New Exhibit at the Countway Library Commemorates Harvard Medical School’s Relief Efforts during World War I

By , February 15, 2017

Soldiers Wounded at the Battle of the Somme Arriving at No. 22 General Hospital, 1916 [0004184]

Soldiers Wounded at the Battle of the Somme Arriving at No. 22 General Hospital, 1916 [0004184]

Although the United States did not enter World War I until April 1917, American medical personnel were active in war relief efforts from nearly the beginning of the conflict. Harvard Medical School—its faculty and its graduates—played a key role in this relief work by providing staff for French and English hospitals and military units, and these early endeavors provided invaluable experience once America came into the war and the need to organize and staff base and mobile hospitals for the U.S. Army became critical to the war effort.

Noble Work for a Worthy End, a new exhibit at the Countway’s Center for the History of Medicine, charts Harvard’s participation in this medical relief work and experiences in military medicine and surgery through the wealth of first-hand documentation preserved by the men and women who volunteered their time and labor, sometimes at great sacrifice, to helping the sick and wounded of the First World War. Highlights of the display include records of the Harvard University Service organized by Harvey Cushing at the American Ambulance Hospital in Paris.  This unit’s brief sojourn in the spring of 1915 is documented through photographs and postcards, publications, and a copy of Elliott Carr Cutler’s daily journal of his experiences.

The Medical School’s most enduring contribution to the war effort was the Harvard Surgical Unit, which first arrived in Europe in July 1915.  Inspired by Sir William Osler, the unit provided physicians, surgeons, dentists, and nurses to staff the British Expeditionary Force’s No. 22 General Hospital at Camiers, France. The exhibit includes photograph albums, letters, drawings, newsclippings, Paul Dudley White’s diary account of a case of shell shock, medical field cards and case notes, and unusual ephemera, including an armband worn by members of the Unit and an enamel pin presented by the Harvard Corporation to the unit’s nurses, along with a testimonial of gratitude from King George V.

Final Inspection of Harvard Unit at Fort Totten, N.Y., May 11, 1917 [0003947]

Final Inspection of the Harvard Unit at Fort Totten, N.Y., May 11, 1917 [0003947]

Once the United States entered the European conflict, Harvard faculty and students became involved with staffing base hospitals for the Army. The exhibit also chronicles the work and experiences at Base Hospital No. 5, a unit formed from Harvard and Peter Bent Brigham Hospital personnel.  Base Hospital No. 5, one of the first units to reach France, remained on loan to the British Expeditionary Force for the duration of the war, at which point it had treated some 45,000 soldiers, and, notably, sustained casualties from an air raid bombing on September 4, 1917. Photographs, a letter from Harvey Cushing describing the air raid, and records of Walter B. Cannon’s research on surgical shock are all included.

Noble Work for a Worthy End: Harvard Medical School in the First World War is on display on the first floor of the Countway Library of Medicine and open to the public, Monday through Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm. A companion online exhibit is also available here .

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2017-2018 Countway Fellowships in the History of Medicine

By , October 4, 2016
Herbolarium de virtutibus herbarum (Vincenza: Leonardus Achates, de Basilea, and Guilelmus de Papia, 27 October 1491). Ballard 368. Boston Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

Herbolarium de virtutibus herbarum (Vincenza: Leonardus Achates, de Basilea, and Guilelmus de Papia, 27 October 1491). Ballard 368. Boston Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

The Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is pleased to offer annual fellowships to support research in the history of medicine.  Established in 1960 as a result of an alliance between the Boston Medical Library and the Harvard Medical Library, the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is the largest academic medical library in the United States.  The Countway Library maintains a collection of approximately 700,000 volumes.  Its Center for the History of Medicine holds 250,000 books and journals published before 1920, including 802 incunabula.  The department’s printed holdings include one of the most complete medical periodical collections, an extensive collection of European medical texts issued between the 15th and 20th centuries, and excellent holdings of pre-1800 English and pre-1900 American imprints.  The book collection is strong in virtually every medical discipline and is particularly rich in popular medicine, medical education, public health, Judaica, and travel accounts written by physicians.  The Countway’s collection of archives and manuscripts, approximately 20 million items, is the largest of its kind in the United States. The manuscript collection includes the personal and professional papers of many prominent American physicians, especially those who practiced and conducted research in the New England region, or who were associated with Harvard Medical School.  The Countway Library also serves as the institutional archives for the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.  The printed, manuscript, and archives holdings are complemented by an extensive print and photograph collection and the collections of the Warren Anatomical Museum.  Established in 1847, the museum houses an exceptional collection of medical artifacts, pathological specimens, anatomical models, and instruments.

The Francis A. Countway Library Fellowships in the History of Medicine provide stipends of up to $5,000 to support travel, lodging, and incidental expenses for a flexible period between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018.  Besides conducting research, the fellow will submit a report on the results of his/her residency and may be asked to present a seminar or lecture at the Countway Library.  The fellowship proposal should demonstrate that the Countway Library has resources central to the research topic. Preference will be given to applicants who live beyond commuting distance of the Countway.  The application, outlining the proposed project (proposal should not exceed five pages), length of residence, materials to be consulted, and a budget with specific information on travel, lodging, and research expenses, should be submitted, along with a curriculum vitae and two letters of recommendation, by February 15, 2017.

Applications should be sent to:

Countway Fellowships
Center for the History of Medicine
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
10 Shattuck Street
Boston, MA 02115

Electronic submissions of applications and supporting materials may be sent to: chm@hms.harvard.edu.

Awards will be announced in April 2017.

The Boston Medical Library’s Abel Lawrence Peirson Fund provides support for the fellowship program. The Boston Medical Library is a physicians’ non-profit organization, incorporated in 1877.  Its mission is “to be a Library for the dissemination of medical knowledge, the promotion of medical education and scholarship, and the preservation and celebration of medical history, and thereby to advance the quality of health and healthcare of the people.”  Today there are over 300 fellows of the Boston Medical Library.   In 1960, the Boston Medical Library entered into an agreement with the Harvard Medical School Library to combine staff, services, and collections into one modern biomedical facility.  The Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine opened in 1965 and ranks as one of the largest biomedical libraries in the world.

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“The Advent of Anesthesia”

By , March 16, 2016

Administration of ether anesthesia

Administration of ether anesthesia [#0003819]

After the February screening of the 1950 MGM film “Mystery Street,” our colleague Sarah Alger at the Paul S. Russell Museum of Medical History and Innovation, alerted us to the existence of another medical history film–“The Advent of Anesthesia”, a 1933 silent short produced by the Mallinckrodt Chemical Company.  The film depicts the experiments of William T. G. Morton with ether anesthesia and recreates the first public demonstration of the operation on Gilbert Abbott on October 16, 1846.  The entire film is available on YouTube at: Advent of Anesthesia.

John Peabody Monks as William T. G. Morton [#0003821]

John Peabody Monks as William T. G. Morton [#0003821]

The most unusual dimension of the film is its use of the Ether Dome and other facilities at Massachusetts General Hospital and the casting of MGH staff and personnel, including John Peabody Monks as Morton, Somers Hayes Sturgis as Gilbert Abbott, and Edward D. Churchill as surgeon John Collins Warren.  “The Advent of Anesthesia” was first shown in the Ether Dome itself on May 31-June 2, 1933, before a one-reel version was sent for display at the Century of Progress International Exhibition in Chicago.  Of the film, Dr. Churchill noted that “the widespread interest in the film was evidenced by a brisk demand for tickets that made it necessary to give four or five performances on three successive days.  Members of the present hospital staff and personnel formed the cast and the Ether Dome was restored as far as possible to its appearance in 1846…. Painstaking efforts were made to establish the exact events and personages concerned in the discovery so that the film may be accredited with historical accuracy.”

