Francine M. Benes Papers Open for Research

The Center for the History of Medicine is The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the Francine M. Benes papers, 1979-2014 (inclusive), 1985-2005 (bulk) to research.

Born in Queens, New York, on May 8, 1946, Francine Benes received her bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in New York in 1967. In 1972, she completed a PhD in Cell Biology at Yale School of Medicine. Between 1972 and 1975, she received post-doctoral training at the City of Hope National Medical Center in California where she used single cell neurochemistry to study GABA neurons. In 1975, Dr. Benes began medical school at Yale and after receiving her M.D. in 1978, she completed a psychiatric residency at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Benes’ research focuses on exploring the post-mortem brains of patients who had a clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, with special focus on determining the role of GABA cells in the pathophysiology of psychotic disorders. Her later research employs microarray-based gene expression profiling (GEP) to explore the genetic causation for GABA cell dysfunction and to determine how molecular mechanisms differ in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The collection reflects Benes’ neuroscientific research focusing on the physical and biochemical changes in brain tissue in bipolar depression and dementia. Records include correspondence, drafts and manuscripts for articles and book chapters, grant proposals, budgets, and reports as well as records reflecting Benes’ professional activities at conferences and professional organizations including as a committee member, panel commentator, or speaker.

Finding aid now available for the Richard P. Strong papers

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the Richard Pearson Strong Papers, 1911-2004 (inclusive), 1911-1945 (bulk) to research

Strong was born in Virginia in 1872. He received his bachelor’s degree from Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School in 1893 and his M.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1897; he also had his first residency at Johns Hopkins. He spent two years in the American Army Medical Service during the Spanish-American war. After the war, Strong helped organize and then headed the Biological Laboratory in the Philippines directed by Paul C. Freer. In 1906, Strong was involved in the infection of twenty-three prisoners at Bilibid Prison with the bubonic plague virus. Thirteen of the men died; the rest recovered. After some investigation, the infections were blamed on a laboratory mix-up and Strong unofficially exonerated. Strong was named professor of tropical medicine at the University of the Philippines in 1907. He left the Philippines appointment in 1913 upon his appointment to a professorship in tropical medicine at Harvard Medical School; he was named chair of the newly formed Department of Tropical Medicine in the same month and president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in the same year.

Strong was an expert in tropical medicine and worked in the United States, the Philippines, South America, and Africa. The papers include correspondence files and related material concerning the Harvard Department of Tropical Medicine from its earliest years until Strong’s retirement, as well as records related to Strong’s: teaching activities at Harvard and at the Army Medical School; scientific expeditions; World War I work as head of the Red Cross commission to combat the typhus epidemic in Serbia; involvement in social clubs, international congresses, and professional societies such as the American Academy and Foundation of Tropical Medicine; advisory work for the National Research Council Committee on Medical Problems of Animal Parasitology; and service on the Massachusetts Public Health Council. The papers also contain: records pertaining to Strong’s research and writing; some family correspondence; some personal financial papers; correspondence, memoranda, and photographs relating to Strong’s teaching for the Army during World War II; a book and series of DVDs about the Harvard African Expedition in 1934; and a diary and letters belonging to Strong’s wife, Grace Nichols.

American Academy of Dental Science Records Now Open

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the American Academy of Dental Science Records, 1868-1997 (inclusive) to research.

The American Academy of Dental Sciences was founded in 1867 in Boston, Massachusetts, one of the last national professional organizations for dentists founded in the nineteenth century in the United States. The founding of the Academy came towards the end of a national shift towards professional organization among dentists. The move towards organization aimed to position dentistry as a united profession, smoothing over divisions from earlier in the century which had led to public and private feuds and, many dentists felt, a general distrust among members of the public. The Academy was an independently organized society, not associated with either the American Dental Convention or the American Dental Association, the two other national groups for dentists extant at the time.

At the Academy’s founding meeting on October 19, 1867, E.T. Wilson was named the Academy’s first president with D.M. Parker as vice-president and E.N. Harris as secretary. Elections were held annually thereafter unless a member needed to step down from a position. This was not infrequent as dentists were a mobile profession and the change from ‘member’ to ‘corresponding member’ is frequent in meeting minutes. ‘Corresponding members,’ however, were expected to keep in contact with the organization and contribute to the business of the group.

The Academy held regular meetings from its foundation until the 1980s. Meetings generally included a topical discussion or special presentations and a dinner as well as a regular business meeting. The record books kept by the Academy’s secretaries form a remarkably full record of Academy activities.

