Preliminary Opening of the Vernacular Archive of Normal Volunteers, 1940-2018

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that the first portion of the Vernacular Archive of Normal Volunteers (VANV), 1940-2018 is now open to research.

VANV is a collection of oral histories, associated archival documents, and project records created and collected by Laura Jeanine Morris Stark to explore the lives of the first “normal control” research subjects at the Clinical Center of the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland who were recruited through NIH’s Normal Volunteer Patient Program. The Normal Volunteer Patient Program (renamed the Clinical Research Volunteer Program in 1995) began in 1953 as a program of the NIH and later operated through the NIH Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office. VANV interview subjects participated in the program from 1954-2002.

The collection includes oral history interviews (audio recordings and transcripts) conducted by Stark between 2010 and 2017 with individuals who were involved with the Normal Volunteer Patient Program (volunteers, scientists, and staff), along with archival documents from interviewees’ personal collections. It also includes digital duplicates of materials related to the Normal Volunteer Patient Program compiled by Stark from the special collections of organizations that were the sources of “normal volunteers” for the NIH Clinical Center. The materials from source organizations include photographs, correspondence, and clippings. The collection also includes records generated by, or pertaining to, the Normal Volunteer Patient Program collected by Stark through a first-time FOIA request and release from NIH as well as project administration records including templates for legal forms, interview instruments, ethics-review approvals, and grant proposals.

View VANV data files on the Harvard Dataverse.

A selection of VANV data files are currently open for research; access to some data files is restricted until the publication of Laura Stark’s book, The Normals: A People’s History, University of Chicago Press. Access to the restricted data files may be granted at the discretion of the author.  Anyone with interest in viewing restricted files are warmly invited to contact Laura Stark at laura.stark@vanderbilt.edu

Remembering Amalie Kass

By , June 10, 2019

It is with great sadness that I report that Amalie Moses Kass passed away on May 19, 2019. Amalie was a great friend to the Archives for Women in Medicine and Countway Library, both as a patron but also as a researcher and writer. Amalie was a lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine and a historian of medicine. She published Midwifery and Medicine in Boston: Walter Channing, M.D., 1786-1876 (a short biography of Dr. Channing written by Amalie was published in Harvard Magazine) and co-authored Perfecting the World: The Life and Times of Thomas Hodgkin, MD with her late husband Edward H. Kass.

Amalie (right) and Eleanor Shore speaking at “Celebrating 10 Years of the Archives for Women in Medicine”

Amalie was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1928, and attended Wellesley College. She received her master’s degree in education from Boston University, and spent many years teaching high school in Newton. In addition to her position at Harvard Medical School, she was the first woman to chair the Massachusetts Historical Society’s board, and served as an associate editor for the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. In addition to her academic pursuits, Amalie raised eight children. She had five children with her first husband, Malcolm Hecht Jr., and welcomed three stepchildren when she married fellow widower Edward H. Kass in 1975.

I met Amalie in 2015 when I became the Archivist for Women in Medicine. She and her research partner, Eleanor Shore, were working on a piece about the life of Anne Pappenheimer Forbes (1911-1992). Dr. Forbes was a pioneer in endocrinology, a Harvard Medical School professor, and a mother of five. Eleanor and Amalie dove into the Forbes papers and painstakingly looked at every document in the collection in order to illuminate her story. The duo were fixtures in the reading room, and their tireless efforts led to an article in Harvard Medicine and a presentation at the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Archives for Women in Medicine attending by many of the Forbes children and other descendants.

Next, the research duo moved on to Mary Ellen Avery (1927-2011). Dr. Avery was the first woman to head a major clinical department at Harvard Medical School and physician-in-chief at Boston Children’s Hospital; among her many achievements and contributions, her identification of surfactant saved the lives of countless premature babies suffering from respiratory distress syndrome. Amalie and Eleanor’s meticulous research led to an article on Dr. Avery’s life and achievements, published in the Harvard Magazine.

