Category: Collections

Warren Museum’s Mystery Box Reveals a “Twilight” Story

By , July 25, 2019

Doctor’s Birthing Kit, circa 1910

Anesthesia history artifacts collected by Bert B. Hershenson, MD

Anesthesia history artifacts collected by Bert B. Hershenson, MD

This mysterious metal box filled with labeled glass bottles and anesthesia paraphernalia was one of the anesthesia history artifacts collected by Bert B. Hershenson, MD, Director of Anesthesia (1942–1956) at the Boston Lying-in Hospital (a Brigham and Women’s parent hospital). It was donated by Mrs. Hershenson to Harvard Medical School’s Warren Anatomical Museum in 1972 with no identifying information other than that it once belonged to a Viennese doctor “two generations ago.” A recent provenance investigation of the box and the objects inside, done here at the Center for the History of Medicine, indicated that the original owner was probably a turn-of-the-century obstetrician who may have been a practitioner of Dämmerschlaf or “Twilight Sleep.”

Picture of the March 7, 1915 Boston Sundat Post newspaper article, "Scores of Twilight Sleep Babies in Hub"

Boston Sunday Post, March 7, 1915. “Scores of Twilight Sleep Babies in Hub”

Twilight Sleep was introduced in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. A combination of morphine, to mitigate pain, and scopolamine to cause amnesia, was given by injection to women in labor. Its effectiveness in preventing pain was minimal. Its true effectiveness was in causing many women to forget the pain and the subsequent extreme, sometimes violent, behavior the drug combination often caused. In 1914, reports of “pain free” deliveries in Europe gave rise in the U.S. to the National Twilight Sleep Association, which successfully campaigned for the widespread adoption of the technique. However, in 1915 Mrs. Francis X. Carmody, a leader of the organization, died in childbirth. Although probably unrelated to the drugs, news of her death and subsequent safety concerns caused a fall from favor of Twilight Sleep in America and the end of the Association. Newer variations on the technique did continue through the 1960s until the advent of the natural childbirth movement.

Object list:

Metal box (for easy sterilization) from medical supply house Medicinisches Waarenhaus: Berlin

Esmarch type inhaler (style introduced in 1877). The wire mask covered by a cloth kept chloroform from touching the patient’s face.

Chloroform, a surgical anesthetic.

Erogotin, used to treat excessive bleeding and to speed up labor.

Camphor, traditionally used as a topical analgesic, or to control nausea.

Morphium, for pain relief.

Unidentified bottle, with the handwritten word “injection’ in German.

Dr. Vomel brand catgut, probably used for tying off the umbilical cord.

Warren Anatomical Museum Collection, Center for the History of Medicine
in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Edris Rice-Wray Papers Open to Research

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that the Edris Rice-Wray papers, 1937-1983 (inclusive), 1960-1970 (bulk) are now open to research.

Edris Rice-Wray was born in 1904 in New York City, New York and received her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1927. She went on to attend Northwestern University Medical School and receive her M.D. in 1932 with a focus on public health work.

In 1948, Rice-Wray went to Puerto Rico as a health district director. In 1950, she was appointed Director of the Public Health Training Center, a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Puerto Rico, and as Medical Director of the Puerto Rico Planned Parenthood. During her time in Puerto Rico, Rice-Wray collaborated with John Rock (1890-1984) and Gregory Pincus (1903-1967) on the trials of oral contraceptives on Puerto Rican women.

In 1957, Rice-Wray joined the World Health Organization and moved to Mexico to work as Medical Officer for Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. In 1958 she founded and became the President of the Asociación Pro-Salud Maternal, the first family planning clinic in Mexico. She held this position until 1972 when she became Honorary President and Chief Technical Consultant for the Asociación. During the 1970s, she moved from Mexico City to Cholula in Puebla, Mexico, where she continued to work in reproductive medicine and held a teaching position at the University of the Americas Puebla.

Rice-Wray was married and had daughters. She died in 1990 in San Andres Cholula, Puebla, Mexico.

The collection consists of records created or collected by Edris Rice-Wray in the course of her career working with family planning institutions, primarily in Mexico including letters and enclosures from individuals and groups, including corporations, government offices, and academic institutions. Topics include conferences, professional visits to Rice-Wray’s Mexico City clinic, clinical trials of various types of contraceptives, the activities of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and the politics of birth control in Mexico. Also included are records of publications Rice-Wray authored and co-authored in various stages of preparation, including final reprints.

