Category: Current Exhibits and Events

Register now! World War I: Reflections at the Centennial on May 30

By , May 8, 2018


Plan of No. 22 General Hospital drawn by Paul Dudley White (1886-1973), September 6, 1916. From the Paul Dudley White papers, 1870s-1987.     H MS c36. Harvard Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.


The Center for the History of Medicine, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, in partnership with its co-sponsors the Harvard Medical School Civilian-Military Collaborative and the Ackerman Program on Medicine & Culture, is pleased to announce the upcoming event World War I: Reflections at the Centennial with speakers James A. Schafer, Ph.D, and Jeffrey S. Reznick, Ph.D.

James A. Schafer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Houston, will present “The Mobilization of American Medicine for the First World War,” an examination of the causes and effects of the rapid recruitment of doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel (such as volunteer ambulance drivers) during the War. Drawing from Harvard University and other Boston area examples, Professor Schafer will measure the scope and scale of medical mobilization, explain the motivations for doctors, nurses and medical personnel to mobilize, and explore the immediate effects of mobilization on the careers and lives of American doctors, nurses, and medical personnel.

Jeffrey S. Reznick, Ph.D., Chief of the History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health, will present “A Prisoner of the Great War and his Songs in Captivity,” an exploration of the period when Rudolf Helmut Sauter (1895-1977)—the artist, writer, and nephew of the novelist John Galsworthy—was an internee in Alexandra Palace camp, north London, and Frith Hill, Surrey. Drawing on collections of the NLM, Imperial War Museum, and University of Birmingham, among other archives and libraries, Dr. Reznick will reveal how Sauter’s experiences open a unique window onto the history of the Great War both as Sauter experienced it and as he subsequently sought to forget it like so many other surviving members of the “generation of 1914.”

The event will take place on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 in the Minot Room, Countway Library, from 5:00-6:30. Registration is required.  Please visit our EventBrite page to register.

Register Now! “A Contagious Cause: The Search for Cancer Viruses and the Growth of American Biomedicine” on April 24

By , April 3, 2018

The Center for the History of Medicine, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, invites you to join us for the lecture A Contagious Cause: The Search for Cancer Viruses and the Growth of American Biomedicine with Robin Wolfe Scheffler, Leo Marx Career Development Professor in History and Culture of Science and Technology at the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, MIT.

Throughout the twentieth century, few theories have caused more hope and frustration than the idea that cancer might be caused by a virus. This search for cancer viruses over successive generations of medical, scientific, and organizational advances serves as a lens through which we can understand the political ground upon which biology and medicine merged to form biomedicine in America and which enabled biologists to reimagine the nature of life in molecular terms.

The event will take place on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 in the Minot Room, Countway Library, from 6:00-7:00.  Registration is required.  Please visit our EventBrite page to register.


Rescheduled: Estes History of Medicine Lecture now on Tuesday, May 8

By , January 31, 2018

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to share the following announcement

The Boston Medical Library invites you to its
14th Annual J. Worth Estes, M.D. History of Medicine Lecture

The Patient as ‘Watch Bird’: Historical Perspectives on Patient’s Roles
in Health Care Quality Initiatives
presented by
Nancy Tomes, Ph.D.
SUNY Distinguished Professor of History, Stony Brook University

Tuesday, May 8, 2018
6:00 PM
Cannon Room/Room C
Harvard Medical School
210 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA

RSVP to Jillian Silverberg at 617-432-4807 or
See Eventbrite:

Oct. 17, 2017: 42nd Annual Joseph Garland Lecture “Measuring Value in Healthcare”

By , August 25, 2017

The Boston Medical Library presents:

Measuring Value in Healthcare

42nd Annual Garland Lecture

Peter J. Neumann, Sc.D.: Director of the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center & Professor of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine


Join us for Dr. Peter J. Neumann’s talk on the promises and pitfalls of using formal cost-effectiveness analysis to help the United States achieve better value for its health spending. Dr. Neumann, founder and director of the Cost-Effectiveness Registry, focuses his investigations on the use of comparative effectiveness research and cost-effectiveness analysis in health care decision making.


shutterstock_129463487Tuesday, October 17, 2017

5:30 PM

Amphitheater, Armenise Building
Harvard Medical School
210 Longwood Avenue, Boston MA 02115

To register, please contact the Boston Medical Library at or 617-432-5169.

Oct. 19, 2017: Going Crazy at Work: The History of Carbon Disulfide

By , August 25, 2017

Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education, McLean Hospital and the Center for the History of Medicine, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, present:

Colloquium on the History of Psychiatry and Medicine

“Going Crazy at Work: The History of Carbon Disulfide”

Paul Blanc, M.D: Professor of Medicine, University of California at San Francisco


The second in a series of four lectures given as the 2017 Colloquium on the History of Psychiatry and Medicine. The Colloquium offers an opportunity to clinicians, researchers, and historians interested in a historical perspective on their fields to discuss informally historical studies in progress.


Thursday, October 19, 2017
4:00-5:30 PM

Lahey Room, fifth floor
Countway Library of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
10 Shattuck Street, Boston MA 02115

Free and open to the public.

For further information contact David G. Satin, M.D., Colloquium Director, phone/fax 617-332-0032, e-mail



Announcing a new exhibit on the history of women at Harvard Medical School

By , March 7, 2017

A Brief History of Women at Harvard Medical School

“A Brief History of Women at Harvard Medical School” is now on display on Countway Library’s 2nd floor next to the Joint Committee on the Status of Women library collection.

The exhibit, curated by Joan Ilacqua, Project Archivist for the Archives for Women in Medicine, explores the history of women in medicine at Harvard Medical School. It begins with the story of Harriot Kezia Hunt, Harvard’s first woman applicant, and follows the struggles and triumphs of Harvard Medical School’s first women instructors, researchers, professors, and students, as well as the creation of the Joint Committee on the Status of Women and the Archives for Women in Medicine.

An extended digital version of the exhibit is available via OnView.

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. Interested in learning more? Visit or contact Project Archivist Joan Ilacqua.


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

By , February 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Exhibit Highlights Harvard’s History with Legal Medicine

By , January 6, 2016


Aftermath of the Summer Street Bridge Disaster, 1916

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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