Amalie (left) and Eleanor, conducting research in the archives, from The Benefactor, Spring 2017

Amalie’s presence and dedication to highlighting the overshadowed achievements of women will be missed at the Center for the History of Medicine. Her passion for the history of medicine and telling these stories was only matched by her generosity. A 2016 $500,000 gift from Amalie has supported advancing the mission and work of the Archives for Women in Medicine to collect, preserve, and share the achievements of women leaders in medicine. Her philanthropy, in addition to her research in the archives, has empowered the history of medicine to inform and shape contemporary medicine and society. I can only hope that her legacy will inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

Register now for Normalizing Sex Research and Education in America: Robert Latou Dickinson in Perspective (5/23)

By , May 14, 2019

Upcoming event!

Normalizing Sex Research and Education in America: Robert Latou Dickinson in Perspective

Registration is required

Physician Robert Latou Dickinson (1861–1950) resists categorization. He was a long-time obstetrician and gynecologist; a research scientist invested in sexual health who influenced Alfred Kinsey and notions of sexuality; a birth control and reproductive sterilization advocate; an anatomist who authored an influential atlas of reproductive anatomy/ an artist who illustrated his own scientific texts; and a public health educator whose popular sculptures and models changed the way the public visualized the birth process. “Normalizing Sex Research and Education in America: Robert Latou Dickinson in Perspective” will explore different aspects of Dickinson’s long career, addressing his work in reproductive health and family planning, his time spent as a sex educator and artist at the New York Academy of Medicine, his Birth Series models created for the 1939 World’s Fair, and his depictions of human anatomy and concepts of normalization through his models Norma and Normman. Dickinson’s legacy is still with us today, and his personal papers and models remain some of the Center for the History of Medicine’s most-used collections. With the help of these four scholars, we hope to better understand the impact and legacy that Robert Latou Dickinson continues to exert on our current health science and clinical care community.

An exhibition also entitled Normalizing Sex Research and Education in America: Robert Latou Dickinson in Perspective will be on display for the event (L1 of the Countway Library of Medicine).

Robert Latou Dickinson

Robert Latou Dickinson (1861–1950), 1913. From the Robert Latou Dickinson papers, 1881-1972 (inclusive), 1926-1951 (bulk) (B MS c72) in the Boston Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

 

Speakers

Sarah B. Rodriguez, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer, Global Health Studies, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences; Lecturer, Medical Education, Feinberg School of Medicine; Faculty, Medical Humanities & Bioethics Graduate Program, all at Northwestern University, Robert Latou Dickinson: Pioneering Researcher.

A founding father of sex research in the United States, a prominent physician who used his position to advocate for access to birth control, and a distinguished clinician: Robert Latou Dickinson, with his deep interest in women’s health, took on all of these roles. In this presentation, Rodriguez will discuss these three roles – sex researcher, birth control advocate, and clinician – of this historically understudied physician, focusing on his pioneering research regarding female sexuality.

Anne Garner, MLS, Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, The New York Academy of Medicine Library, From the stacks to the studio:  Robert Latou Dickinson’s Academy of Medicine.

Robert Latou Dickinson’s relationship with the New York Academy of Medicine was a critical part of both his professional and creative identity. In 1891, Dickinson became a Fellow of the organization and served on numerous committees, including as Chairman of the Academy’s art committee from 1935-1940.  At the Academy Dickinson was given a dedicated studio space, where he worked on the Birth Series and other three-dimensional anatomical models. While de facto artist-in-residence, Dickinson also engaged Alfred Kinsey to lobby the Academy to open a sex education library. This talk will explore Dickinson’s role as influencer and occasional disrupter within the Academy, as he advocated for sex education and for greater access to medical information for public audiences.

Rosemarie Holz, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Practice, Associate Director, Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, “So that which has been lost is now found!” Exploring the magic of the 1939 Dickinson-Belskie Birth Series Sculptures.”

In this presentation Holz will discuss the creation and dissemination of the hugely influential yet surprisingly overlooked 1939 Dickinson-Belskie Birth Series sculptures, which illustrate the process of human development from fertilization through delivery. First displayed at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair in New York City, they were reproduced in a variety of forms and sent out across the United States and overseas, giving rise to modern views of pregnancy decades before Lennart Nilsson’s much-heralded in utero photographs in Life magazine in the 1960s. Despite their enormous popularity, by the 1970s and ‘80s the Birth Series began to disappear from public knowledge, eclipsed by new technologies, such as ultrasound, that offered modern ways to view in utero development. Holz will conclude her presentation by describing the Birth Series’ surprising re-birth since their 2014 recovery from the dusty storage collection of the University of Nebraska State Museum, a re-birth that is prompting renewed fascination with these evocative forms and new conversations.