Somers H. Sturgis as Gilbert Abbott

Somers H. Sturgis as Gilbert Abbott [#0003820]

In addition to copies of a Boston newspaper article about the film, Dr. Churchill kept a file of still photographs of the actors.  Shown here are Drs. Monks, holding a replica of the first inhaler, and Sturgis, with a tumor on the side of his neck.  These photographs along with a selection of others are preserved with the personal and professional papers of Edward D. Churchill [H MS c62], here in the Countway’s Center for the History of Medicine.

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New Exhibit Highlights Harvard’s History with Legal Medicine

By , January 6, 2016

 

Aftermath of the Summer Street Bridge Disaster, 1916

Aftermath of the Summer Street Bridge Disaster, November 8, 1916 [0003763]

Although seemingly distinct disciplines, medicine and law—as medical jurisprudence, forensic medicine, or legal medicine—have been intertwined for centuries, and legal medicine itself encompasses a wide range of subjects, such as toxicology, psychiatry, chemistry, pathology, anatomy, autopsy, and suicide.  Harvard Medical School’s involvement with legal medicine as both academic discipline and public service is the focus of a new display at the Countway Library.  Corpus Delicti: the Doctor as the Detective is now open on the L2 level of the library, adjoining the Center for the History of Medicine.

Lectures on legal medicine appear as part of the curriculum as early as 1815, and with the change from the office of coroner to medical examiner in Massachusetts, the Medical Examiner for Suffolk County became Harvard’s lecturer in forensic medicine.  In 1907, George Burgess Magrath (1870-1938) was appointed to the office and began his career as instructor in legal medicine.  Magrath, one of the city’s most colorful characters, traditionally sported a wide-brimmed hat, flowing black tie, and pince-nez.  He ate just one meal a day—at midnight—always carried a curving bowled pipe, and travelled in a 1907 Ford called “Suffolk Sue”.  His thirty year tenure as Medical Examiner and expertise in forensic pathology involved him in some 2,000 court cases and investigations of over 21,000 deaths.  Magrath’s career inspired heiress Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) to embark on a unprecedented act of generosity; she created by gift a chair in legal medicine at Harvard for George B. Magrath and then, in 1936, provided an endowment for an entirely new academic department–the Department of Legal Medicine–the first such in the country.  Its aims were three-fold: the teaching of undergraduate and post-graduate students from Harvard, Tufts, and Boston University and the training of law officers in legal medicine; consultation on cases with local medical examiners’ offices; and research on medico-legal issues.  Pathologist Alan Richards Moritz (1899-1986) was hired as Professor of Legal Medicine in 1937 and set about establishing the new department.

The next thirty years saw Legal Medicine’s involvement in more than teaching and training.  Its personnel also worked on hundreds of post-mortem cases for the state each year, and Moritz and his successor, Richard Ford (1915-1970), struggled to balance their academic commitments with public service.  The Department of Legal Medicine had its own laboratories and research library–the Magrath Library of Legal Medicine–and also became custodian of another of Frances Glessner Lee’s interests–the famous Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.  The Nutshells–seventeen miniature crime scenes based on actual forensic cases, rich in detail–were crafted by Mrs. Lee and used as teaching tools for the training of police officers, coroners, and pathologists in regular seminars at Harvard starting in 1945.

Frances Lee and Alan Moritz at work on the Nutshell Studies, 1948

Frances G. Lee and Alan R. Moritz at work on the Nutshell Studies, photographed by Gil Friedberg, circa 1948 [0002275]

Corpus Delicti tells the story of the Department of Legal Medicine’s origins, rise, and, eventual fall–in some ways a victim of its own success–and the individuals–George B. Magrath, Alan Richards Moritz, Richard Ford, and Frances Glessner Lee–who shaped, developed, and promoted its work.  Notable items on display include rare texts in legal medicine; Charles T. Jackson’s summons as expert witness in the 1850 trial of John White Webster; course syllabi and publications; a review of “Mystery Street”, the 1950 MGM film where Legal Medicine’s staff help solve a murder; and photographs from the historical records of the Department, showing its researchers at work, the Nutshell Studies, and some of George B. Magrath’s most famous cases.

