Category: Medical Heritage Library

James Jackson’s Memoir of James Jackson, Jr.

By , January 16, 2019
First page of James Jackson's 1835 biography of his son, James Jackson, Jr.

First page of James Jackson’s 1835 biography of his son, James Jackson, Jr.

Center staff are currently working on a new finding aid for the James Jackson papers; Jackson was born October 3, 1777 in Newburyport, Massachusetts, to Jonathan Jackson (1743-1810) and Hannah Tracy Jackson. Before beginning his medical career, he worked as a clerk for his father who continued to work in the state government after he had been a representative of Massachusetts at the Continental Congress. Jackson taught school at Leicester Academy for a year in 1797. He received all of his degrees from Harvard University: his A.B in 1796 and M.D. in 1809. After establishing his own general practice, and while working at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Jackson was named the first professor of clinical medicine at Harvard Medical School. He was Hersey Professor of the Theory and Practice of Physic (1812-1836) and dean of the Medical School (1820-1821).

After earning his A.B. from Harvard in 1796, James Jackson first studied medicine in Salem under physician Edward Augustus Holyoke (1728-1829). Before completing his M.D., he moved to London and took a job as a surgeon’s dresser at St. Thomas’s Hospital; during his time in
London, Jackson paid particular attention to the emerging practice of vaccination. Jackson returned to Boston in 1800 and opened his own medical practice, which he continued until 1866. He developed expertise in vaccination and became one of the earliest people in America
to investigate the practice experimentally. In 1802, before finishing medical school, he was appointed physician to the Boston Dispensary. In 1803, he became a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, and in 1810 he helped to reorganize the Massachusetts Medical Society and to relocate Harvard Medical School from Cambridge to Boston. In 1810, Jackson began the process of founding Massachusetts General Hospital and Somerville Asylum with John Collins Warren. Jackson was the first physician of Massachusetts General Hospital and practiced there from 1817-1837.

Jackson had an extensive publishing career and Center staff were pleased to find that many of his titles had been digitized and were freely available in the Medical Heritage Library, including Jackson’s 1835 memoir of his son, A memoir of James Jackson, Jr., M.D. : with extracts from his letters to his father, and medical cases collected by him. James Jackson, Jr. had been studying medicine in Paris and returned to Boston to enter medical practice with his fater. Unfortunately, Jackson fell ill almost immediately upon his return to the United States and died before he could open his practice.

The memoir includes extracts from Jackson, Jr.’s letters home from Europe as well as lengthy “footnotes” added by Jackson and case notes from Jackson, Jr.’s study. The “footnotes” are almost conversational in nature, opening with something like an open letter to Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis, his son’s teacher in France, about why Jackson, Jr. had not taken some health advice Louis had given him.

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. 

Tour an “ultramodern” hospital in the year 1900.

By , April 6, 2015

QuarterCwithFHW_picOnly_009A Quarter of a Century with the Free Hospital for Women is a small picture book published in 1900, not long after the hospital had finished construction of its grand, new facility by a pond in Brookline, Massachusetts. The volume, held in the rare books collection at Harvard Medical School, Center for the History of Medicine, was recently digitized by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Archives and made available online via the Medical Heritage Library  It will be of special interest to students of the history of institutional architecture, and to those interested in the history of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The Free Hospital for Women is one of BWH’s organizational “grandmothers.”

QuarterCwithFHW_picOnly_002If you’ve ever wondered what a state-of-the-art hospital looked like a hundred plus years ago, flip through the photographs in this little book. See elegant arches and woodwork, gas lights, fireplaces, a grandfather clock, and Tiffany windows. There is a patient sitting room with a piano, a dining room with linen tablecloth and flowers, patient ward beds with gauzy white curtains, and a sitting porch with a view of Riverdale Park. All together the hospital seems more like a resort found in the Berkshires than anything resembling hospitals as we have come to know them in the 21st century.

QuarterCwithFHW_picOnly_011Amazingly, this beautiful facility was designed exclusively for poor women. From 1875 to 1919 those without means were taken care of by the FHW at no charge. By 1919 the hospital had become so successful at its core mission of treating the diseases of women that patients of all economic levels were eager to be admitted there and the by-laws were amended to allow some who could pay.

