Saturday, May 31, 2008

More thoughts on exhibit signage

I've written previously about signs in exhibit spaces like the National Zoo and the New York Historical Society and how, if I were queen of the world, I would do things differently. I'm still on my queen kick after going to the just-fabulous maps exhibit at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. (It closes on June 8, so hurry yourself to Baltimore.) This is a really good, interesting exhibit of maps brought in from all over the world. They have excellent descriptions of what you're looking at, but many of them are on the front of the cases, hip-high, and in necessarily dim illumination, so you have everyone who wants to read about that map packed in a small space, and certainly not more than one deep. It was easy to identify those of us of a certain age - we were the ones trying to adjust the bifocals to get the right perspective and usually ended up bent over like cranes hunting for fish. Oh, for good spot lighting on a wall.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Thought Control

I read Mike's post down below about Dean Kamen's new prosthetic arm, and it truly is a wonderful invention. If you haven't looked at the video I encourage you to do so. At first I thought this was the same device I saw on TV in Dublin last night (doesn't that sound so cool - I was in Dublin last night, and I'm not talkin' Ohio), but I've just checked the internet and what I saw was different. Their story was about a monkey whose arms were restrained but could use its thoughts to control a robotic arm to bring food to its mouth. Simply amazing to see. Interestingly, the project is being done on this side of the pond by Andrew Schwartz at the University of Pittsburgh. The study was published in the journal Nature.

Friday, May 30 - Museum closed

The museum's closed due to the installation of a new power generator. Also we'll probably be closed on Saturday June 1 as well. Call 202-782-2200 or 2201 after 20 am on both Saturday and Sunday to check the status.

Exhibit Development at the Pentagon

Some of the team made it out to the pentagon this morning to work on possible exhibits for the 
Assistant Secretary of Defense of Health Affairs, look forward having some of our work in the Pentagon, that will help bring some positive attention to the Museum of Health and Medicine.
Check out some of our photos, with some made up quotes, just for kicks. Later Kids.

Dean Kamen designs prosthetic arm for military amputees

Yahoo finance has a three-minute video of Dean Kamen's new prosthetic arm, which looks absolutely amazing. It's just stunning.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Friday, May 30 - Museum closed?

Anyone planning on visiting the Museum on Friday, Saturday or Sunday should call first at 202-782-2200 or 2201 to confirm that it's open. A generator is being replaced starting Friday at noon which will cut power to the whole building.

New Guy at the Museum

Hello Everybody

just wanted to leave a short spot on my first month in the Museum, My name is Navjeet Singh and I am the new guy at the museum, my position is exhibits specialist and I do exhibit development and exhibit design for the museum, I am not new to exhibit design, I have been doing exhibits since 1998 and recently did contract work for the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the exhibit is Sikh's Legacy of the Punjab, and also have done exhibits for National Museum of the American Indian, Air and Space, National Museum of Women in the Arts, FAA, NOAA, GSA, I recently did an large graphic mural and exhibit for National 4 H in thier headquarters. I attached a short video small size of some exhibit work.(apple quicktime) I have also done other museums and some international shows. In addition I also teach at the Corcoran College of Art and Design and have been adjunct faculty there since 2003, while also teaching at other local colleges and schools....Now I have been at NMHM for about a month, actually its been a month and a half, and have met mostly everyone now and am getting a good feel for what we're all about. I am really enjoying it, and I truly enjoy working with everyone on the staff, some excellent people... so far its alot of work, and much more to do, as most the exhibits need some work, right now I'm working on the RESOLVED exhibit, "Resolved; Advances in Forensic Identification of U.S. War Dead", and have just a few weeks left in putting all the pieces together, We are looking at a July 4th opening date, so only a few weeks left to install, We are doing some fun stuff in this exhibit and hope to treat the visitors to some impressionable exhibits and feel as we are on the right track, I have developed several large murals, and am using different medias / substrates and some very interesting artifacts will be displayed, we have some other ideas to include interactive stations, and I hope that I can put together a short video piece for the exhibit by opening, but also have other exhibits to consider. June will bring the Balad exhibit, and so right now have a full plate, but am really enjoying myself. My office is in an interesting space, for those of you who don't know, I am in the former ballistics range, very interesting indeed, some stories I have heard was they used to shoot cadavers, pigs, bones, tissue in gelatin blocks, and some of that material decorates the celling in my work area. Not sure how much of that is true, but have heard this from staff who were here when they did that. So far I have only done a few things here, National Hairball Awarness was one of the first, I attached a pic, and just the Stroke awareness exhibit, but am hoping to get the museum some attention with RESOLVED. I look forward to keeping you all informed, keep it positive in the end its all about the journey.



