Washington Duke invented a machine to make cigarettes, thus enabling their mass production.  Prior to that, cigars had to be hand-rolled.  He made a vast fortune from his invention, some of which he used to relocate Trinity College to his home-town of Durham, North Carolina.  He and his family donated millions of dollars to the college, which renamed itself Duke, in his honor.  Today Duke University is one of the finest universities in the world.

The Duke hospital and medical school are among the best in the world.   A couple of days ago I drove by it and saw what is now a common sight in America–a cluster of folks standing outside the entrance to the building smoking cigarettes.

It struck me as somewhat ironic.  Washington Duke made a fortune by inventing the machine that makes cigarettes, making it cheap to smoke tobacco (Before the cigarette, it was the wealthy who smoked pipes and cigars.  Poorer people either didn’t use tobacco, or they chewed it.)  He used some of the money he made to endow a university that, in turn, created a world-class hospital, which now devotes a lot of its resources to treating those whose health has been destroyed by smoking cigarettes.

An odd historical twist.

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