Academy members were encouraged to bring before the meeting anything that might educate other members or help the development of dental science as a whole. In the early years of the Academy, patients were often brought in as visual aids when members explained particular techniques or materials they had used. Members also brought in equipment which they had designed or made improvements on, commented on current topics of interest such as the development of mechanical drills or methods of anesthesia, and discussed procedures they had used for dealing with particular kinds of dental work, including accidental injuries, cancers, tumors, syphilitic infections, and congenital deformities of the mouth. Patients were sometimes followed for years as the Academy would request updates on particularly interesting or unique work.

Larger topics were also discussed, often developing into ongoing discussions that lasted for years, such as the debate over the development of dental education in the United States as a whole. Many members of the Academy felt that dentists were under-educated in their field — and, as a result, under-valued — in comparison to other medical professionals, particularly physicians. The open question for many years in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was what should be done about this. Members of the Academy generally held fast to the notion that dentistry was a science distinct from medicine and needed to be studied and trained for as such. Much like obstetricians during the same period, dentists felt that medical students who had taken a single class in basic dentistry or even just studied the anatomy of the skull were taking up dentistry as a career without sufficient preparation and thus devaluing the profession as a whole. Options discussed at the Academy included the foundation of independent dental colleges; requiring medical students to take a basic course of dental science as part of their regular training; or requiring dental students to take a medical course before specializing.

The Academy began to hold annual meetings in 1868 which gradually became large events where members were encouraged to bring wives or colleagues who were not yet members of the Academy. By the 1870s, the Academy was inviting speakers of note to address the meeting, such as Harvard president Charles W. Eliot who spoke in 1879 on the subject of dental education. Other speakers included notable dentists at the time… In 1876, the Academy published A history of dental and oral science in America to be published in time for the American centennial celebrations held in Philadelphia.

L. Vernon Briggs Papers Now Open

Picture of a model hospital ward from the L. Vernon Briggs Papers.

Photograph of a model hospital ward from the L. Vernon Briggs Papers.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the L. Vernon Briggs papers, 1774-1940 (inclusive), 1911-1938 (bulk) to research.

L. (Lloyd) Vernon Briggs (1863-1941), M.D., 1889, Medical College of Virginia at Richmond was a psychiatrist and medical reformer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He was active in seeking changes to the laws regarding the evaluation and incarceration of the mentally ill and in suggesting reforms to the asylum, prison, hospital systems in the Commonwealth. He married Mary Tilotson Cabot in 1905; the couple had one child, Lloyd Cabot Briggs (1909-1975).

The collection reflects the work of L. Vernon Briggs  in psychiatry and medical reform, particularly in the fields of asylum conditions and the care of the mentally ill. Briggs was an active member of the medical community in Boston from the late 1880s to the late 1930s. Topics in the collection include the oversight of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts state hospital system, the administration and reform of the State Board of Insanity, Briggs’ ocean trip to Hawaii, and the care and treatment of the mentally ill including such issues as asylum inmate restraint and drug prescription.

The papers include correspondence, photographs, magazine and newspaper clippings, publications, manuscripts, blueprints, and legislation. Also included is a small number of artifacts, including quills used by the Governor’s Office for the formal signing of legislation, and botanical specimens gathered by Briggs on the West Coast.

The finding aid for the L. Vernon Briggs papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact Public Services.

Elizabeth B. Connell Papers Now Open

By , December 5, 2016

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that the Elizabeth B. Connell papers, 1960-2010 (inclusive), 1970-1990 (bulk) are now open to research.

Elizabeth B. Connell was born in 1925 in Springfield, Massachusetts. She received her A.B. and M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and 1947 and 1951 respectively. During the late 1950s, she worked in general practice in Blue Hill, Maine; Connell later said that this was when she first became acutely aware of the health issues affecting her female patients, particularly contraception and fertility. Connell and her family moved back to Philadelphia from Maine for her further medical training and, in 1960, she moved to New York City to take an obstetrics residency in gynecology.

After completing her residency, Connell received an American Cancer fellowship which allowed her to gain experience in radical cancer surgery. During the early 1960s in New York, she worked to open family planning clinics in Spanish Harlem. Connell held faculty positions at New York Medical College, Columbia University, and Emory University as well as being on the staff of the Rockefeller Foundation for five years. She was the first woman to chair a Food and Drug Administration panel in 1973.