Wednesday, May 28, 2008

British military medicine conference CFP

[this is run by Pete Starling]


A conference exploring the history of military medicine and health care

15th -17th April 2009


The Army Medical Services Museum is to host a conference exploring the history of military medicine and health care covering the period from 1600 to the present. The conference will take place in the Defence Medical Services Training Centre, Keogh Barracks, Mytchett, Surrey, where the museum is situated.

Papers are invited on the history of military medicine particularly covering the following themes: Nursing, catastrophe and post conflict medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry, pioneers of military medicine, disease prevention and research, the influence of the military on civilian medicine and the history of dedicated hospitals for the care of the sick and wounded military patients.

Closing date for the submission of abstracts is 1 August 2008. Abstracts should be submitted using the attached form and sent to:


Army Medical Services Museum

Keogh Barracks

Ash Vale


GU12 5RQ

01252 868820 Email:


Title: Full Name:

Name of Institution (if applicable):

Full Postal Address:

Email address: Telephone No:

Title of Abstract:

Bookings for the conference will open on 1 September 2008.

For booking forms please contact:

The Director

AMS Museum, Keogh Barracks, Ash Vale, Aldershot, GU12 5RQ

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wash Post on leprosy

Sally Squires and her husband John Wilhelm have done an interesting and touching documentary film "Triumph at Carville: A Tale of Leprosy in America" which can be seen at the Museum with a small exhibit on leprosy (aka Hansen's Disease). Today she had an article in the Post about how the disease is still around, but not as dangerous as it has been in the past. See "A Scary Diagnosis Hits Home When a Tiny Rash Turns Out to Be Leprosy, A Teen and Her Community Learn the Modern Reality of Living With the Biblical Disease," By Sally Squires, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, May 27, 2008; Page HE01. On June 19th, we'll have d a free lecture on Hansen's disease by Wayne M. Meyers of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Dr. Meyers is an expert on the disease, which used to be a major area of research in the AFIP, and we have an oral history with him. Drs. Meyers and Chapman Binford were the main doctors working on it. We have some of Dr. Binford's records:

OHA 114

* Binford Leprosy Material, 1922-1975
* .5 cubic foot, 1 box.
* No finding aid, arranged, inactive, unrestricted.
* Public Health Bulletins, reprints, manuscript articles, journals, and photographs related to leprosy. Includes articles and correspondence by Chapman H. Binford, chief of the AFIP Geographic Pathology department.

Museum mentioned on History News Network

See "Memorial Day, the Great War, and America’s Last Surviving World War I Veteran,"
By Jeffrey S. Reznick, a former curator at the museum. Jeff used a couple of photos from the archives, as you can too if you click on our Flickr links to the right.

London history of medicine conference includes military medicine

History of Medicine Research Student Conference
Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL
Thursday and Friday 19-20 June 2008

The conference will feature eighteen papers from research students in
four areas of the history of medicine:

- Understanding Medicine and the Body in History

- Medicine, Health and War in History

- Asian Medicine in History

- Healthcare in British History

There will also be panel discussions chaired by established academics including Professors Steven King and Paul Weindling of Oxford Brookes University and Professor Roger Cooter of UCL

The conference will close with a keynote address from Professor Anne Hardy of UCL, Editor of Medical History

Places are limited and will be assigned on a first come first served basis. There will be a small fee to cover registration and cateringcosts.

