Category: Collections

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.

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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.

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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.

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Staff Finds: Arthur Hertig and Carnegie #7699

By , July 18, 2017

While processing the papers of Arthur Hertig, Center staff came across drafts and notes from an article by Hertig and John Rock entitled “Two Human Ova of the Previllous Stage, Having an Ovulation Age of about Eleven and Twelve Days Respectively” (Contributions to Embryology 29 (1941): 127-56). The paper describes Carnegie embryos #7699 and #7700, with #7699 being at that point the youngest human ovum discovered by researchers. Hertig was working with Rock and the Carnegie Institution of Washington to conduct studies of early human embryos, research which enabled later advances in the birth control pill and in vitro fertilization.


Arthur Hertig

The embryos were taken from women who were scheduled to undergo hysterectomies, who were married, under 45, and who had at least two children. Rock’s assistant Miriam Menkin recruited the eligible women, and guided them through the process of recording their body temperature in order to determine their time of ovulation. Loretta McLaughlin, in her book The Pill, John Rock, and the Church, describes the next step in the process:

At this point Rock and Hertig’s version of the instructions given the women differs somewhat from Miriam’s. But it was she, not they, who was dealing directly with the “candidates.” Rock and Hertig hold that the women were advised in the final month to continue their normal pattern of sexual intercourse – but this time without using any precautions to prevent conception. The women were asked to keep a record of the dates of any intercourse, and that was all. Miriam says there was a little more than that to it. Miriam would point out to the candidates “these other women sitting on the bench in the fertility clinic. They are women who would like to have a baby, who can’t. We want to find out more about how to help them by finding out more about the early stages of a baby. “ She would reassure the women that “even if you have intercourse you won’t have a baby because you have to have the operation anyway.” She would hint at least that it would be useful to the research if they had intercourse during the final fertile period. “After all,” she rationalized, “the practical fact of it was that there wasn’t much point in going to all the trouble of preparing the women for the study, if none were going to at least give their eggs a chance to be exposed to their husband’s sperm. There was a crude pregnancy test at the time but it couldn’t work until a woman was six to eight weeks pregnant. Neither we nor they could know whether they were pregnant at the time of the surgery.”

Below are scans from the above-mentioned article drafts. Included are drafts of text and tables demonstrating how Hertig and Rock were able to date the ovum.

For information regarding access to these collections, please contact the Public Services staff.

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Processing of the Zerka T. Moreno Papers

By , July 12, 2017

Zerka T. Moreno (Zerka Toeman) (1917-2016) was a psychotherapist specializing in psychodrama and an adjunct professor at New York University, New York City, New York in the 1950s. Working with her husband, J. L. Moreno (Jacob Levy) (1889-1974), Zerka Moreno is known for her involvement in developing theories and methods for psychodramatic therapy. Working at the Sociometic Institute and the Pyschodramatic Institute in New York City as well as leading the Moreno Institute in Beacon, New York, Zerka Moreno provided psychodrama therapy to patients, led workshops in the treatment across the United States and internationally, mentored graduate students pursuing psychotherapy as part of their psychology or psychiatry degrees, and was the author of dozens of articles and books on the topic of psychodrama. The Center is pleased to announce that Zerka T. Moreno’s papers, dated 1937-2010, are currently being processed.

Zerka Toeman Moreno was born on June 13, 1917, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She attended secondary school in the Netherlands before moving to London, England, in 1932 where she attended technical school. She planned to become an artist or fashion designer, with specific interest in designing scenery and costumes for stage productions. Moreno relocated to the United States in 1939, shortly after the beginning of World War II. Her sister suffered from mental illness, and in 1941, Moreno arranged for her to move to Beacon, New York, for treatment with J.L. Moreno at the Beacon Hill Sanatorium. That same year, following her sister’s treatment Zerka Moreno became J.L. Moreno’s student, working as his private secretary in Beacon to earn the scholarship he offered her. When he opened the Sociometric Institute in New York City, she became his research assistant and relocated to New York City; this later became the Moreno Institute. In 1947, the two founded the journal Sociatry, which later became known as Group Psychotherapy, which published research regarding the social sciences of sociatry, psychodrama, group psychotherapy, and sociometry. During the 1950s, both Zerka and J.L. Moreno served as adjunct professors at New York University, teaching courses about psychodrama and sociometry. She was the cofounder of the International Association for Group Psychotherapy and the American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama, and spent much of her career traveling for psychotherapy and psychodrama workshops.

