Showing posts with label history of medicine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history of medicine. Show all posts

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Folger Shakespeare Library's medical exhibit tour tomorrow

I saw this a couple of nights ago and it's an excellent exhibit. This bit is clipped from their e-newsletter.

Good for What Ails You
Folger Exhibitions: Beyond Home Remedy
In an era before emergency rooms and HMOs, women offered vital medical care to their families and communities. This "kitchen physic" included dressing wounds, setting bones, delivering babies, administering medicine, and producing homemade remedies for a wide range of illnesses, including the much-dreaded plague. Beyond Home Remedy explores the broad scope of female medical practice in early modern England and America and sheds new light on women's contributions.

through May 14
10am to 5pm, Monday–Saturday
Listen: Kitchen Physic
Learn More: Plague Water
Learn More: A Tudor Herbal
Personal Picks
Folger Fridays: Exhibition Tour
Join Rebecca Laroche, curator of Beyond Home Remedy, for a personal tour of the exhibition, which features a broad range of items from ingredient samples for early modern medicines to Martha Washington's cookbook.

"The exhibition cracks open our conventional sense of home remedies. We have countesses and duchesses and the serving women and everyone in between," she notes.

Fri, Feb 18

Meet at the First Folio display in the Great Hall.

About the Folger

Home to the world's largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger Shakespeare Library is a major center for scholarly research; a lively venue for performances, readings, and exhibitions; and a national leader in humanities education.


Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003

Get Directions

Plan a Visit

Public Hours:
Monday through Saturday:
10am to 5pm

Reading Room Hours:
Monday through Friday:
8:45am to 4:45pm
9am to 12pm
and 1pm to 4:30pm

Closed all Federal holidays. Become a Member Forward to a Friend(2) View the Calendar

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Medical Museums Association Annual Meeting 2010

The Medical Museums Association (or MeMA) will hold its 2010 annual meeting at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota April 27th and 28th. This year MeMA meets jointly with the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences (ALHHS). Registration for the meeting has extended until today, April 7th. Museum and special collections staff, collectors, historians, students and others interested are all encouraged to attend.

Meeting registration and Medical Museums Association membership information is available at:

Highlights include tours of the Plummer Library Mayo Historical Suite, which originally contained general surgeons’ offices and the offices of William and Charles Mayo, and the Mayo Clinic Multidisciplinary Simulation Center, one of the largest medical simulation facilities in the world.

Steve Puglia, an authority on digital imaging and special media preservation from the U.S. National Archives and Records Association will be guest speaker to talk about digital production of historic collections including photographing three-dimensional objects and scanning other media; image quality standards; creating metadata; costs associated with digitization; and issues related to digital preservation including the migration of existing digital content. Digital media projects such as Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts and blogs have their turn at center stage on with presentations on current projects by MeMA and ALHHS members. Mike Rhode, Chief Archivist at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, and Steve Puglia will participate in a panel discussion afterward.

There will be feature programs by Mayo Clinic staff. Matt Dacy, Director of the Heritage Hall Museum, will highlight the history of the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Brent Bauer, Director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program, will detail a project using 400 year old special collections material in ‘bio-prospecting for new drugs.’ And industrial hygienists will discuss how to properly handle hazardous materials in collections.

Then stick around a few more days and attend the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM) annual meeting also at the Mayo Clinic. Mike Rhode from the Otis Historical Archives and Emily Wilson from the Human Developmental Anatomy Division at the museum will be delivering papers.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

NY Times op-ed on Sigmund Freud's visit to the US

Here's an interesting bit on the history of medicine...

Freud’s Adirondack Vacation
Published: August 29, 2009
How an invitation from a prominent American scientist 100 years ago gave psychoanalysis its start in the United States.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Noteworthy Pathologists

I've been processing a collection called the Registry of Noteworthy Research in Pathology. I expected to be thoroughly bored with the material and have been pleasantly surprised that I find a lot of it interesting. Like this photograph of pathologists gathered in Holland in 1934 that I came across today.

