Posts tagged: John Collins Warren

Staff Finds: Richard Warren in the Warren Museum

By , March 22, 2018
Richard Warren

Richard Warren

While processing the records from the Office of the Dean from the tenure of George Packer Berry, Center staff came across images, below, of Richard Warren in the Warren Anatomical Museum. The images were taken as a part of the Program for Harvard Medicine, a fundraising initiative undertaken in the early 1960s. Given this time period, the images show the Warren Museum both as it was nearing the end of its primarily exhibition function at Harvard Medical School, and before repeated reductions in space allotment narrowed the museum from its original space in the top three floors of Building A (now Gordon Hall).

Richard Warren (1907-1999), M.D., 1934, Harvard Medical School, was a Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, specializing in cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders. He was a nephew of John Warren (1874-1928), a professor in the Anatomy Department at Harvard Medical School. Other ancestors include John Warren (1753-1815), Revolutionary War surgeon and a founder of Harvard Medical School, and John Collins Warren (1778-1856), Hersey Professor of Anatomy and Surgery and Dean of Harvard Medical School, whose personal collection of anatomical specimens, along with an endowment of $5,000 in railroad stock, helped establish the Warren Anatomical Museum. Richard Warren donated books, manuscripts, and artifacts from his family to the Boston Medical Library and Harvard Medical School. After retiring from medicine, Warren pursued the study of conifers at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, which houses records related to his work.

The finding aid for the Office of the Dean of Harvard Medical School can be found here.

The finding aid for the Warren Anatomical Museum records can be found here.

The Center for the History of Medicine also holds the Richard Warren papers.

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

New Exhibit Charts the History of Dissection at Harvard Medical School

By , May 1, 2014

Robert M. Green performing an anatomical dissection  by Thomas Woolstone Dixon, circa 1929. Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine [0002651]

Robert M. Green demonstrating an anatomical dissection by Thomas Woolstone Dixon, circa 1929. Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Why study human anatomy?  To John Hall, writing his poem An Historicall Expostulation, in 1565, it was the chief of medical arts which had to be mastered “if ye will cure well anything.”  Anatomy was one of the three first areas of medical study at Harvard, and John Warren, the first member of the faculty, was a renowned anatomist and surgeon.  And though Oliver Wendell Holmes could maintain by 1861, that “human anatomy may be considered an almost exhausted science.  From time to time some small organ which had escaped earlier observers has been pointed out… but some of our best anatomical works are those which have been classic for many generations,” anatomy through dissection continued to be studied and taught to first-year medical students, and it still holds a place in the modern curriculum today.  The Nature of Every Member: an Anatomy of Dissection at Harvard, a new exhibit from the Center for the History of Medicine, is now open on the first floor of the Countway Library.  It chronicles the long and distinguished history of the study and teaching of human anatomy through dissection, moving from the very foundation of the Medical School to the present day.  Echoing the changes in teaching human dissection are the developments in anatomical legislation, as the illicit practice of grave-robbing for dissection gives way to Thomas Dwight’s 1896 formulation that cadavers for study are only “loaned to science”,  paving the way for the legal instruments of anatomical gift in common use today.

Notable items in the exhibit include Ezekiel Hersey’s 1770 will, establishing the Hersey Professorship of Anatomy at Harvard with John Warren’s notes from his earliest anatomical lectures at the school; John Collins Warren’s 1831 Massachusetts legislation which first legalized the use of cadavers for medical study; Oliver Wendell Holmes’ own copy of the first edition of Gray’s Anatomy; gross anatomy course descriptions and examinations; notes on lectures and dissection work by student Ralph Clinton Larrabee (Class of 1897); a 1951 report outlining the need for an electron microscope for anatomical research; a pocket kit of dissection tools owned by George Thomas Perkins, a student in the 1850s; and reproductions of several vivid photographs of life at the Medical School by Thomas Woolstone Dixon (Class of 1929), including the depiction of Robert M. Green at work shown above.   A rare colored lithograph from 1840, “The Dissecting Room,” depicts English anatomist William Hunter teaching dissection and gives some impression of what early conditions might have been like at Harvard.

T. C. Wilson, after Thomas Rowlandson The dissecting room, from the original by Rowlandson, in the possession of William Tiffin Illife, Esqr. : colored lithograph (circa 1840). Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine [0002980]

T. C. Wilson, after Thomas Rowlandson.
The dissecting room, from the original by Rowlandson, in the possession of William Tiffin Illife, Esqr. : colored lithograph (circa 1840). Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine [0002980]

The Nature of Every Member, which will be on display through the end of 2014, was designed to complement Body of Knowledge: a History of Anatomy (in 3 Parts) which is currently on exhibit at the Collection of Historic Scientific Instruments on the Cambridge campus and incorporates many anatomical specimens, models, rare books, prints, and photographs from the library and museum collections at the Center for the History of Medicine.

For additional information on the exhibit, contact the Center at or 617.432.2170.