After J.L. Moreno’s death in 1974, Zerka T. Moreno continued to work as a psychotherapist, studying psychodrama and exploring new questions regarding surplus reality. With Merlyn S. Pitzele (1911-1995), she continued to attend patients, offer teaching sessions in Beacon and New York City, and led workshops and seminars in countless American and international locations, including Japan, Korea, Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Sweden, and Finland, among others. In 1996, she relocated to Charlottesville, Virginia, closing the Moreno Institute in Beacon, and moved into a nursing home in 2013 in Rockville, Maryland after breaking a hip. She continued to see patients and correspond with students from her bed until shortly before her death.

Zerka T. Moreno was a proponent and student of the area of psychological treatment known as psychodrama. Psychodrama therapy is a form of therapy in which individuals participate in role playing, reenacting real-life experiences either as themselves or as others who have been affected by their behavior. The Morenos believed psychodrama allowed for new expressions of oneself and the integration of the inner and outer realities of a person, which could lead to psychological healing. Zerka Moreno was interested in surplus reality, which is the concept of putting oneself into another person’s reality. Role reversal is a surplus reality technique, which translates into psychodrama and its methods for considering multiple realities.

Zerka T. and J.L. Moreno were married in 1949. They had one son together, Jonathan Moreno (1952-), who was raised with psychodrama throughout his life and later became a bioethicist, philosopher, and historian, working as  the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor and Professor of Medical Ethics and the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Zerka Moreno was also the stepmother to J.L. Moreno’s daughter from a previous marriage, Regina Moreno (1939-).

The papers are the product of Moreno’s personal and professional activities during her career as a psychotherapist leading psychodramatic workshops and mentoring psychotherapy students throughout the work; her activities with organizations such as the International Association of Group Psychotherapy and the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama; as well as her work at the Sociometric, Psychodramatic, and Moreno Institutes and treating patients. Further materials include writings and collected papers used by Moreno in her research, as well as biographical records relating to both Zerka T. and Jacob L. Moreno. The records are expected to be open to research in 2017. For more information on the processing of these papers, contact Elizabeth Coup, Processing Assistant.


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Marie C. McCormick Papers Open to Research

By , June 29, 2017
Marie C. McCormick.

Marie C. McCormick.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that the papers of Marie C. McCormick, 1956-2016 (inclusive), 1968-2009 (bulk), are now open to research. McCormick is the Sumner and Esther Feldberg Professor of Maternal and Child Health in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School; and Senior Associate for Academic Affairs in the Department of Neonatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Her research has primarily focused on epidemiology and health services, particularly in relation to infant mortality and the outcomes of high-risk and very low birth weight neonates.

She served on all four phases of the Infant Health and Development Program (IHDP), the largest longitudinal multisite randomized trials of early childhood educational intervention for low birth weight and high-risk infants, and was the Principal Investigator of Phase IV of the program. She was also a senior investigator on both the federal Healthy Start Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation National Perinatal Regionalization Program. She served as Chair of the Institute of Medicine’s (now National Academy of Medicine) Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana, and its Immunization Safety Review Committee, for which she testified twice before the U.S. House of Representatives on the lack of evidence linking vaccinations with autism (2001 and 2004). In 1996, she also testified before the U.S. Senate on the National Healthy Start Initiative. She has published 12 books and monographs, as well as over 280 scientific papers, reviews, editorials, reports, and abstracts.

The papers include research, teaching, administrative, and publishing records, generated by McCormick over the course of her career, such as:

  • Infant Health and Development Program (Phases I-IV) administrative records;
  • Evaluation of Regionalized Networks for High Risk Pregnancy Care study administrative records;
  • Long Term Outcomes of Very Low Birthweight Infants study administrative records;
  • Occasional research data from the previous three studies;
  • Teaching records for courses related to maternal and child health, taught by McCormick at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health;
  • Grant records for graduate training grants related to maternal and child health; and
  • Writings and publications related to maternal and child health, epidemiology, regionalization of care, and other topics in public health.

The collection was processed as part of the Bridging the Research Data Divide project, funded by a Hidden Collections grant administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources. For more information on the project, please contact the project’s principal investigator, Emily R. Novak Gustainis, Deputy Director of the Center for the History of Medicine.

For more information on McCormick’s collection, please view the online finding aid:

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Harvard Prevention Research Center and Steven L. Gortmaker Collections Open to Research

By , June 29, 2017
Fitness Folder, from the Harvard Prevention Research Center's Planet Health Curriculum.