OK, it's a bunch of people in a photo. What makes this so remarkable is a letter that accompanied it to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology where the sender writes, "It probably represents the last time that some of the great giants of pathology of the early part of the 20th century ever came together. Only a few attended the Third Congress in Stockholm in 1937 and then came the War. By the time of resumption of meetings in 1950 most of them were gone."

The records even include a chart of names of some of the attendees.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Medical exhibit at Smithsonian Folklife Festival


The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is going on this week, and in the Wales section is a small exhibit on the history of medicine.


Wales turns out to be a major source for medicinal leeches, sold by Biopharma.

There is also a small display of historical pharmaceuticals.


Pill rollers aren't all that uncommon even now, but that's a nice ledger and some good ephemera in the labels.


The largest section was a medical garden.




The exhibit is up through July 5th

Thursday, June 25, 2009


My friend Bert Hansen's got an excellent new book out, PICTURING MEDICAL PROGRESS FROM PASTEUR TO POLIO: A History of Mass Media Images and Popular Attitudes in America that includes a minuscule amount of research from the Medical Museum (and cites me in the acknowledgments, but don't buy it just because of that). I'm about 1/3 of the way through and learning about the history of both medicine and cartoons.

I'm really enjoying his look at the graphic history (including editorial cartoons and comic books) of medicine. Bert's explanations of the shifting cultural view of medicine resulting from mass media, especially regarding both the transmittal of knowledge to a wider audience than ever before, and, as he points out most convincingly in this book, for the public support of science and medicine, is wildly overlooked in the field at large. His website has reproductions of some of the cartoons and he's planning on adding to it.

Here's the official PR:


A History of Mass Media Images and Popular Attitudes in America
Bert Hansen

“Bert Hansen’s rich exploration of the intersection of popular culture and the history of medicine opens wide a window on a time between the 1880s and the 1950s when physicians, nurses, and scientists were highly regarded warriors against disease and human suffering. It is a major contribution to our understanding of how medicine’s cultural authority was established and expanded in the United States, vital to scholars and valuable to those who hope to spark a renewed enthusiasm among Americans for the study of science and medicine.”
—Alan Kraut, professor of history, American University

Today, pharmaceutical companies, HMOs, insurance carriers, and the health care system in general may often puzzle and frustrate the general public—and even physicians and researchers. By contrast, from the 1880s through the 1950s Americans enthusiastically embraced medicine and its practitioners. PICTURING MEDICAL PROGRESS FROM PASTEUR TO POLIO (Paper $37.95, ISBN: 978-0-8135-4576-9, July 2009), by Bert Hansen, offers a refreshing portrait of an era when the public excitedly anticipated medical progress and research breakthroughs.

PICTURING MEDICAL PROGRESS FROM PASTEUR TO POLIO is a unique study with 130 archival illustrations drawn from newspaper sketches, caricatures, comic books, Hollywood films, and LIFE magazine photography. This book analyzes the relationship between mass media images and popular attitudes. Bert Hansen considers the impact these representations had on public attitudes and shows how media portrayal and popular support for medical research grew together and reinforced each other.

“This book is analytical, nostalgic, sensitive, and just plain fun. Bert Hansen's meticulous privileging of the visual is a pathbreaking achievement for methods in the social and cultural history of medicine. You can be rewarded simply by looking at the wonderful pictures, but you will ‘see’ so much more in his lively prose.”
—Jacalyn Duffin, Hannah Professor, Queen's University, and former
president of the American Association for the History of Medicine

“Even as a long-time collector of medical prints, I learned a lot from this extraordinary book. Hansen's digging has turned up many discoveries, providing a new perspective on graphic art in popular culture. The images are wonderful, but this is not just a picture book; it's a great read as well, filled with remarkable insights.”
—William Helfand, trustee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

“PICTURING MEDICAL PROGRESS FROM PASTEUR TO POLIO is an authoritative, well-written account that will be a significant contribution not only to the history of American medicine, but to the history of American popular culture.”
—Elizabeth Toon, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester

BERT HANSEN, a professor of history at Baruch College, has published a book on medieval science and many articles on the history of modern medicine and public health.

