Known to his friends as Hy, Tarnower had three sisters, and attended Syracuse University, becoming a physician specializing in cardiology.
He was shot to death in 1980 at age 69 by Jean Harris. Harris was convicted of his murder in White Plains, New York in 1981. Tarnower established a cardiology practice in the Scarsdale and White Plains areas of New New York
During World World War II, he joined the United States Army Medical Corps and was promoted to major.
After the war, he initiated the Scarsdale Medical Center and was well regarded among his colleagues and patients. Friends involved with the publishing business suggested to Tarnower that he publish a book documenting the diet he recommended to his patients.
The basic nutritional philosophy of reducing carbohydrates, eating plenty of oily fish, lean meat, fruit and vegetables and having a low intake of fats, salt and sweets was novel at the time and when The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet was published in 1979, it became an immediate bestseller. Tarnower began a relationship with Jean Harris in 1966.
A lifelong bachelor, he continued to date other women during the course of their relationship, and in 1979 was having an affair with Lynne Tryforos, who worked as a secretary in his office, which caused tension between Harris and Tarnower.
Although, it"s been said by Jean Harris that the affair with Tryforos had been taking place for the past few years. On March 10, 1980, Harris drove from the Madeira School in McLean, Virginia to Tarnower"s home in Purchase, New York with a.32 caliber pistol in her possession. At trial, she stated she had planned to commit suicide after talking in person with Tarnower one last time.
When she arrived at the house, however, she noticed Tryforos"s lingerie in the bedroom.
An argument ensued, and Herman Tarnower allegedly said to her, "Jesus, Jean, you"re crazy! Get out of here!" Harris shot the 69-year-old Tarnower four times at close range, killing him. She was arrested and tried for second degree murder, claiming at the three-month trial that the gun had discharged accidentally while Tarnower tried to wrestle it away from her.
The jury did not believe her testimony and convicted her of second-degree murder, because manslaughter was not an option during the deliberations. Judge Russell Leggett sentenced Harris to the minimum of 15-years-to-life in prison.
However, she was granted clemency by New York Government.
Mario Cuomo in 1992 and paroled in 1993. Herman Tarnower was interred on a sloping hill in the Larchmont Temple section of Mount Hope Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New New York Jean Harris visited his gravesite on several occasions.
In the movie Mistress
Harris (2005), Tarnower was portrayed by Ben Kingsley and Jean Harris by Annette Bening. In the Seinfeld episode "The Summer of George", Kramer is mistakenly awarded a Tony for Scarsdale Surprise, a musical about the murder of Herman Tarnower.