Fitness Folder, from the Harvard Prevention Research Center’s Planet Health Curriculum. P-DT08.01, Series 00598. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of two collections: the records of the Harvard Prevention Research Center (HPRC) and the papers of the HPRC’s Director, Steven L. Gortmaker.

The Harvard Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity was founded in 1998 at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, to work with community and governmental organizations in the research, development, and implementation of school- and community-based youth intervention programs to encourage better health habits. The HPRC has conducted a number of intervention research projects, including: the randomized control trial of the Planet Health curriculum, which is used in middle schools to teach healthy decision making about nutrition, exercise, and leisure activities; and the Play Across Boston project, which surveyed and evaluated the availability of afterschool fitness programs for Boston-area youth, and studied how access and individual family characteristics influence youth physical activity.

The HPRC records include administrative records and research data for both Planet Health and Play Across Boston. Planet Health records include student fitness questionnaires, television viewing worksheets and graphs, financial records, Wellness Workshops administrative records, and student participation records. Play Across Boston records include: student surveys (concerning health and exercise habits, demographics, access to fitness programs, and other topics); and fitness program provider surveys (concerning program details, cost and accessibility, and participant numbers and demographics).

Steven L. Gortmaker.

Steven L. Gortmaker, M-AD06. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

In addition to directing the HPRC, Steven L. Gortmaker is Professor of the Practice of Health Sociology in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His research focuses primarily on the health and mortality risks affecting children and adolescents (particularly low-income and minority), and interventions for mitigating those risks. He served as Principal Investigator on a number of HPRC initiatives, including Planet Health, Play Across Boston, the Out of School Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative (OSNAP), and is also Co-Director of the Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost-Effectiveness Study (CHOICES). In 1997, he was awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research.

Gortmaker’s papers comprise his research and teaching records generated during his career. The collection includes research data and administrative records from a number of projects, including: an obesity research project using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Rural Infant Care Program; and organ donation research for the Partnership for Organ Donation. The papers also include Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health teaching records for courses related to HIV, social behavior, and statistics.

The collections were processed as part of the Bridging the Research Data Divide project, funded by a Hidden Collections grant administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources. For more information on the project, please contact the project’s principal investigator, Emily R. Novak Gustainis, Deputy Director of the Center for the History of Medicine.

More information on the collections may be found in their online finding aids: (Harvard Prevention Research Center Records); and  (Steven L. Gortmaker papers).

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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.

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Processing Staff Finds: Paul Charles Zamecnik and transfer RNA

By , June 6, 2017

In 1956, Dr. Paul Charles Zamecnik (1912-2009) and colleagues Dr. Mahlon Hoagland (1921-2009) and Dr. Mary Louise Stephenson (1921-2009) discovered a critical element  of the protein synthesis pathway, the molecule that carries amino acids to the ribosome, where they are linked to create a chain that folds to form a protein. That molecular was initially called sRNA, standing for “soluble RNA,” and later became known as tRNA, or “transfer RNA.”


Data from Zamecnik's research into ribosomal structures, which led to the discovery of transfer RNA (front of page)

Data from Zamecnik’s research into ribosomal structures, which led to the discovery of transfer RNA (front of page)


During the processing of the Paul Charles Zamecnik papers, processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine recently found research data related to the discovery of transfer RNA. The files include materials dated as early as April 1953 and into July 1956, around the time of the discovery. The papers included notes that describe them as the “original experimental data on t-RNA” and “first 1955 experiments on sRNA.” The notes themselves include experiment procedures, hypotheses, and results, as well as related charts and graphs.


Data from Zamecnik's research into ribosomal structures, which led to the discovery of transfer RNA (back of page)

Data from Zamecnik’s research into ribosomal structures, which led to the discovery of transfer RNA (back of page)

The data, accompanied by notes, are now included in the Paul C. Zamecnik papers that are being processed right now, and will be part of the series focused on research notes relating to RNA more generally.  This is but one of the topics of Zamecnik’s research during his time leading the Huntington Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital and as the Collis P. Huntington Professor of Oncologic Medicine at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, Massachusetts.

Data from Zamecnik's research that led to the discovery of transfer RNA

Data from Zamecnik’s research that led to the discovery of transfer RNA

After retiring from Harvard Medical School, Zamecnik joined Dr. Mahlon Hoagland and continued his research at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Worcester, Massachusetts. Records relating to the scientific research completed at the Worcester Foundation as well as documentation of the formation and running of that organization with Dr. Hoagland are also included in the collection.

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