Anna Creadick, Ph.D., Professor of English and American Studies, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Model bodies, normal curves: Norm and Norma in Postwar America.

In the early 1940s, with their Birth Series models completed, sexologist Robert L. Dickinson and his sculptor-collaborator Abram Belskie created two anthropometric sculptures representing the “average” American male and female bodies. Dickinson named them “Normman and Norma.” Dickinson’s effort to model the “normal” body was indicative of a broader obsession taking hold in midcentury America, as doctors, psychiatrists, physical anthropologists, and scientists began to isolate the normal as a subject, to try and define normality with increasing precision.  In 1945, Dickinson donated the “Norm and Norma” statues along with his Birth Series and other medical models to the Cleveland Health Museum, where they might have just gathered dust. But instead, Norm and Norma began a decade-long tour of the postwar public sphere, appearing in newspaper articles, popular science magazines, television shows, and even a look-alike contest. This presentation tells the story of the wartime production and postwar reception of these models, whose “normal” curves helped to promote a powerful organizing category of postwar culture

Collection link: https://collections.countway.harvard.edu/onview/collections/show/132

 

 

May 16: Measures of Power? Gender, Phrenology and 19th Century Cultures of Medicine

By , May 6, 2019

Measures of Power? Gender, Phrenology and 19th Century Cultures of Medicine

Join us for the 2019 Fellow’s Lecture with Carla Bittel, PhD, Associate Professor of History at Loyola Marymount University

Illustrated diagram of the phrenological faculties from How to Read Character by Samuel Roberts Wells, 1890.

Phrenology, considered a “science of the mind” in the nineteenth century, purported to measure the “power” of human mental faculties. This talk will examine the role of gender in the making of those measurements, and demonstrate how middle-class women—as practitioners and consumers—merged phrenology with multiple forms of medical and domestic knowledge.

May 16, 2019
4:00 – 4:30pm – Reception / Meet and Greet
4:30 – 5:30pm – Welcome and Lecture
5:30 – 6:00pm – Reception Continues

Minot Room, fifth floor
Countway Library of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
10 Shattuck Street, Boston MA 02115

Free and open to the public, registration is required. Register online now through Eventbrite.

Sponsored by the Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation, in partnership with the Center for the History of Medicine, Countway Library.

About Carla Bittel, PhD

Carla Bittel, Ph.D.

Carla Bittel is Associate Professor of History at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is a historian of nineteenth-century America, specializing in the history of medicine, science, and technology.

Her research focuses on gender issues and she has written on the history of women’s health, women physicians, and the role of science in medicine.

Bittel is the author of Mary Putnam Jacobi and the Politics of Medicine in Nineteenth-Century America, published with the University of North Carolina Press in 2009. She has published in the journals Centaurus and Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and contributed to the edited volume, Women Physicians and the Cultures of Medicine.

Her research has been supported by several grants, including a Scholar’s Award from the National Science Foundation. She is also a co-organizer of the Working Group, “Working with Paper: Gendered Practices in the History of Knowledge,” at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.

Reflections on the Birthday Book: Harvey Cushing at 150 by Michael P.H. Stanley, MD

By , April 12, 2019

Posted by the Center for the History of Medicine by guest blogger Michael P.H. Stanley, MD, Intern, Brigham & Women’s Hospital

 

On April 8th, 2019, I spent my last day of vacation at the Center for the History of Medicine thumbing an epistolary journey through the communications of surgeon Elliot C. Cutler, hoping to find information pertaining to the neurological activities resulting from Harvard’s manning of WWI Hospital Base No.5 . I was quickly detoured, however, from this duty of delight when in the course of my search I found the story behind one of Cutler’s great works: A festschrift for his beloved mentor, Harvey Cushing.