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2016-2017 Countway Fellowships: Application Period Open

By , October 5, 2015
Countway Library of Medicine

Countway Library of Medicine

The Boston Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine will offer annual fellowships to support research in the history of medicine.  The mission of the Boston Medical Library (BML), incorporated in 1877, is “to be a Library for the dissemination of medical knowledge, the promotion of medical education and scholarship, and the preservation and celebration of medical history, and thereby to advance the quality of health and healthcare of the people.”  Support for the fellowship program is provided by the BML’s  Abel Lawrence Peirson Fund.

The Countway Library, created in 1960 by the partnership of the BML and the Harvard Medical Library, houses the combined collections of its two partners and is one of the largest medical libraries in the United States. It serves Harvard’s academic needs and the constituency of the BML which includes the other three medical schools in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Medical Society, and practicing physicians.  Its Center for the History of Medicine holds 250,000 books and journals published before 1920, and is strong in virtually every medical discipline. The Countway’s archives and manuscripts include the personal and professional papers of prominent American physicians, such as Grete Bibring, Maxwell Finland, Henry Beecher, Walter Bradford Cannon, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Collins Warren, Stanley Cobb, and Benjamin Waterhouse, many of whom were associated with Harvard Medical School. The printed, manuscript, and archival holdings are complemented by paintings, prints, photographs, and the collections of the Warren Anatomical Museum.

The Francis A. Countway Library Fellowships in the History of Medicine provide stipends of up to $5,000 to support travel, lodging, and incidental expenses for a flexible period between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017.  Besides conducting research, the fellow will submit a report on the results of his/her residency and may be asked to present a seminar or lecture at the Countway Library. The fellowship proposal should demonstrate that the Countway Library has resources central to the research topic. Preference will be given to applicants who live beyond commuting distance of the Countway. The application, outlining the proposed project (proposal should not exceed five pages), length of residence, materials to be consulted, and a budget with specific information on travel, lodging, and research expenses, should be submitted, along with a curriculum vitae and two letters of recommendation, by February 20, 2016.

Applications should be sent to: Countway Fellowships, Center for the History of Medicine, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, 10 Shattuck Street, Boston, MA 02115. Electronic submissions of applications and supporting materials and any questions may be directed to chm@hms.harvard.edu.

The fellowship appointments will be announced by in April, 2016.

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Oedipus and the Sphinx: a Gift for Isador H. Coriat

By , January 6, 2015
Bookplate of Isador H. Coriat, circa 1923. Boston Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

Bookplate of Isador H. Coriat, circa 1923. Boston Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

The acquisition and collection of books has long been a vocation and avocation for physicians, and one of the hallmarks of the true collector is the use of a distinctive bookplate to indicate ownership and provenance.  Medical libraries, in particular, have often collected bookplates of physicians, just as they have preserved and treasured their books, as the plates often display a high degree of craftsmanship and tend to incorporate elements of familiar medical iconography.

While some bookplates have only the simplest designs, with just a name or device of the owner, others are more artistic and evocative of the owner’s interests.  John Collins Warren’s bookplate showing the family’s armorial shield—the basis for the arms of the Harvard Medical School—is one such familiar item, as is the nautilus shell bookplate used by Oliver Wendell Holmes, commemorating his famous poem, “The Chambered Nautilus,” but there are many other examples in the rare book collection here at the Center for the History of Medicine.

The intention and planning behind a bookplate, though, is rarely recorded.  The recent acquisition of a sheaf of letters documents the design of a bookplate for pioneer psychoanalyst, Isador H. Coriat (1875-1943), one of the first followers of Freud in Boston.  The letters, mostly from Coriat’s wife, Etta Dann, are addressed to woodcut artist Julius J. Lankes (1884-1960), and concern the commission, design, and execution of a bookplate—a gift to Coriat from his wife.