In 1966 the Free Hospital for Women and the Boston Lying-in, a local maternity hospital, merged to form the Boston Hospital for Women. In 1975, the Boston Hospital for Women merged with the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and the Robert B. Brigham Hospital. By 1980, all three hospitals had centralized operations and moved to one location in the Longwood area of Boston. The original FHW building was sold to a luxury condominium development company, but the enduring medical legacy of the Free Hospital for Women was reflected in the new name chosen for the combined institutions, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

From the MHL: “Seeing With a Better Eye”

The MHL was kind enough to extend an invitation to guest-post regarding my usage of the MHL in the preparation of The Second Book. In this post, then, I will try to describe The Second Book as best I can, so as to frame the significance of the MHL’s holdings and resources for my work, as well as to describe specifically how I use the MHL in my daily research. Okay, sometimes the research is more like “weekly” or even “biweekly” than daily. . .

The Second Book has a working title of “Truth, Objectivity, and Sight: An Intellectual History of the X-Ray in the U.S. 1896-1945.” Here is a short description taken from the prospectus:

Although historians of science and medicine have not ignored the X-ray, virtually no scholar has utilized an approach drawn from the history of ideas to account for the stunning impact of the X-ray across a huge number of domains, including but not limited to medical, scientific, legal, religious, domestic, and labor paradigms in fin-de-siècle American culture. Focusing in particular on the rise of two intellectual frameworks in late 19th c. America — somaticism (or the birth of the anatomoclinical method) and what Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison have termed ‘mechanical objectivity’ — the monograph shows how ideas about the meaning of the X-ray explain its astonishing impact, not simply on medicine and science, but on American society itself.

The book is currently under consideration by a university press, and the writing is just about at the halfway point (for a variety of reasons I believe and hope that the second half will come quicker and easier than the first). So, how does the MHL figure in my research for the book?

As I have remarked on several occasions, the MHL is nothing short of an embarrassment of riches for a 19th c. Americanist drawing primarily on the history of ideas. My chief interests in the movement of ideas about health, disease, and illness across social networks and the ways in which those ideas shape practice and action in mid-to-late 19th-early 20th c. U.S. coheres perfectly with a major strength of the MHL collections: 19th and early 20th c. holdings on medical journals and treatises. For example, in tracing the ways in which the emphasis on clinical sight (the “gaze,” if you like Foucault) converged with the rising emphasis on pathological anatomy, an obvious primary source is James Jackson Jr.’s memoirs of his education in Paris in the early 1830s. (For extensive scholarly discussion of this source and its significance, see John Harley Warner’s seminal book). In chapter 1 of the manuscript, I focus primarily on the stethoscope because, while the primary sense most associate with the stethoscope is that of hearing, hearing was merely a means to an end. As Jacalyn Duffin points out, Laennec himself wanted the stethoscope to help him look inside his patients, to “see with a better eye.” And the contexts in which scientific and medical practitioners desired and used the stethoscope support this notion. Following a close reading of Warner’s book, I wanted to examine Jackson’s memoirs to assess specifically the extent to which he links the importance of seeing pathological lesions (and clinically correlating with living patients) to the use of the stethoscope.

The MHL makes this analysis incredibly efficient. I began by simply running a Google search for “James Jackson physician memoirs.” The MHL has a new and improved Full Text Search in beta, but I would be lying if I said that I did not primarily rely on Google’s indexing power. I have been working in the MHL for at least 4-5 years, and my established workflow tends to begin with Google; it is difficult to break research habits, especially where, over time, I have begun to understand what phrases and combinations are likely to return results that feature sources from within the MHL or the larger Internet Archive.