Via Wikimedia Commons: https://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/V0027584.html

Harvey Cushing, 1938. Courtesy wellcomeimages.org

Harvey Cushing was born April 8th, 1869 in Cleveland, OH—exactly 150 years from the day I was reading some of his correspondences with Cutler. Cushing received his undergraduate degree at Yale, his medical degree at Harvard, his resident training at Johns Hopkins under the surgeon William Halstead, and his education from his hero, William Osler. He was the first Surgeon-in-Chief of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, and one of the fathers of modern neurosurgery, as well as the academic father of countless chairs of surgery throughout the world. An eminent scientist, surgeon, artist, and author, his life is best captured in biographies of Michael Bliss and others, so I will not recount it here. But, on the 150th anniversary of his birth, I will recount a fascinating personal foray of mine into a jubilee publication in dedication to him by Cutler, and in telling it, I aim to capture some of the of enthusiasm and appreciation for this great man.

A festschrift is a celebratory publication in dedication to a figure at an important milestone in his or her life. Elliot Cutler’s idea of such a project occurred to him at the PBBH Decennial Celebration, just a few years before Harvey Cushing would turn 60 years old on April 8th, 1929. This is important because Cushing had been instrumental in a policy at the Brigham in which surgeons would retire at the age of 60. Cushing, fast approaching this deadline, refused to do so, and the conflict between Brigham and Cushing resulted in Cushing leaving Harvard for Yale and bringing with him all his slides, specimens, illustrations, and books. His shift in letterhead over the course of the festschrift materials reflected this. So the very idea of a celebration or memorial piece was already fraught with difficulty because of this sensitive issue. The festschrift was initially planned in secret, but The Chief was quick to ferret out Cutler’s thoughtful machinations about six months into the project, and admonished Cutler that “perhaps [Cutler] might get Williams and Wilkins to publish some of [Cushing’s] occasional addresses as a 60th tribute.” There may be more behind Cushing’s specific substitution. Osler was a hero and mentor to Cushing, and had himself produced a collection, Aequanimitas, containing some of his best occasional speeches. The impulse to follow in Osler’s footsteps and become more available to a lay audience as well as medical no doubt appealed to him. And his request would not go unheeded, as indeed in October 1928 The Atlantic Monthly would bring out a group of Cushing’s nontechnical essays.

However, by the time Cushing heard of Cutler’s efforts, the momentum was not to be stopped. Six months earlier in January 1927, the festschrift was first proposed to Dean Lewis at Johns Hopkins, involved with the Archives of Surgery on behalf of its publisher, the American Medical Association. Cutler envisioned a festschrift unlike most in that it would be limited to Cushing’s pupils alone. “It is our intention that only his pupils join in this work,” Cutler wrote, ”we wish to emphasize the man as a great teacher, which in his own soul is the one great ambition of Cushing’s life.” Admirers and colleagues were to be excluded (or at least, attempted to be). To avoid a sense of entombing Cushing in a retirement or a rustication at Yale, Cutler’s festschrift would reside not as a shelved work, but within a living academic journal. Therefore, Cutler proposed a supplementary fasciculus accompanying the volumes of Archives of Surgery for an entire year, beginning January 1929. Perhaps there would be 50 contributors and maybe one-thousand pages total, he suggested. Like any good salesman, he stressed the serious contribution Cushing has made to surgery throughout the world, and how having such a fasciculus could pay for itself with the advertisements included, and how it would broaden the journal’s circulation with newly interested readers.

Lewis replied favorably to the proposal, but suggested instead of serialization to have just one large fasciculus, and that the January deadline might be too hopeful, whereas rolling it back to April would place it nearer Cushing’s birthday. Lewis said, “I shall be very glad to receive your manuscript when you have it ready. You [Cutler] can edit the volume yourself, putting them in any way you wish, and take charge of it.” He also warned that the project would be expensive, and that Cutler and his informal committee, should be prepared to fund half of the expense. At the time the estimate was $1250. Cutler then began soliciting quietly for articles and for small donations, as he did not want The Chief to know of this effort (although as indicated above, within six months time Cushing was very much aware of this activity, and would make several intercessions to break up fights and fussing between bruised egos like William T. Bovie and A.J. McLean). The authorship read like a pantheon of surgical and pathological luminaries: Wilder Penfield, Stanley Cobb, Tracy Jackson Putnam, Walter Dandy, Arthur Earl Walker, to name a few. This list of Cushing’s disciples renovated every conceivable discipline, and here was their latest work bundled up as show of gratitude. This was itself a testament to Cushing’s influence. A bibliography and even a list of Cushing’s many accolades would not appear in the work—there simply was no room for it all. Cutler sent continual reminders to Lewis about the project, but never received an official confirmation of approval until June 4th, 1928, in which Lewis places Cutler in touch with Morris Fishbein the supervising official of the American Medical Association’s publications. For the next two years, Cutler and Fishbein would collaborate on this labor, often suffering the abuses of critical authors, at other times soothing egos between authors still vying for precedence, and shouldering various financial and production difficulties. Cutler’s festschrift and the primary literature surrounding it within the CMH archives is an education in the hazards of publication.