If you are interested in attending the conference, contact George Gosling at by Friday 30 May 2008.

The full conference programme and poster can be accessed by following
this link:

For information on this event and other opportunities see the 'History
of Medicine Research Students' group on facebook at

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Forensic identification of dead in China disaster

We're opening an exhibit later this year - Resolved - on forensic identification of military dead. This article has some interesting parallels to the difficulty of identifying people after time has elapsed.

China’s Rush to Dispose of Dead Compounds Agony
Published: May 24, 2008
Family members have not been able to identify relatives and traditional reverence for the deceased has been upset.

Article on future of military museums

This article is mostly on the Navy museum, but could some of the same issues apply to the Medical Museum?

"Museums Look Into the Future of Military History," By Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, May 25, 2008; Page C01.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A medical museum reopens in UK

See "The history of medicine," By Natalie Slater, 19/5/2008 on 'the newly refurbished medical museum at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.' The difference between a national museum like ours which was built by the federal government and the more common university or hospital museum needs to be examined more, I think.

A day in the life...

An interesting research request came in through the Radiology department today. Someone's looking for fluoroscope burns. So far I haven't turned up exactly what they want, which is modern color shots, but check out this photo of a wax model that I did find:


The caption reads: Breast. Burn, X-Ray. Wax model. No. 92 X-ray burn involving right breast and axilla. Necrosis of tissue producing sloughing ulceration, the bottom of which includes pleura and lung tissue. X-ray treatment was applied for carcinoma of the breast. Colored, woman, age 35 years. Army Medical Museum model prepared by Dr. J.F. Wallis.

Wallis means that it was done during World War 1, because that's when he was on the staff. We might still have this model in historical collections, but that department was working at the warehouse today, and thus missed the coffee and cake that we had to celebrate the Museum's birthday.

So how does one find something in the Archives? We've got an internal database (or fifty) that you can access a derivative of at our Guide to Collections. With the help of contract Archivists from the Information Manufacturing Company, we're scanning tens of thousands of images per year and uploading them into an internal database, only available to our staff now, but eventually we'll open it to a wider audience. And some of the finding something is me or one of the other archivists knowing where something is because we put it away a decade ago or so.

Today is our birthday

So far the Museum's survived four name changes, at least 8 moves, several shutdowns for moves or wars, and is 146 years old today.
Today is our birthday.Surgeon General Hammond

In Circular No. 2, issued on May 21, 1862, Army Surgeon General William Hammond specifically stated "Medical Directors will furnish one copy of this circular to every medical officer in the department in which they are serving." (Henry p. 12) This circular established the Museum, stating:

As it is proposed to establish in Washington, an Army Medical Museum, Medical officers are directed diligently to collect, and to forward to the office of the Surgeon General, all specimens of morbid anatomy, surgical or medical, which may be regarded as valuable; together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed, and such other matters as may prove of interest in the study of military medicine or surgery.

These objects should be accompanied by short explanatory notes.

Each specimen in the collection will have appended the name of the medical officer by whom it was prepared.

Shortly after the initial circular letter was issued, Hammond recalled John Hill Brinton from duty on the western battlefields. Brinton arrived hoping to receive one of the newly-created medical inspectorships, a job for which he felt well-qualified. Instead, he was assigned to the examining board for surgeons, placed in charge of the Museum, and told to prepare the surgical history of the war. Brinton's colleague, Joseph Javier Woodward, had been assigned to the Surgeon General's Office on May 19, and was responsible for the medical (ie caused by disease) collections and history of the war.

