, how their genders and political beliefs affected their lives. He certainly also tried to provide a complex picture of his life, particularly, as he navigated his depressive and manic episodes. He mentions a learning curve of how he dealt with his bipolar disorder, how he used to resort to anger and passive-aggressive behavior when interacting with others. He writes that it required courage to strive to be alive and open. This desire to persevere seems to have inspired a series of his fascinating academic works, which tackled how socio-economic conditions affected one’s health, as well as his creative writing and poetry. The Jeremy Brecher collection of Joseph Eyer papers includes published and unpublished works on a wide range of topics, from infant mortality to the effects of capitalism on one’s health, as well dozens of letters between him and his colleagues and friends.