It was decided the volume would not be a supplement, but would be a stand-alone volume. The articles would be arranged in chronological order not by discovery of the topic discussed, but in order of each author’s tutelage under Cushing. This was suggested cleverly by Fishbein, which Cutler recognized, as it “obviously place[d] your most important papers out front, and at the same time will not give offense to brilliant young pupils.” The dedication page vacillated between English and Latin translations (Cutler would consult the Ohio State University’s Latin department on the accuracy of his rendering), but eventually would be published with Latin dedication in a special, limited edition, and English for the general circulation: Chirugo clarissimo optimoque magistro (translated tersely as “Master Surgeon and Teacher”). Fishbein invited Cutler to send the manuscripts along as they were finished for proofing in order to avoid a log-jamming in February. This was wise because the authorship ballooned from a proposed 50 to over 80 contributors, and indeed the book was not finalized until the last possible moment, roughly ten days before its printing. Indeed, a telegram from Cutler to Fishbein read simply, “Where is the book? – Cutler” as late as April 2nd, 1929.

They grossly underestimated the time and expense. The work would stand with greater than 80 contributors, swell to over eleven-hundred pages, and cost $10-12,000 when completed with illustrations. Cutler would have to continue a separate philanthropic campaign for the book that would trail on until at least 1930 to meet the $5000 share promised. These would be made of small donations from the contributors themselves, their families, and the friends and loved ones of Cushing. It was presented to Cushing on April 6th at a special celebration at the surgical laboratory at PBBH, but his birthday would be celebrated at Johns Hopkins. In a thank-you to AMA editor-in-chief Fishbein, Cushing wrote:

“I am simply bowled over, flabbergasted, dumfounded, by that Birthday Book you have seen fit to publish. I suppose you must have thought: Now the only way to get rid of, to wholly and effectually eliminate, that pestiferous Cushing who behaves as though he was in the Manor (Boston) born but wasn’t, is to allow his cubs to get out this book after which the only decent thing he can do is to resign and I’ll no longer be troubled by his hyphen, dyphthongs [sic], PBBH surgical numbers, and other crochets. But then I may forget about it – that I am 60 – and may scribble some more, proceeding backward down hill like the squid leaving behind me my customary trail of ink (I suppose a squid can go down hill under water- or there may be land squids: in fact I’ve met some examples in the life.) Anyhow, I am much beholden to you for the trouble you must have tearing of hair in the process.”

Cushing could estimate the onerous task of monument-making, and in fact both Cutler and Fishbein suffered personally in disgruntled friends, sometimes neglected family duties, and postponed mourning of calamities (Fishbein’s son died of rheumatic fever shortly before the festschrift was published).

One of the last features of the text to be selected was the photograph of Harvey Cushing. Out many solicited, stern and imposing, in February of 1929 the chosen image was a candid taken by one of Cushing’s interns because “the informality of the subject is the happy thing about it.”

Cutler’s own contribution to the work, an historical piece entitled, The Art of Surgery, offers the lapidary statement: Science teaches us to know, and an art to do. He wanted to relate surgery, a manual field of action for centuries looked down by ‘practitioners of physick,’ and remind his contemporaries of the powerful art that changed and saved lives every day, with Cushing at its zenith. The articles written by leading lights contained within the festschrift are a portfolio of sweat and work, not postulation and posturing. It was, therefore, a fitting tribute to Cushing, himself an artist with pen and scalpel equally adroit. I spent Cushing’s 150th birthday following the story of this jubilee festschrift stewarded by Cutler. Along the way there were many personalities, lovely phrases, course and quaint handwriting, but more than anything it was the little off-hand comments, asides, and jokes amongst friends and colleagues that sketched for me characters hitherto recognized as anything other than words on walls of wards. It is my hope that during this year we may consider our own history of our histories, and I choose to concentrate on Cushing. If science is to know, and art is to do, then history might be knowing how it was done.

