William T. Bovie Papers Open to Research

By , December 8, 2017

William T. Bovie

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the William T. Bovie papers, 1890-1953 (inclusive). Bovie earned a Ph.D. in plant physiology from Harvard University in 1914, moved to the Harvard Cancer Commission as a research fellow, and in 1920 became Assistant Professor of Biophysics. While at Harvard, Bovie developed his electrosurgical device, a scalpel that could cut and seal using the effects of high frequency current, which minimized blood loss, infection, and tissue damage. This work was done in collaboration with Harvey Cushing, Surgeon-in-Chief at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. Bovie later taught at Northwestern University and Colby College, and worked in the Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1920.

William T. Bovie Bookplate

The papers are the product of Bovie’s activities as biophysicist, researcher and author, and professor. The papers contain records from Bovie’s research activities, lecture notes from courses in biophysics and social technology given by him at Harvard University and Northwestern University, and speeches on a variety of topics given to public audiences and professional societies. The collection also contains collected films, drafts and notes related to his professional writings, and personal correspondence and biographical records.

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

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

Leslie Silverman Papers Open to Research

By , December 8, 2017
Leslie Silverman

Leslie Silverman

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the Leslie Silverman papers, 1920-1967 (inclusive). Leslie Silverman (1914-1966), was an engineer specializing in air pollution and industrial hygiene. At Harvard School of Public Health he was Professor of Engineering in Environmental Hygiene, and Head of the Department of Industrial Hygiene (1961-1966). While a student at Harvard in the Graduate School of Engineering, Silverman was a Gordon McKay Scholar and Research Fellow. At the Harvard School of Public Health, he was appointed Assistant Professor (1945), Associate Professor (1948), and Professor (1958), and succeeded Philip Drinker as Head of the Department of Industrial Hygiene (1961). He was the Director of the Radiological Hygiene program and the Harvard Air Cleaning Laboratory at Harvard School of Public Health. During World War II, Silverman worked with Drinker and his brother Cecil Drinker on the development of the L-12 aviation oxygen supply mask, as well as on chemical warfare masks. After the end of World War II, he worked on research related to atomic power and served on the Statutory Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, the principle safety advisor to the Atomic Energy Commission. Silverman also worked as a consulting engineer, on issues regarding air pollution control, industrial hygiene, and industrial ventilation.

Leslie Silverman and Philip Drinker

Leslie Silverman and Philip Drinker

The Leslie Silverman papers, 1920-1967, are the product of his activities as a consultant, researcher, and Harvard School of Public Health faculty member. The papers include records from Silverman’s work as a consultant, records related to his patent applications, and his professional writings on topics in air pollution and industrial hygiene. The collection also contains records related his involvement with national committees and his attendance at professional conferences, subject files and publications related to his research interests, as well as personal correspondence and biographical records.

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

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

Zerka T. Moreno papers are open for research

By , December 6, 2017

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the Zerka T. Moreno papers, 1930-2010 (inclusive), 1957-2000 (bulk) to research.

0004864_refBorn in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on 1917 June 13, Zerka T. (Toeman) Moreno attended secondary school in the Netherlands before relocating to London, England, in 1932, where she attended technical school. At that time, she planned to become an artist or fashion designer, with a special interest in designing for the stage. Moreno moved to the United States in 1939, shortly after the beginning of World War II, and in 1941, arranged for her sister to move to Beacon, New York, for treatment at the Beacon Hill Sanatorium with J. L. (Jacob Levy) Moreno (1889-1974). That same year, Zerka T. Moreno became interested in J.L. Moreno’s study of psychodrama and group psychotherapy, and began studying under him, acting as his private secretary to earn her scholarship. When J.L. Moreno opened the Sociometric Institute in New York City, she became his research assistant and moved to work at the Institute (which was later renamed the Moreno Institute, and eventually relocated back to Beacon). Zerka T. Moreno continued to develop as a leader of group psychotherapy workshops and instructor, and worked directly alongside J.L. Moreno throughout the latter decades of his life.

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, and sociometry. During the 1950s, both Zerka and J.L. Moreno served as adjunct professors at New York University, teaching courses about psychodrama. 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. With Merlyn S. Pitzele (1911-1995), she continued to attend to patients and offer teaching sessions in Beacon and New York City as well as countless American and international locations. In 1996, she moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, and in 2013, after breaking a hip, moved into a nursing home in 2013 in Rockville, Maryland. She continued to see patients from her bed at the nursing home until shortly before her death.