Connell held positions on many advisory boards and committees including for Planned Parenthood, the Food and Drug Administration, the New York City Department of Health, and the Human Resources Administration. She was a member of a large number of professional organizations, including the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American College of Surgeons, the American Public Health Association, the American Fertility Society, the American Medical Women’s Association, the Medical Women’s International Association, the Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society of Health.

The collection reflects Connell’s work primarily between the 1960s and the 1990s. Connell worked on multiple levels to promote open access to birth control and adequate reproductive health care for women in the United States and, to a lesser extent, internationally. Materials in the collection reflect Connell’s work with hospitals, private organizations, and government institutions on a variety of women’s health topics, primarily birth control and breast implant safety. Papers include correspondence, clippings, reprints, publications, and manuscripts, transcripts of court proceedings, and subject files on pharmaceuticals and clinical trials of intrauterine devices. The bulk of the collection is made up of subject files and reprints or publications.

Topics include birth control methods, including early testing and release of the birth control pill and development of intrauterine devices, women’s health outside of the United States, and a large amount of material reflecting Connell’s involvement in the legal activity around the safety and use of silicone breast implants. Researchers should note that Howard J. Tatum, Connell’s second husband, developed an early prototype of the intrauterine device form of contraception: the Tatum-T.

The finding aid for the Elizabeth B. Connell papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact Public Services.



John B. Little Papers Open to Research

By , December 4, 2015

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that the John B. Little papers are open to research.

John B. Little received his B.A. in 1951 from Harvard University and his M.D. in  1955 from Boston University. Little interned at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Massachusetts General Hospital. He joined the faculty of the Harvard School of Public Health in 1965.

The collection includes correspondence, reports, grant applications, newspaper clippings, manuscripts, meeting minutes, agendas, photographs, contact sheets, negatives, slides, 3.5” and 5.5” diskettes, and X-rays. Included are materials covering student activism at Harvard during the 1970s and 1980s, re-organization of the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health during the 1970s and 1980s, work done at the Kresge Environmental Health Center and his faculty teaching and administrative work at Harvard Medical School and the School of Public Health. Also included are teaching materials, research records, and reports and records of Little’s activity as an expert advisor at non-Harvard institutions.

Topics include the work done at the Kresge Environmental Health Center, and Little’s faculty work as a teacher of radiology and physiology. The collection also reflects Little’s activities as a consultant and member of professional or radiology-focused organizations such as the Radiation  Effects Research Council, the American Cancer Society, and the New England Roentgen Ray Society.

From the MHL: Medical Heritage Library Awarded NEH Grant for Digitization of State Medical Society Journals, 1900 – 2000

Front page from 1933 issue of the "Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia."

Front page from 1933 issue of the “Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia.”

The Medical Heritage Library (MHL), a digital resource on the history of medicine and health developed by an international consortium of cultural heritage repositories, has received funding in the amount of $275,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities for its proposal “Medicine at Ground Level: State Medical Societies, State Medical Journals, and the Development of American Medicine and Society.“ Additional funding has been provided by the Harvard Library.

The project, led by the Countway Library’s Center for the History of Medicine, will create a substantial digital collection of American state medical society journals, digitizing 117 titles from 46 states, from 1900 to 2000, comprising 2,500,369 pages in 3,579 volumes. State medical society journal publishers agreed to provide free and open access to journal content currently under copyright. Once digitized, journals will join the more than 75,000 monographs, serials, pamphlets, and films now freely available in the MHL collection in the Internet Archive.  State medical society journals will provide additional context for the rare and historical American medical periodicals digitized during the recently completed NEH project, Expanding the Medical Heritage Library: Preserving and Providing Online Access to Historical Medical Periodicals. Full text search is available through the MHL website. MHL holdings can also be accessed through the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA; and the Wellcome Library’s UK-MHL.

Five preeminent medical libraries, including three founding members of the MHL, are collaborating on this project: The College of Physicians of Philadelphia; the Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard University; the Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health at The New York Academy of Medicine; the Health Sciences and Human Services Library, University of Maryland, the Founding Campus (UMB); and the Library and Center for Knowledge Management at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).

State medical society journals document the transformation of American medicine in the twentieth century at both the local and national level. The journals have served as sites not only for scientific articles, but for medical talks (and, often, accounts of discussions following the talks), local news regarding sites of medical care and the medical profession, advertisements, and unexpurgated musings on medicine and society throughout the 20th century. When digitized and searchable as a single, comprehensive body of material, this collection will be a known universe, able to support a limitless array of historical queries, including those framed geographically and/or temporally, offering new ways to examine and depict the evolution of medicine and the relationship between medicine and society.