Sign up for a Spring Tour!

By , April 5, 2019

Join us for one of the many tours the Center is offering this spring. Tours are free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Leder, Philip, “Codons notebooks,” OnView: Digital Collections & Exhibits, accessed April 5, 2019, http://collections.countway. harvard.edu/onview/items/show/13021.

Highlights from Center for the History of Medicine Collections
The Center for the History of Medicine in the Countway Library is a hub of activity for the history of medicine and society in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area. Located on L2 of the Countway Library, the Center is home to over 2,790 manuscript collections and institutional records series, 1,256 gigabytes of migrated born digital records, 177,676 rare books and journals, and 15,768 Warren Anatomical Museum objects (including artifacts, anatomical, osteological and fluid preparations). Join Jessica Murphy, the Center’s Public Services Librarian, for an introduction to selections that are not only unique to Harvard, but inform and deepen our understanding of contemporary medicine. Register.

Public Health and Harvard: Selections from Center for the History of Medicine Collections
Join Heather Mumford, Archivist for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, for an introduction to manuscript and archival collections that illustrate the rich and innovative history of the Chan School of Public Health. Selections from the Center’s historical collections will be on display as part of the tour. Register.

Diversity, Inclusion, and the Medical School Archives
Join Joan Ilacqua, Center for the History of Medicine’s Archivist for Diversity and Inclusion, for a history of those underrepresented in medicine at Harvard through the manuscript and archival collections held by the Countway Library. The tour will include a discussion of current collecting initiatives and a display of selections from the Center’s rich historical collections. Register.

Curator’s Tour of the Warren Anatomical Museum
The Warren Anatomical Museum is one of the last surviving anatomy and pathology museum collections in the United States. In 1847, Harvard anatomist and surgeon John Collins Warren founded the Museum to preserve and classify specimens and models needed for teaching. Until 1999, the Museum was in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. It is now an integral part of the Countway Library’s Center for the History of Medicine.

Join Museum Curator Dominic Hall for a guided tour of the Museum holdings on exhibit in the Countway Library, including the skull, life cast, and tamping iron of Phineas Gage. Register.

Register Now! Human Tissue Ethics in Anatomy, Past and Present: From Bodies to Tissues to Data

By , March 6, 2019

9:00am-3:00pm, Thursday, April 4, 2019
Waterhouse Room, Gordon Hall, Harvard Medical School Campus

Co-sponsored by the Ackerman Program on Medicine and Culture, Harvard University; the Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library; the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School; and the Department of Pediatrics, Boston Children’s Hospital

NIH Technicians (ID 2263)

Technicians examining plates and tissue culture flasks at a laminar flow hood, 1986. Courtesy National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (ID 2263).

Anatomy as a science and as an educational discipline in the medical curriculum is forever in transition. One of the greatest areas of change in recent decades has been the systematic evaluation of ethical questions in anatomy. At the center of these deliberations is the status of the dead human body, which is no longer only seen as a mere “object” or “material” of research or as an educational “tool.” Rather, it is described as a body that still has connections with the person who once inhabited it, thus becoming part of a social network of knowledge gain and requiring respectful treatment.

This change of perspective will be explored in the symposium, “Human Tissue Ethics in Anatomy, Past and Present: From Bodies to Tissues to Data.” An international group of scholars will discuss the ethical aspects of existing questions, explore the relevance of non-profit and for-profit body donation, and examine newly emerging technologies in anatomy that may need innovative ethical approaches. The aim of this symposium is to present evidence for the insight that transparent and ethical anatomical body and tissue procurement is indeed at the core of medical ethics in research and education.

Registration is required. Register here.