Monday, May 19, 2008

2 articles on military medicine

Steven Solomon sent in these two links:

"Military medical advancements benefit civilian health care," by Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg, American Forces Press Service - which is always nice of course, but here's the takeaway quote, "In today's war, in the combat theater, 97 percent of those people who
were wounded in theater survived those wounds because of the medical care," Dr. Kilpatrick said. "That's just a phenomenal number, and it's because that care is so immediate.


"AFMC surgeon general: joint medical teams saving lives," by Chuck Paone,66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs, and the quote to note is: But what's more, follow-on studies are now showing that military trauma care professionals are achieving identically dramatic fatality reductions at home. "That means they're bringing these skills back with them and getting the same results for people who suffer non-combat-related traumas," he said.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Prosthetics ruled equal, not better

A South African who races on two prosthetic legs, designed to mimic a cheetah's hind legs, can compete in the Olympics if he can qualify. The decision was made after testing his oxygen consumption to determine that he was in fact, working as hard as someone with two natural legs would be. I'll spare you my editorial comment on that and for more details, see "Double-Amputee Allowed To Compete for Olympic Bid: Appeals Court: No Edge Gained From Blades," By Craig Timberg, Washington Post Foreign Service, Saturday, May 17, 2008; Page A01.

Friday, May 16, 2008

And what about the future of Walter Reed (and thus the Museum?)

Beats me, but an article from the Post today had some interesting sentences, including "The 2009 defense authorization bill that emerged from a House committee late Wednesday would halt construction of replacement hospitals for Walter Reed Army Medical Center until the Defense Department demonstrates that it can deliver world-class health services." and "Murtha's concerns include his view that there has been insufficient oversight of the design of the new hospitals, as well as the fact that estimated costs for the expansion in Bethesda, which will be renamed Walter Reed, have increased to $940 million today from $201 million in May 2005."

See "House Panel to Delay Work on Two Projects: Bill Seeks Better Military Health Care," by Amy Gardner, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, May 16, 2008; Page B01.

A day in the life...

I've been realizing this blog is drifting towards aiming squarely at history of medicine types, so I'm going to try to wrench it in a slightly different direction. Here's how I spent part of my day as an archivist today.

I was walking through the exhibit floor this morning and heard voices coming out of our Human Body, Human Being exhibit. The exhibit flooded over the weekend when Washington got 5-7 inches of rain. That side of the museum is built into a hill and has been flooding off and on for about a decade now. On the past Monday, the exhibits and collection staff had dismantled the exhibits against the wall - on the urinary system and bones - and moved them out of the way so the building engineers could look up and say, "yup, it's leaking water."

The whole hall (the Anatifacts area in this map), which is about 1/4 of the exhibit floor, was closed all week, but this morning Steve Hill, head of our exhibits staff, Tim Clarke Jr, our public relations guy and Beth Eubanks, our registrar, were muscling some of the exhibit cases into a new configuration about 10 feet from the wall. I lent a hand and helped and a little after opening the cases were in place. Brian Spatola, collections manager of anatomical collections, brought the specimens back from storage and the four of them put the display back together. Meanwhile...

...I was leading a tour of people who had bought a silent auction benefit behind-the-scenes tour. Our former PR guy Steven Solomon had started these a few years back. We started in historical collections where collections manager Alan Hawk pulled out a bunch of surgical kits dating from the Civil War until World War II, and then showed them wax and plaster models of facial reconstruction surgery from the same time period. Anatomical curator Franklin Damann was giving a tour of his own in anatomical collections, so we swapped groups and he showed my group Civil War amputated femurs, Ham the space chimp, plastinated organs and a quick glance into the wet tissue room where specimens are stored in bottles of formalin.