Project supporter and former president of the American Association for the History of Medicine, Professor of History Nancy J. Tomes, Stony Brook University, notes, “the value of this collection lies precisely in the insights state journals provide on issues of great contemporary interest. They shed light on questions at the heart of today’s policy debates: why do physicians treat specific diseases so differently in different parts of the country? Why is it such a challenge to develop and implement professional policies at the national level? How do state level developments in health insurance influence federal policy and vice versa? How do factors such as race, class, gender, and ethnicity affect therapeutic decision making? How have methods of promoting new therapies and technologies changed over time? These are issues of interest not only to historians but to political scientists, sociologists, and economists.

Not only will the state journals be of great use to researchers, but they also will be a great boon to teachers. I can easily imagine using the collection to engage medical students, residents, and practicing physicians in the conduct of historical research.”

Digitization will begin in August 2015; the project will be completed in April 2017.

Front page of 1898 issue of the "Texas Medical Journal."

Front page of 1898 issue of the “Texas Medical Journal.”

About the Medical Heritage Library:

The MHL ( is a content-centered digital community supporting research, education, and dialog that enables the history of medicine to contribute to a deeper understanding of human health and society. It serves as the point of access to a valuable body of quality curated digital materials and to the broader digital and nondigital holdings of its members. It was established in 2010 with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to digitize 30,000 medical rare books. For more about the Medical Heritage Library, its holdings, projects, advisors, and collaborators, and how you can participate, see

About the NEH/Digital Humanities Program:

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. For more on the NEH Office of Digital Humanities visit

Contributed by Kathryn Hammond-Baker. Kathryn is Deputy Director, Center for the History of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Countway Library of Medicine, and chair of the MHL’s Governance Committee. 

Staff Finds: Documenting the State Asylum

While processing the records of L. Vernon Briggs, Center staff discovered a flat box containing mounted photographs. The photographs are of interiors and exteriors of asylums, including Montevue Asylum (Maryland) and the Worcester County Alms House (also in Maryland).

L. (Lloyd) Vernon Briggs (1863-1941) was a well-known advocate for the rights of the incarcerated, including prisoners but primarily the mentally ill. Based in Boston, Briggs campaigned for transparency in the state asylum system of Massachusetts as well as increased funding and better hiring practices for both doctors and staff. It is likely that these photographs were part of a talk or presentation on the condition of asylum inmates.

The photographs show poorly-maintained buildings and patients in a variety of situations, from women sleeping on rough bedding in a hallway to an “old negro” found “chained to an iron screen.” Briggs claimed that it was the habitual practice of attendants in these asylums to restrain patients who were talkative or energetic as well as those who were violent or threatening. Captions on the photographs note that men and women were frequently housed in the same rooms and that individual cells could be badly overcrowded.

The set of photographs also include shots of Maryland’s Springfield State Hospital, which Briggs considered a “model” asylum: clean, neat, and well-staffed.

Staff Finds: L. Vernon Briggs, the Scrapbooker

While processing the papers of L. Vernon Briggs, Center staff located two records center cartons containing six scrapbooks.

L. (Lloyd) Vernon Briggs (1863-1941) was a medical reformer and psychiatrist active in Boston in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He worked closely during the 1890s with Walter Channing at the latter’s private sanatorium in Brookline, Massachusetts. Briggs was a prominent advocate for reform of the asylum system in Massachusetts, including revision of the procedures for committal and requiring formal training in psychiatry for asylum physicians and attendants. Briggs was called in as a psychiatric consultant on several prominent cases, including a post-mortem evaluation of the case of Leon Czolgosz, who shot President William McKinley in 1901 on the grounds of the Pan-American Exposition.

The six scrapbooks reflect the wide range of Briggs’ interests, including newspaper clippings on cases and relevant events such as arrests or trials, personal correspondence, and news items concerning his family. The scrapbook from which the pages below were scanned, for instance, documents the 1906 case of James A. Garland. Garland was a wealthy resident of New York City and Boston who became involved in a widely publicized legal case in 1900. He and his wife, Mary Louise Tudor, went through a dramatic divorce – and then a much quieter remarriage in 1904. Garland became terminally ill two years after the remarriage. At the end of his life, he was brought by special train from New York City to Massachusetts to secure the attendance of Briggs. Despite the well-publicized medical care of Briggs and other physicians, Garland died in September 1906.

The scrapbooks also contain records reflecting Briggs’ work to change state laws affecting the insane; his trips to Europe to visit with various medical authorities; and his more local interests, such as family history and local Massachusetts history.

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