Medical Heritage Library Increases Warren Museum Accessibility

By , January 23, 2013

Gallery of the Warren Anatomical Museum (1906-1999), The Warren Anatomical Museum of Harvard Medical School and the Arrangement of its Collection, 1911, Warren Anatomical Museum in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Recently digitized works in the Medical Heritage Library have created a window into the historical and modern collections of Harvard Medical School’s Warren Anatomical Museum. Digital surrogates of six books and pamphlets, published between 1835 and 1911, have been made available through the efforts of the Center for the History of Medicine and the National Library of Medicine.

J. B. S. Jackson’s 1870 Descriptive Catalogue of the Warren Anatomical Museum describes the first 3,681 cases of the Warren Anatomical Museum. Jackson was the Museum’s first curator, serving from 1847 to his death in 1879.

Jackson was also curator of the Boston Society for Medical Improvement’s pathological cabinet and authored their 1847 A Descriptive Catalogue of the Anatomical Museum of the Boston Society for Medical Improvement. That same year the Boston Society re-issued the case histories of their cabinet’s anatomical anomalies in A Descriptive Catalogue of the Monstrosities in the Cabinet of the Boston Society of Medical Improvement. Circa 1870 the Boston Society donated its museum to Harvard Medical School and the two Jackson curated collections were merged together into the Warren Museum.

The oldest published artifact catalogue associated with the Warren Anatomical Museum is the 1835 A Catalogue of Phrenological Specimens, belonging to the Boston Phrenological Society. John Collins Warren purchased the Boston Phrenological Society’s collection after the Society became defunct and donated the collection of plaster casts to the Medical School with the rest of his eponymous museum in 1847. The Society’s collection is also detailed in the Warren Museum’s 1870 published catalogue.

The Warren Museum’s second curator, William Fiske Whitney, contributed two pamphlets to the museum’s published legacy. The first is the 1910 Bulletin of the Warren Anatomical Museum. The Bulletin was meant to be an ongoing series dedicated to different areas of the museum’s collection but funding was only secured for the first volume. Whitney also authored the 1911 The Warren Anatomical Museum of the Harvard Medical School and the Arrangement of its Collection. The short work illuminates the museum’s collection after its installation in the top three floors of the Medical School’s Building A, the focal point of school’s newly completed campus in 1906. Like Jackson, Whitney served the Warren Museum until his death in 1921.

Questions about the historical catalogues or the Warren Anatomical Museum’s collection can be sent to

Warren Museum medical case featured in Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery

By , September 17, 2012

Still of Charles Lowell CT scan, 2009, WAM 07877, Warren Anatomical Museum, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

In the September 5th edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, William H. and Johanna A. Harris Professor of Orthopedic Surgery James H. Herndon, M.D. published an orthopedic and historical analysis of one of the Warren Museum’s most compelling medical cases, the sacrum, pelvis and femur upper extremities of an early 19th century Maine resident named Charles Lowell. Lowell is recognized as MGH’s first orthopedic case and his accident and subsequent malpractice claims are cited as one of earliest, well-published medical trials in the Unites States.

On September 7, 1821 Lowell was thrown from his horse in Lubec, Maine, dislocating his left hip. His two physicians, John Faxon and Micajah Hawkes, believed they successful reduced the hip but when Hawkes visited Lowell 4-6 weeks later, he found that the injury persisted. Lowell traveled to the newly found Massachusetts General Hospital and its chief surgeon [and Warren Museum founder] John Collins Warren for relief. After much effort, Warren was unable to reduce the injury. Lowell left Boston vowing to sue Faxon and Hawkes for failing to repair his hip.

Lowell vs. Faxon and Hawkes went through three trials. In June 1822 a jury found for Lowell. An appeal in September ended in a hung jury. The final trial in 1824 was the most involved, with many physicians, including John Collins Warren testifying. Warren later published his remarks in an explanatory pamphlet. The case ended in the physicians’ favor. As the specifics of his injury proved the crux of the trial, Lowell was determined to have a postmortem done and upon his 1858 death Jonathan Mason Warren [John Collins Warren’s son] sent a colleague to perform the autopsy, bringing the hip back to Boston with family consent for further examination. This was the last orthopedic analysis done of Lowell’s injury – until Herndon’s 2010 study.

Lowell’s hip preparation was transferred to the Warren Museum by J. Collins Warren [John Collins Warren’s grandson] and accessioned into the collection circa 1885. In 2010 James Herndon, with

Historical photograph of Lowell hip preparation, 1858-1915, WAM 07877, Warren Anatomical Museum, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

permission from the Museum, took radiographs and a CT scan of Lowell’s hip. His findings, entitled  An Orthopaedic Case Contributed Substantially to the First Malpractice Crisis in the United States in the Nineteenth Century, have been published in Volume 94-A, Number 17 of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. Dr. Herndon generously donated copies of the scans and radiographs to the Warren Museum to benefit future researchers.

The Charles Lowell pelvis and femur preparation can be found exhibited in the Warren Museum Exhibition Gallery on the 5th floor of the Countway Library of Medicine on the Harvard Medical School campus. More information on visiting the Gallery can be found here.