The collection reflects Moreno’s efforts to lead group psychotherapy sessions and provide instruction in the field of psychodrama. Records include workshop and training records, collected writings and publications, professional activities records, correspondence, personal papers, as well as records pertaining to the management of the Moreno Institute.

The finding aid for the Zerka T. Moreno papers can be found: http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/primo?id=med00327.

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

Finding One’s Path on the Road of Research: An Intern’s Journey

By , December 5, 2017

Nina Rodwin, UMass Boston Public History Student

Nina Rodwin is a second-year UMass Boston public history graduate student. Her interest is late 19th-century American history, with a specific focus on women’s history and medical history.  She is currently an intern at the Center for the History of Medicine.

When I started my internship at Harvard’s Countway Library of Medicine, my project adviser, Joan Ilacqua, project archivist for the Archives for Women in Medicine, and I decided to investigate digitized journals between 1900 and 1920 from the Medical Heritage Library’s State Medical Society Journals project to uncover the effects of the 1910 Flexner Report on women’s medical education. The goal of the project was to create a digital exhibit about the state of medical education before and after the Flexner Report to better understand how women medical students and physicians were influenced by Flexner’s recommendations. However, as I conducted my research, I found that this topic connected to multiple issues beyond the question of women’s education in the medical field. These new avenues opened the exhibit to larger questions regarding sex, class, gender, and race during the early 20th century.

In 1908, Professor Abraham Flexner was hired by the Council on Medical Education, (a branch of the American Medical Association) to travel to each American medical school and evaluate the overall institution; from  curriculum, to the number of faculty, to the condition of laboratories and libraries. Flexner’s findings were unnerving and the quality of medical schools varied wildly. Flexner recommended that schools with financial means should emulate the quality of education seen at Johns Hopkins University, one of the first medical schools affiliated with a teaching hospital that also required laboratory experience for all its students. Flexner strongly recommended that schools which could not afford such expensive upgrades be closed.

Modern analysis of the Flexner report shows that his decisions meant that most women’s and Black medical schools were closed, as these institutions often had fewer funds. While medical students in the early 20th century were more likely to learn the latest medical techniques from prestigious institutions, many women and Black medical students were barred from these opportunities, as many schools (including Harvard) openly refused to admit them or admitted them in minuscule numbers. When I began this project, I assumed that these issues would be reflected and discussed in the state medical journals of the time.

I imagined discovering blustering editorials, where the authors would be offended at the very the idea of women entering the medical field. However, I struggled to find any editorial that even mentioned women, yet alone any that excoriated them for being in the field. I found many articles and editorials that dryly reported the progress of medical education and criticized the Flexner Report for its negative conclusions, but none discussed what these changes would mean for women medical students.

Finding little evidence connecting the Flexner Report to women’s education in medical schools was particularly important– it demonstrated that many physicians in the early 20th century were no longer outraged by the idea of women practicing medicine. The research showed that the question for women physicians in the early 20th century was not a debate surrounding their abilities or rights to practice medicine, but was rather a debate surrounding which kinds of medical fields were best suited for women.

The Woman’s Medical Journal, Vol. XV, No. 4. April 1905.

In fact, women physicians during the early 1900s went to great efforts to prove sex discrimination was a relic of the past. This belief however, was often countered by their own experiences, as seen in editorials from The Woman’s Medical Journal. These editorials were especially interesting when compared with editorials from state medical journals, as both used cultural ideas about women, motherhood, and women’s natural abilities to argue for or against women in certain fields. As my research progressed, I was especially drawn to the differences between the Women’s Medical Journal (WMJ) and the Pennsylvania Medical Journal. (PMJ) While both journals contained medical articles, the WMJ also had a social justice slant, advocating for women’s medical education across the world, endorsing a woman’s right to vote, and demonstrating that women physicians were just as capable as their male counterparts. Both journals portrayed women in the medical field, but PMJ often emphasized traditional ideas about a “women’s place.” For example, there are many articles in the PMJ, including this toast given in 1907, about the self-sacrificing wives of male physicians, but no mention of the struggle women physicians faced balancing their social, professional and domestic roles.

Caption from “The Doctor’s Wife,” a speech given by H.J. Bell, MD in 1907.

My research found that the fields of anesthesiology and lab work were seen as ideal place for women physicians. Public health was especially popular for women physicians, as its focus on the household, parenting, dieting, and children’s health were considered extensions of a woman’s natural role as caretaker and mother. However, white women physicians in the field of public health in the early 20th century often advocated for eugenic practices, including limiting marriages to those considered “fit” and the sterilization of those considered “unfit.” So as white women advocated for equality in the medical field, they also encouraged policies that targeted and discriminated women from marginalized groups. While this topic is quite disturbing, I have found this section of my research the most interesting, as the concepts advocating for White Supremacy are very similar both in the early 20th century and today.