Papers are in English and Spanish.

Wives of Aesculapius Records Now Open to Research

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that the Wives of Aesculapius records, 1908-1989 (inclusive), 1920-1960 (bulk) are now open for research.

The Wives of Aesculapius was founded in 1910 as an adjunct organization to the Aesculapian Club, a student organization at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, since women were not accepted as members to the latter organization. The Wives existed as a separate association until 1972 when the two groups merged.

The Wives pursued activities similar to those of the Aesculapian Club including an annual dinner for the membership and extensive fund-raising activities for the benefit of Harvard Medical School students. The Wives were responsible for the foundation of a leisure reading collection on the medical school campus as well as providing furnishings for student spaces in Vanderbilt Hall. For many years, the Wives also produced a Spring Play, usually written, performed, and produced by members of the Wives.

Participation and interest in the Wives organization dropped steadily during the late 1950s and 1960s and the decision was made by the remaining members to disband and merge with the Aesculapian Club. The Wives formally ceased to exist as their own club in 1972.

The records reflect the formation, administration, and activities of the Wives, including records reflecting the initial organization and operation of the Wives, including correspondence, executive committee meeting minutes, lists of duties for officers, membership lists, and membership surveys. Also included here are records reflecting the social events sponsored by the Wives, primarily the “Spring Play,” which was usually written and performed by members of the group. There is also a small amount of memorabilia: three scrapbooks, unbound scrapbook pages, a rubber stamp, a seal, and a gavel.

George Cheever Shattuck Papers Open to Research

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that the George Cheever Shattuck papers, 1822-1973 (inclusive), 1890-1972 (bulk), are open to research.

George Cheever Shattuck was born October 12, 1879. After completing his medical degree at Harvard Medical School in 1905, Shattuck embarked on a world tour and ended up stopping for several months to work with Richard P. Strong (1872-1948) at the latter’s laboratory in the Philippines. After his time in the Philippines, Shattuck undertook additional clinical training in Vienna, Austria, and then returned in 1908 to Harvard Medical School. When the Department of Tropical Medicine was formed at the Medical School in 1913, Shattuck was recruited as a faculty member.
In 1916, the American Red Cross organized a medical commission to travel to Serbia to assist Serbian physicians in controlling an epidemic of typhus. Shattuck, Richard P. Strong, Hans Zinsser, and A. Watson Sellards were all members. Shattuck was responsible for the examination of post-mortem evidence and performed numerous autopsies, collating the data for the commission’s final report, published in 1920. From 1917 to 1919, Shattuck served with the Harvard Surgical Unit embedded with the British Expeditionary Force; after the armistice that ended World War I, he served in Switzerland as General Medical Secretary of the League of Red Cross Societies.

Shattuck returned to Boston in 1921 as assistant professor of tropical medicine at Harvard Medical School and worked to establish a service for tropical medicine at Boston City Hospital. In 1924-1925, Shattuck accompanied the Hamilton Rice expedition to the upper Amazon in Brazil. He co-led a medical survey expedition with Richard P. Strong to Liberia and the Belgian Congo in 1926-1927. Between 1929 and 1932, Shattuck led three expeditions funded by the Carnegie Institute to identify health problems in the Yucatan and Guatemala.

The papers consist of records collected and created by George Cheever Shattuck during his lifetime and professional career as a specialist in tropical medicine. Series I consists of materials collected by Shattuck with reference to the genealogy and activities of the Shattuck family from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. Series II consists of records reflecting Shattuck’s international medical work, including his trips through South America and Africa, and his work in Serbia with the American Red Cross expedition led by Richard P. Strong. Series III consists of materials related to Shattuck’s work as a writer, including the reports he produced in relation to the activities documented in Series II. Shattuck was also the author of a textbook on tropical diseases published in 1951 and multiple articles on the subject. Series IV consists of article reprints on a variety of medical topics, primarily physiological and embryological.