We combined the two groups and neuroanatomical collections manager Archie Fobbs displayed some of our brain slides. Instead of making a microscope slide, his predecessors sectioned and mounted slices of whole brains and you can see stroke or tumor damage. I think the high point for the group was when Archie opened up his demo tub of a brain preserved in alcohol and let people handle it. Nobody was in the Human Developmental Anatomy Center, so I did a quick riff on scanning slides of embryos which had been collected 100 years ago to make first wax or plaster models of organ systems. These are now being scanned with the models made in the computer. Finally I gave my standard tour of the archives, including a letter signed by Walter Reed, a 1917 doctor's diary, a revised confidential asbestosis report for Johns Manville from 1949, a lantern slide photograph of a survivor from Hiroshima, an album of the museum's Civil War Surgical Photographs and some of our trade lit advertising material.

So there's a good bit of a typical day. If there's interest in more posts like this, comment below please.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New Grog Ration from Navy's medical historian

André B. Sobocinski, the Deputy Historian/ Publications Manager of the Office of the Historian of the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) has a new issue of The Grog Ration newsletter about medical naval history out now.

The table of contents:

Page 1: Care Amidst the Shortage: The Relationship between the American Red Cross and the Navy Nurse Corps in World War I by Jennifer Telford, RN, PhD
When the United States declared war on 6 April 1917, the nation had but a nucleus of an army and a navy. The swift growth of the number of troops within a year from 100,000 to 4 million men presented a problem of enormous magnitude to the nursing profession; it was a shortage of epic proportions. The Army Nurse Corps had a mere 400 nurses on active duty, while the Navy had 160. The need for a rapid expansion of nursing in wartime to provide care both on the home-front and overseas brought about a controversy over who, in fact, was qualified to serve. The role of Katrina Hertzer, the liaison officer between the Red Cross Nursing Service and the Navy Nurse Corps, and who aided in the enrollment of nurses into the Corps, is of particular interest.
Nursing leaders during World War I debated about whether or not minimally trained nurses' aides should be recruited to help offset the professional nursing shortage. The result was the formation of an Army School of Nursing and the enrollment of volunteer nurses' aides into the Red Cross. The recruitment of nurses' aides to offset the nursing shortage of the World War I era was a logical solution to meeting the needs for nursing personnel. Whether or not this action compromised the status of nursing as a profession is still a matter of interest.
This article is adapted from lectures given at the Society for the History of Navy Medicine (SHNM) session in Rochester, NY, and as part of the Surgeon General's Speaker Series (SGSS) in Bethesda, MD, in April 2008. A PowerPoint of her SHNM lecture can be found at A video of her SGSS lecture can be accessed at

Page 7: Elvis Has Boarded the Ship
In 1958, LTJG Julia Pickering was one of two Navy nurses serving aboard the troop transport USS General Randall (AP-115) in port at Brooklyn, NY. Also on board this ship was a newly enlisted Army sergeant who had already established his name as an American pop icon. In a 2004 interview with the Office of the Historian, Pickering remembered this special passenger.

Page 8: The Surgeon's Log: Navy Medicine in Washington, DC
In 1908 a young hospital apprentice named Albert B. Montgomery reported for duty at the Naval Hospital, Washington, DC, then located on old "Observatory Hill" in Foggy Bottom. Years later he looked back upon his experiences-from racing horse-driven ambulances on cobblestone streets to obtaining study specimens at the city morgue for Naval Medical School students.

Page 11: Scuttlebutt
Find out about the upcoming Navy medical events (e.g., film premieres and lectures).

Page 12: Navy Medical Quiz
Good luck on this issue's quiz. As always, the first person to submit correct answers to all questions will receive a special prize. The answers from our previous quiz can be found on page 13.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tried and True Always Works

Since I've been away from the blog for a while, I thought I would work back into the swing of things with a plethora of links, a panoply of bloggy goodness for you to behold. Enjoy.
  • Street Anatomy points us toward the Skull-A-Day project. I love it when blog titles exactly capture what their posts feature.
  • And from pathtalk, a blog about pathology, is a link to a video that is beautiful and cool, but beyond me technically. The blog post - Animated DNA - and this bit of description 'incredibly cool animation of the central dogma of molecular biology' - offer some more clues. I watched it, I liked it, and think you might, too.

