100 years ago today, the Welsh-born author Roald Dahl was born. Renown for such children’s classics as Matilda, his popular books, like The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, BFG, and Fantastic Mr. Fox, have even been made into feature films.

You might know that he was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force, but, did you know about Dahl’s self-motivated medical advancements–problems with solutions he invented after family health issues arose?

When his first wife of 30 years, Oscar-winning actress Patricia Neal, suffered from debilitating paralysis and loss of speech following a stroke, medical experts limited her therapy to one hour a day because they thought any more work would be overwhelming, Dahl took control of her rehabilitation, saying, “What in the world are you going to teach a child if she only goes to school for an hour a day? That is what Pat was like then – a child. She didn’t even know her ABC.”

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He set up an intensive 6-hours-a-day regimen with relentless coaching. Her “miraculous” recovery, which allowed her to resume acting and even earn another Oscar nomination, led to Dahl’s publishing a book of methods that were taken up widely, inspiring a whole new movement and the formation of The Stroke Association.

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When his baby son developed hydrocephalus on the brain after being hit by a car, Dahl sought out a designer to help him invent a better valve for his neurosurgeon, which was later used to treat thousands of children around the world. When his daughter died after contracting the worst form of measles, Dahl championed the new vaccine some years later, writing a famous letter that supported its advancement and badgering the government to do more.

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Roald Dahl passed away in 1990 at the age of 74. His family gave him a Viking funeral, placing chocolates, a power saw, pencils, and his snooker cues in his coffin.

(Read more at Ireland’s Own)
1988 photo by Bogaerts / Anefo, CC license, Wikimedia

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