Etta D. Coriat first wrote to Lankes late in 1922: “Having seen & admired your work in The Liberator & at Goodspeed’s [a Boston bookstore] for several years, I am most desirous of obtaining as a gift for my husband, one of your bookplates.  Can you submit a design characteristic of his work and also let me know about what it would cost?  You will find Dr. Coriat in Who’s Who in America—that, I think, will give you the scope of his work,” (December 11, 1922).

“After reading your letter, I decided that I had kept the secret long enough & so told Dr. all about it. He was delighted & when I asked him if he could suggest anything, he immediately said that Oedipus questioning the Sphinx was very appropriate & symbolic…. You see Dr. was one of the pioneers in this country in psychoanalysis, and his chief interest & work centers in that, it being the most scientific medium through which the neuroses & mental diseases can be interpreted & treated.  The application of psychoanalysis to cultural things as well has cleared the way for better work.  The plate will be used on all worthwhile books—cultural as well as medical,” (March, 1923).

Mrs. Coriat was deeply interested in the design and execution of the plate. “We were very much impressed with your conception of the subject…. The sketch marked A we liked best, just as your wife did, although I think the others could also be worked up with success.  As you say, the figure of the man in A could be less weak and the sword a little plainer, which I suppose would have been corrected anyway.  The name is spelled correctly on A, but insert the middle initial which is H. (Isador H. Coriat), no degree following and no prefix of Dr.—use just the name…. The more I look at them, the better I like them, and I am glad you found pleasure in working it all out.  I liked C too but the facial expression of A impressed me the most.  Dr. doesn’t like skulls—though I’d tell you,” (March 30, 1923).

“I am enclosing both proofs so that you will know what I mean when I ask you to try—if you can—to change the facial expression of the last proof so that it will look like the first one.  Is it some technical thing that changes the expression?  The second one looks a bit cruel and not as questioning as the other one,” (undated).

“We think the bookplate is going to prove a masterpiece and find it more fascinating every time we look at it.  I can easily see that the finished plate will be more beautiful in its lights & shades,” (April 24, 1923).

“Your charge for the bookplate is all out of proportion to its value as a work of art, and I can only hope to make up the difference in appreciation.  I have never given Dr. anything that he cares more about and certainly that I love so much,” (undated).

“I wish I could tell you how charmed we are with it [the bookplate].  It grows more impressive with age.  Isn’t that a sign of a good product?  Don’t forget to put your signature to the block,” (undated).

“And now let me tell you how much we like the bookplate and several of the medical men from different parts of the country to whom I have shown it were really quite charmed with it…. Doctor hasn’t decided just how many he will need, and I wish you could see how fine it looks in those large books.  Dr. has a very fine collection on symbolism—quite rare ones—which in time will probably go to the Boston Medical Library, as they haven’t any of them,” (June 12, 1923).

And what was Coriat’s opinion of the final result?  “I think it about time I expressed to you personally the satisfaction and pleasure which your book plate has given me.  The subject having so many variants, your particular conception of it was eminently gratifying.  It also pleased me to learn that you considered it one of your best plates and by all means use it in your forthcoming book…. Your work has had a special appeal to both Mrs. Coriat and myself for some time,” (November 14, 1923).

Many volumes from Isador H. Coriat’s book collection were bequeathed to the Boston Medical Library at his death, and examples of the bookplate with Oedipus and the Sphinx are easy to find.  The one depicted here is mounted in a 1591 Venetian edition of Albrecht Dürer’s Della simmetria dei corpi humani, libri quattro.