I Heart Legos

That makes more sense when you've checked this out...

(With thanks, again, to Street Anatomy...)

Wounded Warrior Project

The Wounded Warrior Project and the Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project are two initiatives to help injured soldiers from Irag, Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terrorism return to life stateside, to give them a place and the means to recover their bodies, minds, and spirits. Two of their vans were on campus recently.

My husband is a Vietnam vet who has told of the reception he and his fellows received on their return (and who hasn't?), and it does my heart good to see the support our newest vets are getting.

Welcome home, soldiers.

Save the Date! Leprosy documentary and talk at NMHM, Thurs., 5/22

Save the Date! Leprosy documentary and talk at NMHM, Thurs., 5/22, 11:30am-1:00 p.m.

Enjoy a special lunchtime screening of the documentary 'Triumph at Carville: A Tale of Leprosy in America' at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, featuring a brief introduction by the filmmakers John Wilhelm and Sally Squires. (Film running time: approximately 58 minutes.) While at the Museum, check out the temporary exhibition highlighting the story of the country's only national leprosarium and
learn more about leprosy (also called Hansen's disease) and the unique social and cultural life at Carville. More online at

Date: Thursday, May 22, 2008
Time: 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Where: Russell Auditorium at NMHM/AFIP (Bldg 54/Walter Reed Army Medical Center)
Cost: FREE! (Bring a bag lunch.)

Questions? Email or visit the Museum online at

Armed Forces signs at Walter Reed

I spent a few lunch times last fall walking around Walter Reed, taking pictures of bumper stickers and other means of making statements. This is one of my favorites, if you can call it that. I think this is a touching tribute to a man who was obviously much loved and missed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New National Library of Medicine exhibit

Manon Parry sent out an email about her new exhibit:

The National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world's largest medical library and a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), recently launched a new exhibition, "Against the Odds: Making a Difference in Global Health." The exhibition will be on display at the NLM on the outskirts of Washington DC until 2010, and can be viewed online at:

The exhibition explores aspects of the history of global health as well as current issues, highlighting the shared concerns of communities around the world. Materials from the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine are on display alongside artifacts and images gathered from across the globe and video interviews. Featured stories include the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the United States and the work of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), the
Chinese barefoot doctor movement, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and the smallpox eradication program led by the World Health Organization.

Alongside scientific discoveries and ongoing challenges, the stories illustrate the importance of clean water, safe housing, nutritious food, affordable healthcare, and protection from violence in fostering health and wellbeing. Visitors to the exhibition web site are invited to share their perspectives on these issues and GET INVOLVED:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hirschhorn v. Army Medical Museum

Forty years ago, the Army Medical Museum was sent off the National Mall and its red brick building torn down to make space for the Hirschhorn Museum of modern art. Today's NY Times has an article, "An Identity Crisis? Hirshhorn Embraces It," By RANDY KENNEDY, May 10, 2008, which says, "...of the Hirshhorn’s 750,000 or so annual visitors, 58 percent reported being there for the first time. Sixty-four percent said they were at the museum as part of an adult group tour, following an itinerary that probably reflected little individual choice and low interest in contemporary art."

What's particular of interest in that statement is that in 1963, the Army Medical Museum had a similar number of visitors, while interest in museums and visitors to them has grown exponentially in Washington since then. Naturally our numbers on a guarded Army base five miles north of the Mall and a mile from a subway are in no way compatible. One does wonder how many people a National Museum of Health & Medicine on the Mall would be bringing in; I'm positive it would be more than the number we did in 1963 and that the Hirshhorn is doing now.

Anatomical Theatre website launches

Morbid Anatomy's launched a new site based on an exhibit of photographs she's done. She writes "I have finally launched the website for Anatomical Theatre, the photographic exhibition of medical museum artifacts. For more information about the project, check out the "Introduction" and "Press Release" pages."