The aforementioned Google search brings me to the MHL in hits number 4 and 5 in the search position:


Now, because I am intentionally looking for the source within the MHL, I am admittedly in a different position from many other Internet searchers; I am essentially using Google for the intended purpose of locating sources within the MHL. Once I am within the MHL, the “fun” really begins. First, I absolutely love the MHL interface itself. It is so easy to manipulate the size of the text, I find myself reading sources online with greater frequency, even though I am one who often prefers the physical text itself. Second, and related, I used to download PDFs from MHL, use optical character recognition technology to make the source full-text searchable, and find that for which I was looking. But the interface is so clean and easy to use, I simply use the full-text search online within the source itself. Searching for “stethoscop*” pulls up the following, with a pin marking the point in the text that is likely to be of interest (Note that using the asterisk matters, as the search engine will look for any potential word that begins with “stethoscope,” therein finding variations such as “stethoscopic” or “stethoscopes,” etc.):


By hovering the cursor over the pin, a lovely preview of the text pops up, enabling me to scan the hit quickly to discern whether it merits full read of the page. As is clear from the text itself, Jackson’s words reveal a fascinating convergence between the senses of hearing and sight in context of the stethoscope, both as to the patients he wishes to “see” and the use of stethoscopic sounds to map the interior of the chest cavity, in particular:


Although the subject of the book is the X-ray, I argue in it that we cannot really understand the ideas that help animate the social and cultural significance of the X-ray without apprehending ideas about truth, authenticity, and the construction of scientific knowledge that relate to 19th c. imaging techniques in general. Explaining how and why the stethoscope is really a kind of imaging device, and documenting this via the primary sources, is an important take for the beginning of the book, and the MHL is incredibly helpful in this regard.

Of course, this is just one example! I have used an analogous process hundreds of times in the course of my research, especially in some of the later chapters on which I have been working, which make extensive use of some of the amazing medico-legal sources held within the MHL collections. Because the middle chapters of the book document the movement of important ideas between expert and lay cultures, using the MHL as a pole from which to search for and calibrate useful sources drawn from lay and public cultures has also proven exceedingly helpful. But I will reserve discussion of this latter point for possible future posts!

Thoughts, comments, questions?

Contributed by Daniel Goldberg, an attorney, an intellectual historian of medicine, and a public health ethicist.  His history work focuses on the mid-to-late 19th early 20th c. U.S., with a focus on the history of pain and on the history of medical imaging.  He is working on a monograph about the first fifty years of X-ray usage in the U.S

From the MHL: Why Digital Collections, Why Now?

The Medical Heritage Library and its digitizing partners exist to promote and provide access to resources in the history of medicine. That history says much about who we are today—about how we practice medicine, about how we view the body, about the nature of embodied experience and what it means to be? Rare books and journals, but also more ephemeral items like pamphlets and even films are made available to the public without cost. But why digitize these items at all? Why not just leave them in the libraries of which they are a part? I’ve heard the question asked in a variety of ways and in different venues; frequently, it’s a well-meaning query about the value of brick-and-mortar institutions. And, as someone who works for such an institution, I can understand the sentiment. Even so, there are excellent reasons for digitizing our collections—and for doing it right now.

As Research Associate and Guest Curator, I spend every day surrounded by unique and hard to access historical material. The Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum, located in Cleveland, Ohio, has over 150,000 artifacts, an incredible rare book collection, and affiliation with both a medical library and a university library. When I teach the history of anatomy, I go to the Stecher Room and fetch Vesalius, or to the stacks downstairs and retrieve Gautier. When researching the history of reproduction for an exhibit, I can easily access and peruse William Hunter’s Gravid Uterus. I have, at my fingertips, a world of ideas. But it was not always so.

A few years ago, I took a position at a small university in Minnesota. One of the first hurdles I encountered as an eighteenth century historian of literature and medicine was a lack of primary sources. In the midst of turning dissertation chapters into articles, I suddenly found repeated and seemingly insurmountable obstacles between me and my sources, not just in retrieving them, but even in the search for them. My PhD had been built around those sources, and around the search engines of databases like Eighteenth Century Collections Online and for the first time I realized the apparent desert that existed beyond my alma mater’s generous holdings. In this, I was not alone.