 

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Seeing Red, or Another Colorful Holmes Anecdote

By , September 17, 2014
[0003344, Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine]

Frontispiece of B. Joy Jeffries, Color-blindness: its dangers and its detection (Boston, 1883) [0003344]

Boston ophthalmologist, Benjamin Joy Jeffries (1833-1915) was one of the first American physicians to investigate the phenomenon of color blindness, and he began to speak and publish on the subject in the spring of 1877.  This was no academic question but a matter of public safety, following railroad and nautical disasters where green and red signal lights could not be distinguished by color-blind workers.  In 1916, just after Jeffries’ death, his daughter, Marion Jeffries Means, presented the Boston Medical Library with his substantial collection of research and letters from American and European colleagues, including Hugo Magnus (1842-1907) and Frithiof Holmgren (1831-1897)—all related to the subject of color blindness.  The Jeffries collection was recently rehoused and is now available at the Center for the History of Medicine.  A related recent discovery in the library’s artifact collection here is a mid-19th century red lens from a ship’s navigation light, donated by B. Joy Jeffries.  (Ships sailing at night traditionally show a red light on the port, or left-hand, side and a green on the starboard, or right, allowing sailors to determine direction and right-of-way.)

Though more closely related to art than science, one of the most intriguing of the letters in the Jeffries collection was written by Boston’s own Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894).

1878 June 11

Dear Dr. Jeffries:

I have neglected up to this time to thank you for your very interesting pamphlets on color-blindness.  I have double reason to thank you now, for I used a fact drawn from your essay in the following four lines in a poem delivered at Andover last Thursday:

Why should we look one common faith to find
When one in every score is color-blind?
If here on earth they know not red from green,
Will they see better into things unseen?

I suppose you hardly thought that your investigations would be used for so slight a purpose as a practical illustration, but I trust and do not doubt that they will serve a much more important end in keeping away from our railroad-switches those of whom it can be said truly “eyes have they, but they see not.”

Believe me, dear Dr. Jeffries,
Yours very truly,
O. W. Holmes

The poem Holmes mentions is “The School-Boy,” and it was first presented by him on the centennial of the founding of Phillips Academy at Andover, on June 6.  B. Joy Jeffries returned the compliment by using this stanza of Holmes’ poem as the epigraph for his monograph, Color-blindness: its dangers and its detection, which he first published in the following year.

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New Exhibit Charts the History of Dissection at Harvard Medical School

By , May 1, 2014

Robert M. Green performing an anatomical dissection  by Thomas Woolstone Dixon, circa 1929. Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine [0002651]

Robert M. Green demonstrating an anatomical dissection by Thomas Woolstone Dixon, circa 1929. Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
[0002651]

Why study human anatomy?  To John Hall, writing his poem An Historicall Expostulation, in 1565, it was the chief of medical arts which had to be mastered “if ye will cure well anything.”  Anatomy was one of the three first areas of medical study at Harvard, and John Warren, the first member of the faculty, was a renowned anatomist and surgeon.  And though Oliver Wendell Holmes could maintain by 1861, that “human anatomy may be considered an almost exhausted science.  From time to time some small organ which had escaped earlier observers has been pointed out… but some of our best anatomical works are those which have been classic for many generations,” anatomy through dissection continued to be studied and taught to first-year medical students, and it still holds a place in the modern curriculum today.  The Nature of Every Member: an Anatomy of Dissection at Harvard, a new exhibit from the Center for the History of Medicine, is now open on the first floor of the Countway Library.  It chronicles the long and distinguished history of the study and teaching of human anatomy through dissection, moving from the very foundation of the Medical School to the present day.  Echoing the changes in teaching human dissection are the developments in anatomical legislation, as the illicit practice of grave-robbing for dissection gives way to Thomas Dwight’s 1896 formulation that cadavers for study are only “loaned to science”,  paving the way for the legal instruments of anatomical gift in common use today.