I believe that making historical connections to modern events can be a great tool to help connect today’s audiences to the past. The issue of discrimination against women in the workplace is still very relevant today, especially in the medical field. The decisions made by the Flexner Report still affect medical education today. Although women’s enrollment in medical schools was almost evenly split with men in 2016, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and rates of minority student enrollment has increased over time, Latino and Black students only comprise 20% of incoming medical students nationwide although these statistics do not break down minority applicants by gender.  Furthermore, women in the workforce still struggle with societal expectations of motherhood and marriage, making the balance between their personal lives and professional lives much harder. Although my research evolved from a project specifically on the Flexner Report to an analysis of women in medicine in the early 20th century, I hope my forthcoming exhibit can shed light on how far women have come, while reminding my audience that many obstacles remain. I look forward to completing the internship and presenting my findings.



Warren Museum Closed 11/23 and 11/24

By , November 22, 2017

Eagle skeleton prepared by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Warren Anatomical Museum in the Countway Library of Medicine

The Warren Museum Exhibition Gallery on the 5th floor of the Countway Library of Medicine will be closed Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. The entire Countway, including the Warren Museum, will reopen on Monday, 11/27. More about the Museum’s and Library’s hours can be found on the Countway website.


Staff Finds: Sexual Harassment Policy Documents

By , November 21, 2017

SEXUAL HARASSMENT is not a compliment. It’s offensive and illegal. Joint Committee on the Status of Women, 1984.

In October, Simmons College’s freshman seminar, “What the Health is Going on in Boston?” led by Professor John Lowe, came to visit the Center for the History of Medicine. Project Archivist for the Archives for Women in Medicine, Joan Ilacqua, and Reference Archivist, Jessica Murphy, exhibited materials from Archives for Women in Medicine collections and led a discussion about gender in academic medicine.

In addition to documents from the Myrtelle Canavan papers (including enlarged photographs of “Brains of Feebleminded and Criminalist Persons”), and the Grete Bibring papersJessica presented items from the E. Tessa Hedley-Whyte papers highlighting Dr. Hedley-Whyte’s work on a committee to explore sexual harassment at Harvard Medical School.

Among the documents the committee referenced were the 1989 Faculty of Arts and Sciences policy on sexual harassment (available to view via OnView) and a pamphlet created by the Joint Committee on the Status of Women entitled “SEXUAL HARASSMENT is not a compliment. It’s offensive and illegal.”




The pamphlet includes a note from the Longwood Campus deans, including Daniel C. Tosteson, Dean of Harvard Medical School, Paul Goldhaber, Dean of Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Harvey V. Fineberg, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, stating:

“Sexual harassment is unacceptable. It is discriminatory and unlawful. It can cause personal anguish as well as career damage. It is an assault upon an individual’s dignity, and it corrupts the academic merit system.”

The pamphlet cites examples of harassment, including:

My fellow workers leave pornographic pictures at my lab bench. It has gotten to the point that I dread going to work.”

After seeing a copy of ‘Gay Community News’ on my desk, a couple of people in my department continually made sexually explicit comments and left articles about AIDS in my mailbox.”

At a weekly staff meeting, my chairman pointed to my pregnant belly and said, ‘I hope you’ll be as productive at work as you’ve been in your extra-curricular activities.”

The pamphlet also lays out steps a person can take if they have been harassed, as well as suggested guidelines for people in positions of authority. The entire pamphlet is available via OnViewInformation on Harvard Medical School’s current Sexual and Gender based Harassment Policy is available here.

For more information about this collection, or if you are interested in bringing your class to the Center for the History of Medicine, contact Public Services staff.

Rare Haitian Reports Donated and Digitized For Access

By , November 10, 2017

One of the four reports from the PISP Project, now digitized and available through the Internet Archive.

The Center for the History of Medicine was recently gifted two sets of the four-volume report, “Projet Intègre de Santé et de Population”, which was co-sponsored by the Division d’Hygiène Familiale of the Ministère de Santé Publique et de Population and the Harvard School of Public Health (now the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health), and published in Port au Prince, Haiti between 1978 and 1982.

The reports follow three defined rural populations in Haiti (approximately 30,000 people) from 1974-1978, and include family census forms and vital sign data recorded by both resident home visitors and trained community health workers. The reports are often sought after for reference, although very few volumes exist and all have yet to be translated from the original French.