Many researchers find themselves seriously handicapped by issues of accessibility. They struggle to surmount these difficulties in a variety of ways, including travel to other collections. I was, in fact, encouraged to do so by my institution—and yet, like many researchers, scholars, and even tenure-track faculty, I found the monetary resources very thin for such activities. Why not apply for travel funds from the libraries and collections themselves? I was lucky in receiving several travel grants, including one from the Bakken Museum and one from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (both contributing partners to the MHL). Yet, library collections are also under pressure financially; not every important collections can support researchers—and those that do cannot support all who apply. As academics, librarians, and curators, we pride ourselves on avenues of access, on the free circulation of information, on the democratic ability for all people to engage with history, especially the history of medicine. In practice, however, such things are more and more difficult to achieve. As a scholar, I had to rely on what I could find online in (usually frustrating) digitized book searches. Discovering the Internet Archive smoothed the way for continued research, and the Medical Heritage Library further supports this mission by specifically providing many thousands of works specifically in medical history. Why digitize collections? Because this is our medical heritage—and the digital is sometimes the only means of sharing it.

Let’s return, though, to the second question: why now? There is an urgency to these projects that many recognize, but fewer understand. Digitization, though sometimes perceived as a threat to existing collections, may also be the best means of saving them. The most obvious way this occurs is through the careful cataloguing, in print and image, of fragile history. There’s only so much we can do to preserve our collections; some have survived thousands of years, but the reality is that they will continue to degrade, to fade, to become unreadable. In my office at the Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry journal, we have a pair of brilliant black-and-white photos. They depict the inside of an excavation in Egypt, where columns are bright with art work. Those columns are now empty, blank, worn away by sand and wind that entered after opening the tomb. These photos are all that remain—and so it may be with some of our treasured artifacts today. Arguments abound that, of course, even the digital will degrade, and probably faster. It’s true, but the digital also provides us the opportunity to do something more: to disseminate.

People cannot come to a library or museum if they never hear about its existence. The Dittrick Museum is no exception. We have been called a “hidden gem” and a “best kept secret” in our own community. To raise awareness, we’ve been hosting events, inviting classes to join us, and renovating for a more user-friendly experience. But we’ve been working on the digital, too. Our archivist and photographer are working to add our collection to a searchable system, and I—with chief curator James Edmonson—have begun the grant-writing process for an ambitious digitization of artifact and story for an interactive display. Other museums and libraries are doing the same (the Wellcome Library and Collection is an excellent example—and not surprisingly, also a principal MHL contributor). By sharing our collections digitally we reach a larger audience. We attract new visitors. We build a community of like-minded people, of scholars and researchers and curious minds young and old. In a time of tight budgets, it’s ever more important to help the wider world see and understand the relevance of libraries and other collections. In sharing this history, as the Medical Heritage Library and partners have done, we also provide the means of preserving it.

Contributed by Brandy Schillace, PhD, a medical humanities scholar, author, and historian. She works as research associate and guest curator for the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum, Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Schillace also serves as managing editor for Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, an international anthropology journal of cross-cultural health researcher.

From the MHL: What Can We Learn from Hospital Reports?

Since becoming an MHL contributor in 2013, the Medical Center Archives of NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell has been steadily adding materials, funded by a series of “micro-grants” from the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) Digitization Grant Program.

I reported on materials digitized in our first micro-grant in my post here. In subsequent projects, we’ve focused on more specific topical materials. Among materials digitized in our second project were reports from several maternity and children’s hospitals:

• New York Asylum for Lying-In Women (merged with New York Infant Asylum in 1899)
• New York Infant Asylum (merged with Nursery and Child’s Hospital in 1909 to form New York Nursery and Child’s Hospital)
• Nursery and Child’s Hospital (merged with New York Infant Asylum in 1909 to form New York Nursery and Child’s Hospital)
• New York Nursery and Child’s Hospital (merged with New York Hospital in 1934)
• Manhattan Maternity & Dispensary (merged with New York Hospital in 1932 and became the NYH Department of Pediatrics)
• Lying-in Hospital of the City of New York

You can see that there are some complex administrative relationships between the various hospitals. All eventually became part of the New York Hospital, now NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.


From Annual Report – The Society of the Lying-in Hospital of the City of New York 1900

Reports from these hospitals form a chronicle of women’s health care, practices surrounding childbirth, and child care through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, documenting changes over time – but they are so much more than that.

I find them especially fascinating, as they paint a vivid picture of life in New York City in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They are a resource for demographic studies, presenting aggregate data on demographics such as the national origins of patients and the occupations of patients’ husbands. On this list of occupations from 1900, you’ll see occupations that no longer exist, such as “egg handler”. You can see the full list here and turn the pages for data on wages, number of living children, and more.