Notable items in the exhibit include Ezekiel Hersey’s 1770 will, establishing the Hersey Professorship of Anatomy at Harvard with John Warren’s notes from his earliest anatomical lectures at the school; John Collins Warren’s 1831 Massachusetts legislation which first legalized the use of cadavers for medical study; Oliver Wendell Holmes’ own copy of the first edition of Gray’s Anatomy; gross anatomy course descriptions and examinations; notes on lectures and dissection work by student Ralph Clinton Larrabee (Class of 1897); a 1951 report outlining the need for an electron microscope for anatomical research; a pocket kit of dissection tools owned by George Thomas Perkins, a student in the 1850s; and reproductions of several vivid photographs of life at the Medical School by Thomas Woolstone Dixon (Class of 1929), including the depiction of Robert M. Green at work shown above.   A rare colored lithograph from 1840, “The Dissecting Room,” depicts English anatomist William Hunter teaching dissection and gives some impression of what early conditions might have been like at Harvard.

T. C. Wilson, after Thomas Rowlandson The dissecting room, from the original by Rowlandson, in the possession of William Tiffin Illife, Esqr. : colored lithograph (circa 1840). Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine [0002980]

T. C. Wilson, after Thomas Rowlandson.
The dissecting room, from the original by Rowlandson, in the possession of William Tiffin Illife, Esqr. : colored lithograph (circa 1840). Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine [0002980]

The Nature of Every Member, which will be on display through the end of 2014, was designed to complement Body of Knowledge: a History of Anatomy (in 3 Parts) which is currently on exhibit at the Collection of Historic Scientific Instruments on the Cambridge campus and incorporates many anatomical specimens, models, rare books, prints, and photographs from the library and museum collections at the Center for the History of Medicine.

For additional information on the exhibit, contact the Center at chm@hms.harvard.edu or 617.432.2170.

 

 

 

 

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The Sir William Osler Collection

By , November 6, 2013
Osler at work on The Principles and Practice of Medicine, 1891. Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. #0002497.

Osler at work on The Principles and Practice of Medicine, 1891. Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. #0002497.

Sir William Osler (1849-1919) remains one of the world’s most revered physicians, and his works are prized by medical libraries. His most famous and influential publication is the textbook of internal medicine, The Principles and Practice of Medicine, which first appeared in 1892. After Osler’s death, subsequent editions of this fundamental textbook were edited and revised by Thomas McCrae and then Henry A. Christian until 1947, with an estimated 500,000 copies printed.

In 1935, Dr. Henry Rouse Viets (1890-1969) presented the Boston Medical Library with a collection of 21 different issues and states of The Principles and Practice of Medicine, English-language editions as well as foreign translations, supplementing the library’s already considerable holdings of this work. The Osler Collection now contains a virtually complete set of copies and issues of all sixteen editions, along with copies of British editions, and French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese translations, and even the pirated fourth British edition of 1901. Additional Osleriana titles were acquired in 1955 by the gift of Dr. Joseph Hersey Pratt (1872-1956), who had studied with Osler at Johns Hopkins in the 1890s. The Pratt gift includes autographed copies of some of Osler’s other works, as well as a number of rare medical titles with presentation inscriptions to Pratt from Osler himself.

The photograph above shows Osler at work on The Principles and Practice of Medicine in the sitting room of Hunter Robb, the chief resident in gynecology at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  Osler appropriated Robb’s room for several months until completing his manuscript in October, 1891.  The photograph is from the collection of  Dr. William T. Councilman (1854-1933). who was assistant professor of pathology at Hopkins before assuming the Shattuck Professorship of Pathological Anatomy at Harvard in 1892.  The mat of the original print bears the inscription, “Dr. Osler writing a book.  Attention is called to the air of deep thought & preoccupation.  See also the number of ponderous tomes lying around.  He has diligently read all these.  Will the book be a good book?  Yes, it may be.”  The original photograph is part of collection of Councilman’s personal and professional papers which was donated to Harvard by Dr. William C. Wigglesworth, Councilman’s grandson, in 1978.

 

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