The first set of reports were donated to the Center by Dr. Gretchen Berggren as part of the Gretchen Glode and Warren L. Berggren Papers, 1967-2010 (inclusive). Gretchen and her late husband Warren launched groundbreaking community health programs in several countries in the developing world, most particularly in Haiti at the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles. Both have been affiliated with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Warren was an associate professor of tropical public health and population sciences from 1972 to 1981, and Gretchen was affiliated with the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies from 1974 to 1989.

A second set of the reports were later donated to the Center for the History of Medicine by Dr. Henry Perry (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health), in recognition of their connection to the Berggrens and the Harvard Chan community.

These four volumes are indeed rare. Prior to the Center’s receipt of the complete sets, only two of the four volumes were available at other institutions. Additionally, the Haitian printing press involved in their distribution had long ago been destroyed during an earthquake. After receiving the reports, the Center quickly cataloged them and financed their digitization, making them available electronically through the Internet Archive.

The reports can now be accessed through the following sources:

  1. Demographie et fecondite. Port-au-Prince, Haiti : Les éditions Fardin, [1978?]. (Link to digital version)
  2. Recherches sur la medecine traditonnelle : dans l’aire du projet integre de sante et de population du district sanitaire de Petit-Goave. [Haiti] : Departement de la santé publique et de la population, Division d’hygiène familiale, 1979. (Link to digital version)
  3. Enquete sur la nutriton et la sante. Port-au-Prince, Haiti : Les Ateliers Fardin, [1979?]. (Link to digital version)
  4. Administration et organisation d’un programme communautaire de sante? et de population en milieu rural. Port-au-Prince, Haiti : Les Ateliers Fardin, 1982. (Link to digital version)


Warren Museum Exhibition Gallery Closing at 3:00 pm on Friday, November 3rd.

By , October 31, 2017

The Warren Anatomical Museum Exhibition Gallery is closing early on Friday, November 3rd. There will be no public admittance after 3:00 pm. This coincides with the larger closing of the Countway Library of Medicine. As usual, there will be no access to the Gallery on Saturday or Sunday.

More information about visiting the Warren Museum Exhibition Gallery can be found on the Center for the History of Medicine website.


Skull and life mask of Phineas Gage, Warren Anatomical Museum, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

The Paul Charles Zamecnik papers are open for research

By , October 31, 2017

0004657_drefThe Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the Paul Charles Zamecnik papers, 1910-2011 (inclusive), 1931-2009 (bulk). Zamecnik (1912-2009) was a microbiologist and molecular biologist whose research spanned eight decades. Zamecnik is known for his work on protein synthesis and the discovery of transfer RNA, accomplished with colleagues Mahlon Hoagland (1921-2009) and Mary Louise Stephenson (1921-2009). Later in his career, he discovered antisense oligonucleotides and explored their therapeutic potential, and was the first to publish evidence for the existence of microRNA.

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire (1933) and the Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (1936), Zamecnik interned at the Collis P. Huntington Memorial Hospital and then at Cleveland, Ohio’s University Hospitals. Zamecnik was a fellow at the Carlsberg Laboratories, Copenhagen, Denmark, but returned to the work at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, New York, New York, after the 1940 Nazi invasion of Denmark. He held a teaching position at Harvard Medical School during the war, and was then given his own laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital focusing on the mechanisms of protein synthesis. In 1956, Zamecnik became the Collis P. Huntington Professor of Oncologic Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and continued his research at Massachusetts General Hospital until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 1979. At that time, he moved his research laboratory to the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research, where he remained until 1997 when that foundation was absorbed by the University of Massachusetts. Zamecnik returned to Massachusetts General Hospital’s Cancer Center as a Senior Scientist, where he continued to work until weeks prior to his death in 2009. In 1990, he cofounded Hybridon, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, whose work focused on the development of antisense drugs; this company merged with Idera Pharmaceuticals in 2004. In 2009, Zamecnik cofounded Zata Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Worcester, Massachusetts, with David Tabatadze; this company continues to explore the therapeutic possibilities of antisense oligonucleotides.


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

The papers are the product of Zamecnik’s activities as a microbiologist and molecular biologist, researcher, author, professor, and administrator. The papers contain: Zamecnik’s research records, including those relating to transfer RNA and antisense oligonucleotides; professional correspondence, writings and publications records; records from talks, symposia, presentations, and conferences Zamecnik attended; Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital records; and photographs and slides relating to his research, teachings and presentations, and travel.

The finding aid for the Zamecnik papers can be found: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HMS.Count:med00256 .

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

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