From New York Infant Asylum Annual Report 1872

The reports are a valuable resource for studying social history and treatment of immigrants and the poor. This statement from 1872 on the mission of the New York Infant Asylum also says much about attitudes toward women, sex, and the poor.

You can read the full statement here.

Some of the hospitals include reports of “cases visited” (such as this one from the Lying-In Hospital, 1914) that tell evocative stories of tenement life.


From Annual Report – The Society of the Lying-in Hospital of the City of New York 1914

Read more here!

We just began work on our third METRO micro-grant, and recently added the annual reports of the New York Hospital Westchester Division (formerly Bloomingdale Asylum for the Insane, then Bloomingdale Hospital). The reports, such as this one from 1943, present a picture of treatment of the mentally ill at that time.

Over the next six months, we’ll be adding annual reports from various departments, as well as several hospital publications. So please check back at our page!

Contributed by Lisa Mix, Head of the Medical Center Archives at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center since 2011.  She has worked in medical archives and libraries for most of her career.

Wellcome Library Begins Harvest of MHL Content for the UK MHL


American medical botany, being a collection of the native medicinal plants of the United States, containing their botanical history and chemical analysis, and properties and uses in medicine, diet and the arts, with coloured engravings .. (1817)

Dr Christy Henshaw, Digitisation Programme Manager for the Wellcome Library, recently announced that the Library has started to harvest Medical Heritage Library (MHL) content into the Wellcome digital library. Most of the MHL content – both UK-based and US/Canada-based – will be mirrored on the Wellcome Library website.

MHL collaborators are thrilled that the MHL content will be even more accessible to its global community of users. Unlike the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which holds copies of MHL metadata and points users to the digital objects in the Internet Archive (IA), the Wellcome Library is ingesting digital objects and metadata. The mirrored MHL content in the UK MHL provides a back up should there be any problems with MHL content in IA’s San Francisco-based repository.

The Wellcome is going slowly to begin with as it irons out various issues. There are currently 36 books available via the Wellcome player and it should be harvesting more content soon. The collection so far, largely from MHL collaborator Brandeis University, can be viewed here:

Catalog records for MHL-generated content include attribution of the contributing MHL collaborator in the “Note” field and Internet Archive (IA) digital object identifier in the “Reference number” field. This identifier can be used to trace the book back to the IA version that the Wellcome has harvested. Other metadata is drawn from the MARC records held by the IA.

For more on the Wellcome’s UK MHL initiative, see:

Medical Heritage Library digital objects now discoverable in DPLA

By , October 19, 2014

The Center is pleased to join with other Medical Heritage Library (MHL) collaborators in announcing that MHL holdings are now discoverable through the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

The Center for the History of Medicine is a founding member of the Medical Heritage Library, a specialized research collection stored in the Internet Archive, which currently includes more than 60,000 digital rare books, serials, audio and video recordings, and ephemera in the history of medicine, public health, biomedical sciences, and popular medicine from the medical special collections of 22 academic, special, and public libraries.

MHL materials have been selected through a rigorous process of curation by subject specialist librarians and archivists and through consultation with an advisory committee of scholars in the history of medicine, public health, gender studies, digital humanities, and related fields.  Items, selected for their educational and research value, extend from 1235 (Liber Aristotil[is] de nat[u]r[a] a[nima]li[u]m ag[res]tium [et] marino[rum]), to 2014 (The Grog Issue 40 2014) with the bulk of the materials dating from the 19th century.

“The rich history of medicine content curated by the MHL is available for the first time alongside collections like those from the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Smithsonian, and offers users a single access point to hundreds of thousands of scientific and history of science resources,” said DPLA Assistant Director for Content Amy Rudersdorf.

The collection is particularly deep in American and Western European medical publications in English, although more than a dozen languages are represented. Subjects include anatomy, dental medicine, surgery, public health, infectious diseases, forensics and legal medicine, gynecology, psychology, anatomy, therapeutics, obstetrics, neuroscience, alternative medicine, spirituality and demonology, diet and dress reform, tobacco, and homeopathy. The breadth of the collection is illustrated by these popular items: the United States Naval Bureau of Medical History’s audio oral history with Doctor Walter Burwell (1994) who served in the Pacific theatre during World War II and witnessed the first Japanese kamikaze attacks; History and medical description of the two-headed girl : sold by her agents for her special benefit, at 25 cents (1869)the first edition of Gray’s Anatomy (1858) (the single most-downloaded MHL text at more than 2,000 downloads annually), and a video collection of Hanna – Barbera Production Flintstones (1960) commercials for Winston cigarettes.