Warren Museum phrenology cast on loan to MGH’s Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation

By , April 18, 2012
The Warren Anatomical Museum has loaned a death mask of pianist and composer Carl Maria von Weber to the Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital. The cast is part of the neuroscience and neurosurgery display on the first floor of the newly-opened three story museum on Cambridge Street, adjacent to the hospital. The death mask was collected by the Boston Phrenological Society between 1832 – 1835, and added to the Johann Gaspar Spurzheim cabinet of head, skull, and face casts. The Boston Society was defunct by 1847 and MGH co-founder, Warren Museum founder, and Harvard Medical School anatomist John Collins Warren purchased the debt of the organization in exchange for its phrenological cabinet. Warren then donated the collection to his eponymous museum at HMS.

In 1921, Warren’s grandson, J. Collins Warren, wrote a history of the collection and the Boston Phrenological Society, The collection of the Boston Phrenological Society — A retrospect.

The Society also published a 1935 catalog entitled A Catalogue of Phrenological Specimens. According to that catalog, the von Weber cast was collected to demonstrate large areas of “Time, Tune, Ideality, and Wonder.”

The new Russell Museum will be opening its doors April 17, 2012. Admission is free and it’s accessible to the public via a street level entrance on Cambridge Street in Boston.

The phrenology cast was featured in a slideshow on marking the Museum’s opening.

Owners and Donors: new rare book exhibit at Countway Library

By , March 20, 2012

Arthur Orton, the Tichborne Claimant, in 1873, Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Owners and Donors
Building the Rare Book Collection at the Countway Library of Medicine


The Countway Library is built from gifts—gifts large and small, made over many years.  It was the generosity of Sanda Countway in 1958 which provided over three million dollars for a building and allowed Harvard Medical School and the Boston Medical Library to ally their collections, forming the largest academic biomedical library in the country.  But aside from stone and mortar, the collections of the Countway reflect a tradition of generosity spanning nearly two hundred years.  Drs. James Jackson, John Collins Warren, and other members of Harvard’s early faculty began to donate books to form a medical library for the students in 1816.  In 1889, just a few years after the formation of the Boston Medical Library, Oliver Wendell Holmes contributed his personal collection of over 900 rare medical works, laying the cornerstone for a remarkable historical collection.

Such generosity is not just a thing of the past, though, and extraordinary gifts continue to complement the already vast array of books, manuscripts, prints, photographs, artwork, artifacts, instruments, and specimens preserved in the collections of the library, archives, and museum here at the Center for the History of Medicine.  Owners and Donors: Building the Rare Book Collection at the Countway Library of Medicine honors just a few of the individual men and women—Drs. Leona Baumgartner, John Warren, Jacob James Longacre, and Richard Van Praagh, and the Kennedy and Ohl families—who have contributed collections or even single items to enhance the rare book collections here at the Countway over the years.   The exhibit also highlights a few of the library’s special collections—some familiar, such as the anatomical library of Friedrich Tiedemann, and some almost unknown, such as the witchcraft books of Christian Deetjen, the Boston Medical Library’s collection of the works of Sir William Osler, and the John Rathbone Oliver Criminological Collection with its remarkable assortment of ephemera concerning the Tichborne Claimant legal case of the 1870s—as well as some of the funds and gifts which continue to allow for new acquisitions, making the rare book holdings of the Countway among the greatest in the world.

Owners and Donors is  on display now through December in the exhibit space on lower level 2 of the Countway, adjoining the Center for the History of Medicine.  For further information, contact the Center at or 617-432-2170.

Processing of Warren Museum Records Completed

By , September 7, 2011

John Collins Warren

The Center is pleased to announce that the archival records of the Warren Anatomical Museum have been processed and are now open to researchers. The records consist of the administrative records maintained by the museum’s curatorial staff, as well as the records that serve to document the items in the collection itself, including registration, accession, donor, and exhibition records. Additional highlights are described here (Staff Finds: E. A. Codman and Bone Sarcoma) and here (Staff Finds: Thomas Dwight, Surveys on the Teaching of Anatomy).

The Warren Anatomical Museum was established at Harvard Medical School in 1847 through a gift from John Collins Warren from his personal collection of anatomical preparations, along with an endowment to support the collection. Warren was a professor of anatomy and surgery at Harvard Medical School and a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital. He recognized the importance of anatomical preparations for instructing students in medical schools and wished to ensure that his collection would continue to be used for that purpose. Over the course of its existence, the museum transitioned from being used primarily to instruct medical students to its current iteration as a museum for both historical and modern medical research.  In addition to these records, the Center for the History of Medicine also holds the Records of the Warren Anatomical Museum, 1828-1892 (inclusive).

The Warren records contain patient and personal information that is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. All Harvard University records are restricted for 50 years from the date of creation. Researchers may apply for access to these restricted records. Access to records requires advance notice. For further information, please contact the Public Services staff. The finding aid is available to the public online.

Below are images, circa 1906, of the Warren Museum’s exhibit space on the top three floors of Building A (now Gordon Hall) on the then-recently opened Longwood quadrangle.

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