A History of Mass Media Images and Popular Attitudes in America
Bert Hansen

Paper $37.95 | ISBN 978-0-8135-4576-9
Cloth $75.00 | ISBN 978-0-8135-4526-4 | 350 pages | 7 x 10

Publication Date: July 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Osler and the study of death lecture online

John Erlen of the University of Pittsburgh sent in this video lecture link today, which I'm watching now.

February 26, 2009
Paul Mueller
Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic
“Foundations of Palliative Care: William Osler’s Study of the Act of Dying.”

Mueller found Osler's original statistical card study at McGill University and goes through it - very good! I do think that deleting the names of people from 1900 is over-'protecting' privacy.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Memorial to French doctors

This relief is on an exterior wall at the Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine in Paris, kind of tucked away and probably not noticed much. I'm glad I found it. It's a memorial to the 1800 doctors who gave their lives for their country in World War 1.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


You see old illustrations of this procedure and it kind of makes your skin crawl and makes you very glad it's not you under the awl or drill. According to wikipedia, cave paintings as far back as the Neolithic era give the earliest documentation of this medical procedure, used for a variety of disorders from migraines to bad spirits. I can kind of identify with that. I used to get some hellacious headaches and if a hole drilled in my head would have relieved them, I would have signed up on the spot. Trepanation is still used today but a little more circumspectly. Regarding this picture, though, even for my headaches, I would have insisted on a nice, lie-down position. This picture was part of a small museum attached to an excavated 12th century church in Dublin, Ireland.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mememto Mori, or, The Head of Janus

I made a rewarding visit to the Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine in Paris last month, but thoroughly grossing out my husband with its extensive exhibits of surgical tools, including kidney stone extractors. Not something that a man who has had a kidney stone especially wants to look at. I've not had kidney stones, and I found the tools and illustrations painful to look at, and I've seen some pretty gross things in the course of my job. Do you want to see them? Next time.

I really liked this ivory carving from the 17th century, called the Head of Janus. I don't know if the Catholic school I went to didn't teach mythology as a matter of theology or what, but I never learned about the myths. So wikipedia to the rescue: "Janus was usually depicted with two heads (not faces) looking in opposite directions, and was frequently used to symbolize change and transitions such as the progression of past to future, of one condition to another, of one vision to another, the growing up of young people, and of one universe to another. He was also known as the figure representing time because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other."

There's nothing that says transition from one condition to another like a face on one side and a skull on the other.

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, April 9, 2008

Kidney transplantations

The first kidney transplant took place not quite sixty years ago in 1950, but became more common after anti-rejection drugs appeared in 1964. Yesterday, doctors at Johns Hopkins transplanted six at one time, into five needy people. Historians of medicine (and all types actually) caution against viewing history as a simplistic march of progress, but sometimes progress is progress, no?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cell-sorting tech

Here's a story about recent biomedical history - "From the World of Modern Cell Science, A Long and Sorted Coming-of-Age Story, by David Brown, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, April 7, 2008; A06. For years, in our AIDS exhibit, we had displayed a Fluorescent Activated Cell Sorter on loan from the Smithsonian. I imagine it's the same piece mentioned in this article. In this online discussion, "Science and Medicine: Cell Technology," by David Brown and J. Paul Robinson, Washington Post Staff Writer and Professor, Purdue University, Tuesday, April 8, 2008; 11:00 AM, one can find a comment from the Medical Sciences curator Ray Kondratas who led the division at the Museum of American History for many years.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Copper, wonderful copper

Here's an interesting article on copper's disinfectant effects, and rediscovering them for germ control in hospitals - "Copper's mettle: It's a germ killer," By Shelley Widhalm, Washington Times, April 3, 2008. What an elegant idea - cheap, simple and hopefully effective.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Vaccination, herd immunity, and selfishness

Two main papers ran articles on vaccination today. Let's take a look at them. Remember I'm speaking for myself here as our disclaimer notes.