A. Clifford Barger Papers Open to Research

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the A. Clifford Barger papers, 1803-1995 (inclusive) 1968-1995 (bulk) to researchers. The papers reflect the professional and personal work of Clifford Barger (1917-1996), a research physiologist who spent his career at Harvard Medical School. Barger’s research interests focused on the cardiovascular and renal systems; he was involved in research which did much to elucidate the mechanisms by which sufferers from certain cardiac disorders retain fluids.The papers reflect the personal and include correspondence; lectures; publications; administrative records relating to Barger’s activities as a faculty member at Harvard Medical School; records relating to Barger’s involvement with professional organizations, primarily the American Physiological Society and the Massachusetts Society for Medical Research; and audio-visual material, primarily films.

Clifford Barger was born in 1917 in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and entered Harvard University at age 18. During his senior year, he began to study muscle physiology in the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory and immediately after receiving his B.A. in 1939, he entered Harvard Medical School. His first medical internship, at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, was interrupted by World War II military service. Barger was an Army first lieutenant and worked at the Climatic Research Laboratory in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on the protection of soldiers in cold climates. Barger received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1943 during his military service. He returned to the Brigham at the end of the war and entered the Department of Physiology as a research fellow under Eugene M. Landis (1901-1987). Barger began teaching at the same time he held clinical appointments first at the Brigham and then at Children’s Hospital. Barger was promoted to a full professorship in physiology in 1961 and received the Robert Henry Pfeiffer Professorship in 1963. From 1974 to 1976, Barger served as chair of the Department of Physiology. Barger retired from Harvard Medical School in 1987.

Barger spent most of his research career investigating physiological questions involving the human heart and kidneys, including the processes of congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and renovascular hypertension. He was among the first to describe the process by which certain nephrons in the kidney retain salt while those in a different part of the organ lose it, a process of critical importance to blood pressure and heart health. The initial research had been undertaken to try and explain why patients with congestive heart failure retain water and electrolytes. To help explain this, Barger studied the renin-angiotensin (sometimes also called the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone) system in the kidney. This system is part of the physiological mechanism for maintaining proper blood pressure and can work to compensate for some types of heart failure. Barger also investigated the physiology of coronary artery disease and the pathogenesis of the coronary arterial plaques; in this area, Barger worked to confirm previous results from pathologist Milton C. Winternitz (1885-1959).

From the 1960s on, Barger was involved in independent efforts by both Harvard Medical School and the American Physiological Society to recruit and retain minority students and faculty. He was named co-chair of the Porter Development Committee of the American Physiological Society in 1966; this committee distributed funds to support Porter Fellows, students from underrepresented communities studying physiology at institutions across the United States. Barger was also an enthusiastic historian of medicine and published articles on William T. Porter (1862-1949), founder of the Harvard Apparatus Company which funded the Porter Fellows, and Walter B. Cannon (1871-1945). Barger was co-author with Elin L. Wolfe and Saul Benison (1920-2006) of a two-volume biography of Cannon; the second volume was in preparation when Barger died in 1996 and was completed by his co-authors.

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

2019-2020 Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation Fellowship

By , February 21, 2019

The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation Research Fellowship

Deadline May 15, 2019

Details

First class of women accepted to Harvard Medical School, 1945. (HMS, Classes and Reunions, 00100.057)

The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation is pleased to provide one $5,000 grant to support travel, lodging, and incidental expenses for a flexible research period between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. Foundation Fellowships are offered for research related to the history of women to be conducted at the Center for the History of Medicine at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Preference will be given to:

  • projects that engage specifically with the history of women physicians, other health workers, or medical scientists; proposals on the history of women’s health issues will also be considered
  • those who are using collections from the Center’s Archives for Women in Medicine; however, research on the topic of women in medicine using other material from the Countway Library will be considered
  • applicants who live beyond commuting distance of the Countway; however, all are encouraged to apply, including graduate students

In return, the Foundation requests a one page report on the Fellow’s research experience, a copy of the final product (with the ability to post excerpts from the paper/project), and a photo and bio of the Fellow for web and newsletter announcements. The Fellow will also be asked to present a lecture at the Countway Library.

Application Requirements

Applicants should submit a proposal (no more than five pages) outlining the subject and objectives of the research project, length of residence, historical materials to be used, and a project budget (including travel, lodging, and research expenses), along with a curriculum vitae and two letters of recommendations by May 15, 2019. The fellowship proposal should demonstrate that the Countway Library has resources central to the research topic.

Applications should be sent to: The Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Fellowship, Archives for Women in 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 or (617) 432-2170.

