Artifacts, artwork and ephemera from the Center for the History of Medicine’s Boston Medical Library and Warren Anatomical Museum collections highlight the “Backstory” section of the Autumn 2015 Harvard Medicine, entitled Voices. Complementing the magazine’s central theme, each historic piece focuses on aspects of human speech and the history of vocal health.
Featured from the Warren Anatomical Museum is a phrenological cast of the head of John Thelwall (1764-1834). Thelwall was an English professor of the science of elocution and a prominent member of the London Corresponding Society, which advocated for voting rights and government reform. In 1814, Thelwall published Results of experience in the treatment of cases of defective utterance, from deficiencies in the roof of the mouth, and other imperfections and mal-conformations of the organs of speech : with observations on cases of amentia, and tardy and imperfect developments of the faculties. The cast is part of the Warren Museum’s Boston Phrenological Society collection. In the Society’s A Catalogue of Phrenological Specimens Belonging to the Boston Phrenological Society (1835), the Thelwall cast was categorized under the faculty of “Language.”
The “Backstory” spotlights four historic items from the Boston Medical Library collection. Ephraim Cutter, Harvard Medical School Class of 1856, designed his own laryngoscope, based on the demonstrations of laryngoscopy pioneers Manuel Garcia and Johann Nepomuk Czermak. The device was manufactured by Cambridge, Massachusetts telescope lens maker Alvan Clark & Sons in 1859. The Library collection also includes a laryngoscope mirror designed by Czermak, who took the first endoscopic photograph. The article displays a drawing of the vocal tract by Medical School instructor in laryngology Franklin Henry Hooper, Class of 1877.
Also from the Boston Medical Library collection, the piece features the business card of Sarah Fuller, a noted 19th-century speech therapist. Fuller trained at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts and was the long-term principal of the Boston School of Deaf-Mutes. In 1890 Fuller gave Helen Keller her first speech lessons, using techniques she learned from Alexander Graham Bell. All four items were photographed for the Magazine, and the Hooper drawing is digitally displayed in the online version of the “Backstory.”
Artifact Photographs by John Soares.