Wax and plaster models as well as other specimens from the NMHM are included.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Lecture on The Early History of NIH Biomedical Computing

This is at NIH.

Lecture: The Forgotten Revolution: The Early History of NIH Biomedical Computing

History of Biomedicine Lecture at the NIH May 16, 2008, 3:30 p.m.
Building 10 (Clinical Center), Room: Hatfield 2-3750

Dr. Joseph A. November, Ph.D., will present the 2008 DeWitt Stetten, Jr. Lecture, titled "The Forgotten Revolution: The Early History of NIH Biomedical Computing," on Friday, May 16 at 3:30 p.m., in Building 10 (Clinical Center), Room 2-3750 (Hatfield side). All are welcome.

About the Speaker:

Dr. November is the current DeWitt Stetten, Jr. Memorial Fellow and an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina's Department of History. He received his doctorate in history from Princeton University in 2006. At NIH his research focuses on how NIH promoted the development of computer technology in the 1950s and 1960s. He is preparing a book on the early history of biomedical computing.


At NIH today, digital electronic computers are a vital, necessary component of almost all aspects of research and administration. However, there was nothing inevitable about NIH's adoption of computers or the ways the machines came to be used. As late as 1956, the majority of NIH's leadership was firmly against dedicating resources to computing in research. It took a hard-fought campaign throughout the late 1950s and
early 1960s, led by Drs. Frederick Brackett and Arnold "Scotty" Pratt, and supported by Director James Shannon, to overcome NIH's reluctance to adopt the new technology.

The campaign bring computers to NIH may be long forgotten, but its consequences profoundly altered not only biomedical computing beyond the NIH campus but also computing in general.

This lecture will cover three interconnected stories. First, it will examine how the Division of Computer Research and Technology (now CIT) grew out of Brackett and Pratt's long struggle to computerize research at NIH. Second, it surveys the far-reaching activities of the Advisory Committee on Computers in Research (NIH-ACCR), which was established in 1960 and generously funded by the U.S. Senate for the purpose of introducing computers to laboratories and hospitals worldwide. Third, it describes NIH's important but seldom-discussed role in the development
of the Laboratory Instrument Computer (LINC), a small, general-purpose, real-time digital computer built in 1963 at MIT especially for biomedical researchers; the roots of many aspects of personal computing can be traced back to the LINC.

This presentation is sponsored by the Office of NIH History. The NIH Biomedical Computing Interest Group (BCIG) will be recording the lecture. For more information about the Biomedical Research History Interest Group (BRHIG) and upcoming events, please visit the websites at or

NIH Visitor information:
See and

For more information or special accommodations, please contact Deborah
Kraut at 301-496-8856 or

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Originally uploaded by otisarchives3
This has been a pretty big hit over the last couple of days, so we figure some blog must have linked to it. The wages of sin, y'all.

Chapel at Walter Reed

Chapel at Walter Reed
Originally uploaded by tiz_herself
The Memorial Chapel is on the Walter Reed campus. It was built with funds raised by the Gray Ladies of the Red Cross Hospital Service and was dedicated in 1931 as a memorial to those who gave their lives in the service of their country. (The Gray Ladies were so called because of the gray uniform they wore.) The first ceremony performed was a wedding. Sunday services are still held there, and I saw funeral services being organized there last week.

It's a lovely place, inside and out.

Here's a picture of the stained glass window over the altar:
Stained glass window behind altar in Memorial Chapel, Walter Reed

There are "gargoyles" at the top of the tower. Some of them represent the Gray Ladies:
Figure 2 on steeple of chapel at Walter Reed

and there are others that represent science and religion. Not sure which one this is.
Figure 1 on steeple of chapel at Walter Reed

Old Walter Reed Hospital

Old Walter Reed Hospital
Originally uploaded by tiz_herself
As you may know, our museum is on the campus of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC. I bought myself a spiffy new camera last fall and have been a picture-taking fool since then. This picture is of the original hospital, opened in 1909. Stately, isn't it? It was replaced with a, um, not-as-nice-looking building in the 1970s and this one's now used for administrative offices.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Yahoo on TV diseases

Yahoo's got a fun feature on whether or not TV diseases are fact or fiction. I've seen and enjoyed House, but probably not any of the other shows - it doesn't matter though. Disease of the week tv has been around for years.