"Vaccine Failure Is Setback in AIDS Fight: Test Subjects May Have Been Put at Extra Risk Of Contracting HIV" by David Brown, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, March 21, 2008; Page A01 talks about the bitter conclusion.

"This is on the same level of catastrophe as the Challenger disaster" that destroyed a NASA space shuttle, said Robert Gallo, co-discoverer of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, and head of the Institute for Human Virology in Baltimore.

This seems to put off a prevention of AIDS for the foreseeable future, meaning that millions especially in Third World countries will continue to die:

"None of the products currently in the pipeline has any reasonable chance of being effective in field trials," Ronald C. Desrosiers, a molecular geneticist at Harvard University, declared last month at an AIDS conference in Boston. "We simply do not know at the present time how to design a vaccine that will be effective against HIV."

Meanwhile, theoretically well-educated people refuse to vaccinate their children in the US - read "Public Health Risk Seen as Parents Reject Vaccines," By JENNIFER STEINHAUER, New York Times March 21, 2008.

Let's pull out some quotes from this article:

SAN DIEGO — In a highly unusual outbreak of measles here last month, 12 children fell ill; nine of them had not been inoculated against the virus because their parents objected, and the other three were too young to receive vaccines.

Now, let's see what the Centers for Disease Control says about measles - "How serious is the disease? Measles itself is unpleasant, but the complications are dangerous. Six to 20 percent of the people who get the disease will get an ear infection, diarrhea, or even pneumonia. One out of 1000 people with measles will develop inflammation of the brain, and about one out of 1000 will die."

Hmmm. Let's see what a parent in the article has to say:

“I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good,” said Sybil Carlson, whose 6-year-old son goes to school with several of the children hit by the measles outbreak here. The boy is immunized against some diseases but not measles, Ms. Carlson said, while his 3-year-old brother has had just one shot, protecting him against meningitis. “When I began to read about vaccines and how they work,” she said, “I saw medical studies, not given to use by the mainstream media, connecting them with neurological disorders, asthma and immunology.”

Nice. So she's willing to risk her children to a 1 in 1000 risk of death because of something she read that the mainstream media (and the FDA and CDC) refuse to believe. So far, nobody has been able to prove that vaccination increases the risk of autism, which is what most people who fear vaccination seem to be most concerned about.

“The very success of immunizations has turned out to be an Achilles’ heel,” said Dr. Mark Sawyer, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. “Most of these parents have never seen measles, and don’t realize it could be a bad disease so they turn their concerns to unfounded risks. They do not perceive risk of the disease but perceive risk of the vaccine.”

So what happens to herd immunity, or the phenomena in which even if an individual's vaccination doesn't take, one's protected by the fact that a virus can't infect anyone around him?

There is substantial evidence that communities with pools of unvaccinated clusters risk infecting a broad community that includes people who have been inoculated. For instance, in a 2006 mumps outbreak in Iowa that infected 219 people, the majority of those sickened had been vaccinated. In a 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana, there were 34 cases, including six people who had been vaccinated. Here in California, six pertussis outbreaks infected 24 people in 2007; only 2 of 24 were documented as having been appropriately immunized. A surveillance program in the mid ’90s in Canada of infants and preschoolers found that cases of Hib fell to between 8 and 10 cases a year from 550 a year after a vaccine program was begun, and roughly half of those cases were among children whose vaccine failed.

The current John Adams miniseries on HBO shows the lengths that Abigail Adams was willing to go to inoculate her children. Here's some pictures of smallpox, which was the first disease prevented by vaccination to show why she, and George Washington who vaccinated the Continental Army, went to such lengths.

Woman with smallpox with vaccinated infant (the opposite of the situation in the NY Times article in which the parent is protected, but the child is not).

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Book review on Italian syphilis lawsuit

See "In the 1890s, a wet nurse contracted syphilis from a baby -- and sued."
By Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World Sunday, March 2, 2008; Page BW15.

He reviews:

An Impoverished Peasant Woman, an Ambitious Attorney, and a Fight for Justice
By David I. Kertzer
Houghton Mifflin. 237 pp. $24

which is an interesting bit of history of medicine that I hadn't heard of before.