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

Monday, August 2, 2010

Letter of the Day: August 2

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 74


August 2, 1894


Dr. S.P. Kramer,

Professor of Pathology,

University of Cincinnati,

Cincinnati, Ohio.


Dear Sir:


In the absence of Dr. Billings who is in Europe, your letter of July 31st has been referred to me for answer. An application has already been made by another party for the loan of the Kymograph, and this request is now awaiting the return of Surgeon General Sternberg to the city. The draughtsman of the Museum is at present on leave and will not return until September 1st. If in the meanwhile, you will indicate explicitly what part or parts of the instrument you would like drawings made of I will gladly comply with your request as soon as our draughtsman returns.


Very truly ours,

Walter Reed

Major and Surgeon, U.S. Army

Curator Army Medical Museum.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

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

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

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.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Change in mammogram technology causes change in diagnosis

Read this article to see how a change in technology is driving changes in diagnosis -

In Shift to Digital, More Repeat Mammograms
New York Times April 10, 2008
As doctors learn to interpret digital mammograms, they are more likely to request second tests.

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.