After sitting at the feet of Martin Luther King at the University of Michigan in 1963, Larry Brilliant was swept up into the civil rights movement, marching and protesting across America and Europe. As a radical young doctor he followed the hippie trail from London over the Khyber Pass with his wife Girija, Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm commune to India. There, he found himself in a Himalayan ashram wondering whether he had stumbled into a cult. Instead, one of India’s greatest spiritual teachers, Neem Karoli Baba, opened Larry’s heart and told him his destiny was to work for the World Health Organization to help eradicate killer smallpox. He would never have believed he would become a key player in eliminating a 10,000-year-old disease that killed more than half a billion people in the 20th century alone.
He's led a Forrest Gumpian life and his story is recounted in his new book, Sometimes Brilliant: The Impossible Adventure of a Spiritual Seeker and Visionary Physician Who Helped Conquer the Worst Disease in History.