Partnering Organizations

The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation, formerly the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine, was founded with the strong belief that understanding our history plays a powerful role in shaping our future. The resolute stand women took to establish their place in these fields propels our vision forward. We serve as stewards to the stories from the past, and take pride in sharing them with the women of today. Our mission is to preserve and promote the history of women in medicine and the medical sciences, and we look forward to connecting you to our collective legacy that will empower our future.

The Archives for Women in Medicine is a program of the Countway Library’s Center for the History of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. The Archives for Women in Medicine actively acquires, processes, preserves, provides access to, and publicizes the papers of women physicians, researchers, and medical administrators. Learn more about collections open to research on our Archives for Women in Medicine Collections page.

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. The Center for the History of Medicine’s collection of archives and manuscripts, numbering between 15-20 million items, is the largest collection of its kind in the United States. The manuscripts collection includes the personal and professional records of physicians from the medieval and Renaissance periods through the twentieth century, including the professional papers of many renowned Harvard faculty members as well as physicians and scientists from New England and around the country.

The 2018-2019 Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Research Fellow is Carla Bittel. Previous fellows include Maria Daxenbichler, Jordan Katz, Kate GrauvogelLouella McCarthyRebecca KluchinCiara BreathnachCarrie Adkins, and Hilary Aquino.

Apply Now for a 2019-2020 Boston Medical Library Fellowship!

By , February 19, 2019

Since 2003, the Boston Medical Library (BML) in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine has sponsored annual fellowships supporting research in the history of medicine using Center for the History of Medicine collections. BML Fellowships in the History of Medicine at the Countway provide stipends of up to $5,000 to support travel, lodging, and incidental expenses for a flexible period between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. 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.

Engraving of an apothecary in Das Buch der Cirurgia (Strassburg, 4 July 1497). Boston Medical Library Rare Books Collection (Ballard 233).

The collections of the Center for the History of Medicine enable researchers to contextualize, understand, and contribute to the history of human health care, scientific medical development, and public health; they eflect nearly every medical and public health discipline, including anatomy, anesthesiology, cardiology, dentistry, internal medicine, medical jurisprudence, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, pharmacy and pharmacology, psychiatry and psychology, and surgery, as well as variety of popular medicine topics and public health subjects such as industrial hygiene, nutrition, and tropical medicine. The Center serves as the institutional archives for the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and the Harvard School of Public Health, and is home to the Warren Anatomical Museum, which includes anatomical artifacts, pathological specimens, instruments, and other objects. Through the Center, researchers have the opportunity to use the rich historical resources of both the Harvard Medical Library and Boston Medical Library. For more information, visit https://www.countway.harvard.edu/center-history-medicine/collections.

Fellowship proposals (no more than 5 pages) should describe the research project and demonstrate that the Countway Library has resources central to the research topic.

Applications should include:

  • CV
  • Length of visit
  • Proposed budget and budget breakdown (travel, lodging, incidentals)
  • Two letters of recommendation are also required

Application deadline is Friday, March 29th.

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

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

Please see our website for more information and details about previous research recipients. Awards will be announced in early May.

Staff Finds: Dickinson-Belskie

By , February 19, 2019
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Robert Latou Dickinson

While processing the Robert Latou Dickinson papers, Center staff came across photographs of Robert Latou Dicksinon and artist Abram Belskie in their studio at the New York Academy of Medicine.

After retirement from medical practice, Dickinson collaborated with Belskie at the New York Academy of Medicine to create molds and models of human reproductive anatomy for display and as teaching aids, some of which were exhibited at World’s Fair in 1939. These models were later featured in the teaching book Birth Atlas. The sculptures Norma and Normman were a product of their collaboration as well. In 1945, Dickinson transferred his reproductive anatomy model collection to the Cleveland Health Museum. In 2007 the Health Museum was absorbed into the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and at that time transferred the Dickinson-Belskie collection to the Warren Anatomical Museum.

Below are photographs of Dickinson and Belskie in studio with their teaching models, from the Dickinson papers. The photographs were originally produced for Look Magazine; the Library of Congress now holds the copyright for the images. (LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

The Dickinson-Belskie Collection in the Warren Anatomical Museum (object numbers 20500-20778) is available for research. Advance notice is required.

The finding aid for the Dickinson papers can be found here.

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

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