Regarding slide 3 - FOP - you can see an example at the Mutter Museum.

The Washington Society for the History of Medicine wants you!

Print this out, fill it out and mail it to Judy.

Washington Society for the History of Medicine

Membership Form 2008

NAME: ___________________________________________________________

ADDRESS: ________________________________________________________

CITY: _____________________________________________________________

STATE: _________________________ ZIP CODE: ___________________

TELEPHONE: ____________________________Work_____ or Home_____

EMAIL ADDRESS: __________________

AFFILIATION: ____________________________________________________


STANDARD: $15.00 __________

SPONSOR: $25.00 __________

STUDENT: $10.00 __________

Dear WSHM Member

Please make your checks payable to the WSHM. Mail your membership dues and this form to: Judy M. Chelnick, Secretary-Treasurer, WSHM, 4868 Cloister Drive, Rockville, Maryland 20852 Thank You!

Check out our Website:

Sunday, May 4, 2008

More medical technology - robot-assisted surgery

Here's an interesting bit about robot surgery - which saves wear-and-tear on both the surgeon and the patient when everything goes right. In the Museum, we have a Satava collection devoted to collecting the groundbreaking medical technology mentioned in the article, and on display we have Penelope, a early attempt at a robot nurse.
Prepping Robots to Perform Surgery
New York Times May 4, 2008
From knees to the heart, more operations are being performed by robots, under the guidance of surgeons.

Gastric bypass surgery for diabetes?

An exciting new possibility for the treatment (and cure!) of diabetes was reported in today's Washington Post. Trials are being conducted around the world with surprisingly successful results in not just making the disease more manageable but an actual cure. The guess is that the surgery, which removes part of the small intestine, "alter[s] the elixir of hormones secreted by the digestive system to regulate hunger, store energy and influence other physiological functions, helping restore the body's system for controlling blood sugar with insulin." Keep your fingers crossed.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Museo Storico Nazionale Dell Arte Sanitaria (I think this means something along the lines of Medical Museum), in Rome

A couple of years ago, when the dollar was still showing signs of life against the euro, my husband and I took a trip to Italy. While we were in Rome, we made a quick visit to the Museo Storico Nazionale Dell Arte Sanitaria. Being an American and therefore not speaking/reading/writing any language other than English made for an interesting visit in that in many cases I couldn't quite decipher the labels on the exhibits and to do a significant amount of guessing. Here's one I just didn't get at all, no matter the amount of puzzling over the label I did. My husband's take: a labor-inducing machine for those recalcitrant babies who don't want to ease on out on their own.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Teddy Roosevelt and The River of Doubt

Several months ago we had a researcher in the archives whose name seemed vaguely familiar to me but I just couldn't place it. Some time after she'd finished with us I started reading a book about Teddy Roosevelt's exploration of the Amazon after he'd been defeated as a presidential third-party candidate in 1912, a journey that turned into a nightmare and on which he nearly lost his life. Nudge, nudge in my brain about the author's name and the next day I checked our visitor log. Sure enough, the same woman: Candice Millard. This was a fantastic book, utterly gross at times (such as tiny - and I think barbed - fish that travel up a urine stream to the bladder much as a salmon travels upstream, and you don't want to hear how it has to be removed) but I highly recommend it. I can't wait for her next book to come out.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Japanese anatomical drawings

These incredible early 19th century Japanese anatomical drawings reveal a remarkable distinctively non-Western approach to anatomical illustration.