PROGRAM

9:00-10:30am
Panel 1: Human Tissue Ethics in Historical Contexts of Anatomy:
Scott H. Podolsky, Harvard Medical School, Chair

  • Dominic Hall, Harvard Medical School: The Second Life of Specimens: Scientific and Historical Research in the Warren Anatomical Museum
  • Sabine Hildebrandt, Harvard Medical School/Boston Children’s Hospital: Dealing with Legacies of Nazi Anatomy: the ‘Vienna Protocol’
  • Tinne Claes, Katholieke Universiteit: Why Is It So Difficult to Throw Away Fetuses? Anatomical Collections and the Meanings of Disposal

10:30-11:00am
Break

11:00-12:30pm
Panel 2: Human Tissue Ethics in Current Anatomical Education and Research:
Dan Wikler, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Chair

  • Thomas Champney, University of Miami: The Business of Bodies: Human Tissue Ethics and Commercialization
  • Michel Anteby, Boston University: Nested Moralities: From National to Intimate Cadaver Trades
  • Glenn Cohen, Harvard Law School/Petrie-Flom Center: The Law and Ethics of Tissue Ownership

12:30-1:30pm
Lunch (provided)

1:30-3:00pm
Panel 3: Human Tissue Ethics from Physical Specimens to Data:
David S. Jones, Harvard University, Chair

  • Maria Olejaz Tellerup, University of Copenhagen: The Anatomy of Bioavailability: Exploring Body Donation in Denmark Then, Now and in the Future
  • Jon Cornwall, University of Otago: The Impact of Digital Technology on Body Donation

Image: Technicians examining plates and tissue culture flasks at a laminar flow hood, 1986. National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (ID 2263, 1986).

Related LibGuide: Searching the Warren Anatomical Museum collection by Dominic Hall


        

 

Dr. Eleanor Mason and Early Research on Basal Metabolic Rate of Indian Women

By , March 5, 2019

Portrait of Eleanor Dewey Mason, circa 1956. Image courtesy of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day, it has been a pleasure to research and highlight Dr. Eleanor Mason, a student and visiting scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, now known as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Dr. Eleanor Dewey Mason was born in Tura, Assam, India in 1898 to American Baptist missionary parents. After graduating from Newton High School, she earned her BA from Mt. Holyoke College (1919) and an MA from Wellesley College (1921). Her early interest was in zoology as well as missionary work, and after spending a year as a research assistant in genetics with the Carnegie Institute in New York City, she took advantage of an opportunity to become a zoology lecturer in India at Madras University.

On her first furlough from Madras, she came to Boston to pursue an MA (1928) from Radcliffe College. Later, she returned to Radcliffe and earned her PhD (1934). These degrees from Radcliffe involved vital statistic courses taken at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), as well as courses taken at Harvard Medical School (HMS).

It is important to note that at this particular time, women took courses but could not receive degrees from HSPH or HMS. While the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers (1913-1921) credentialed women on the same basis as men (with certificates in public health), this practice ended in 1921 with the withdrawal of MIT and an establishment of a Harvard degree-granting school of public health. Therefore, it isn’t surprising to see Dr. Mason listed in the 1927 HSPH course catalog as a vital statistics student, even though she is not considered a graduate of the program.

The time Dr. Mason spent at Harvard was seminal to her professional career. Her early interest in studying systemic zoology expanded to an interest in human physiology or, more specifically, how race and climate influenced metabolism. Dr. Mason also met Dr. F.G. Benedict, Director of the Carnegie Nutrition Laboratory, while studying at Harvard. Dr. Benedict had recently become interested in the possibility of racial differences in metabolism, and his lab provided Dr. Mason with financing and equipment for her research project. With this backing secured, Dr. Mason returned to Madras to resume teaching at the Women’s Christian College and complete her thesis–the first to establish basal metabolic norms for Indian women. This research was exceptional for its time, as Dr. Mason focused on non-traditional subjects. Two copies of Dr. Mason’s 1934 thesis, The metabolism of women in South India, with a note on the vital capacity of the lungs in South Indian women, are available at Harvard from the Center for the History of Medicine and the Harvard University Archives

In 1934 and 1940, Dr. Mason published on the basal metabolic rate of South Indian women in comparison to British and American women who travel from temperate to tropical climates. Her Western research subjects were colleagues who had also come to Madras to teach at the Women’s Christian College. Some of the women experienced a 10% drop in their metabolism as a result of the tropical climate, while others experienced no change at all. Dr. Mason’s results did show consistently that weight decreased and pulse rates fell in warmer climates, and that the basal metabolic rate of South Indian women was decidedly lower than that of British and American women.