“As is clear from today’s headlines, science, health, and medicine have an impact on the daily lives of Americans,” said Scott H. Podolsky, chair of the MHL’s Scholarly Advisory Committee. “Vaccination, epidemics, antibiotics, and access to health care are only a few of the ongoing issues the history of which are well documented in the MHL. Partnering with the DPLA offers us unparalleled opportunities to reach new and underserved audiences, including scholars and students who don’t have access to special collections in their home institutions and the broader interested public.“

The MHL collection joins more than 7.6 million items available currently through DPLA. DPLA, an all-digital library that offers a single point of access to millions of items from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States, provides a generous array of interfaces into its collections. Users can browse and search by timeline, map, virtual bookshelf, and faceted search; save and share customized lists of items; explore digital exhibitions, and interact with DPLA-powered apps in its app library.

Robert Miller, Global Director of Books for the Internet Archive, noted, “Digitizing this collection has breathed new life into rare and unique texts that were previously only available in printed form. These items have already been downloaded over 3.7 million times. Combining a digital platform for access with curated content is a winner for the open knowledge movement.”

Creation of the MHL’s digital collection was funded by the Open Knowledge Commons, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities and by the contributions of many of its principal and content contributors. The MHL continues to seek new collaborators and content; among the contributions anticipated for 2015 are oral histories with women leaders in medicine, 19th century British monographs, and American monographs, 1865-1923. New content is searchable as it is deposited and indexed from the MHL website, the Internet Archive, and the DPLA.

About the Medical Heritage Library
The Medical Heritage Library (MHL), a digital curation collaborative among some of the world’s leading medical libraries, promotes free and open access to quality historical resources in medicine. Our goal is to provide the means by which readers and scholars across a multitude of disciplines can examine the interrelated nature of medicine and society, both to inform contemporary medicine and strengthen understanding of the world in which we live. The MHL’s growing collection of digitized medical rare books, pamphlets, journals, and films number in the tens of thousands, with representative works from each of the past six centuries. The MHL can be found at, on Facebook, and Twitter (@medicalheritage).

About DPLA
The Digital Public Library of America ( strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. Since launching in April 2013, it has aggregated over 7.6 million items from over 1,300 institutions. The DPLA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit.

About the Internet Archive
The Internet Archive ( is a top 200 Internet website with a mission to build a digital library of internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. By working with great content holders and libraries such as those above, we can together provide both storage of and access to treasures that can inform and educate the global community.

Medical Heritage Library Digitizes Ida Cannon’s “Social Work in Hospitals”


Cover of Cannon’s “Social Work in Hospitals.”

Medical social work was a burgeoning field in the early decades of the twentieth century; what might now be considered a ‘holistic approach’ to medicine — dealing with the patient’s social background, life experience, job, and so on — was beginning to be regarded as a necessary corollary to medical treatment.

Ida M. Cannon published her Social Work in Hospitals in 1913 which, with the benefit of hindsight, seems to be unfortunate timing; within a year for many of her reading audience, the question will be numbers of hospital beds, recovery facilities, and medical staff, not so much how they treat their patients in a social context. Cannon followed her brother, Walter Bradford, to Boston from the family home in Minnesota. She supplemented her nursing education in Boston at the School for Social Workers and went on to work with Dr. Richard C. Cabot at the Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1914, a year after the publication of her book, she was named Chief of Social Service at the hospital; she held the position for over thirty years.

In her book, Cannon gives a brief overview of the history of medical social work starting with religious communities and their historical role as supporters of the sick. She presents the social worker as a valuable adjunct to the physician, able to interact with the patient in different ways and supplement medical care with social assistance.

Follow this link to read Social Work in Hospitals.

As always, for more from the Medical Heritage Library, please visit our full collection!

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