In 1942, her research focused more on nutrition in rat models, with the intention of demonstrating the inadequacies of the rice diet common among the poor in South India. A 1945 paper examined the supplementary effects of casein, calcium lactate and butter, singularly or combined, on the growth of young rats. Casein and calcium lactate were found to have a highly significant effect in promoting growth, while butter affected both growth and general condition adversely. Casein, when added to butter, counteracted the negative effect of butter and converted it into a positive effect (Mason 1945). In a 1946 paper, she and her team experimented further with ragi (a cereal crop also known as Eleusine coracana, or “finger millet”) and found that, when substituted for rice, it had a marked stimulating effect on growth directly proportional to the amount given.

In addition to her physiological research in basal metabolism, and after years of teaching, in 1948 Dr. Mason became the third principal of the Women’s Christian College. In this role, she pioneered a home science courses for the students. In 1951, Mt. Holyoke College awarded her a honorary doctorate of science. In 1956, Dr. Mason retired from her role at Women’s Christian College and was invited by the University of Bombay to continue her research in the laboratory of Dr. A. Sreenivasan in the Department of Chemical Technology.

She moved into the Missionary Settlement for University Women, an interdenominational hostel comprised of fifty-eight British and Indian colleagues. Dr. Mason’s laboratory was modest: a room with two beds and measuring equipment, and connected to her own bedroom. Research subjects would be asked to fast for twelve hours. Once they arrived at the lab, they were instructed to lie quietly on one of the research beds and breathe into a spirometer for three eight-minute stretches while Dr. Mason and her assistant Mary Jacob, from Travancore, measured pulse, blood pressure, and temperature. After a day’s work, Dr. Mason would spend her evenings at the missionary leading prayers with the other hostel residents. She stayed in the settlement until 1964, then spent several years as a member of the ecumenical Farncombe Community in England before returning permanently to the United States in 1970.

It is clear from newspaper articles and from personal accounts that Dr. Mason returned to Boston to continue her involvement at the Harvard School of Public Health, likely as a researcher but also potentially as an educator. The Radcliffe Quarterly confirms that Dr. Mason was a visiting scientist at HSPH from 1963-1964. Contemporary faculty such as Joseph Brain and James Butler reflect fondly on their brief overlap with her at the school, including her involvement with physiology research and teaching, now considered part of the Department of Environmental Health.

In addition to her career at Harvard, Dr. Mason was a member of the tertiary Anglican Franciscan group, Christa Prema Seva Sangha, of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross. In later life, she served as a communicant and a parish receptionist for the Church of the Advent. She was also part of Windham House, the Graduate Training Center for Women of the Episcopal Church, which was a center for women studying theology and other disciplines.

Dr. Mason passed away in 1995 at the age of 97. Her body was donated to Harvard Medical School before being buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain.

Although the Center for the History of Medicine does not hold any unpublished records from Dr. Mason besides her thesis, records of her professional career can be found scattered across multiple repositories, including:

I wish to thank Jim Butler, Senior Lecturer on Physiology, for sharing stories and resources about Dr. Eleanor Mason, and for connecting me to the archives at the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, whose secondary source materials served as the backbone of this post. Dr. Mason was a colleague as well as a dear friend of his family, and without his persistence her story likely would have remained dormant in the archives. I also would like to thank Dr. Joe Brain, Cecil K. and Philip Drinker Professor of Environmental Physiology, and Yechaan (Eric) Joo, a graduate student at the Harvard Chan School, for their research on Dr. Mason’s publications and her connection to the Department of Environmental Health.

For a complete list of Dr. Mason’s publications, please visit the History of Public Health at Harvard LibGuide.

Register now for the 2019 Estes Lecture with speaker Jeremy A. Greene

By , March 1, 2019

The Center for the History of Medicine, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, is pleased to share information about the 15th Annual J. Worth Estes Lecture.

To RSVP, please email the Boston Medical Library or contact Tara Peeler at 617-432-4807.

2019 Estes Lecture Poster

 

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