Thursday, October 29, 2009

84 Charing Cross Road

I watched 84 Charing Cross Road last week so imagine my pleasure when I came across a folder in the Registry of Noteworthy Research in Pathology that holds correspondence, invoices, and customs forms for book purchases, mostly from Europe. The correspondence is between Dr. Esmond Long and booksellers in London, Florence, Amsterdam, Paris, Leipzig, Berlin, and Zurich in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

One letter from R. Lier & Co. in Florence says they're sending him the book he ordered and, "As we have not had the pleasure to do business for you other times, we should appreciate very much your kind remittance by cheque soon. We take advantage of this opportunity to send you, under separate cover, our last Bull. XI on Anatomia and Chirurgia in the hope that you will find in same something interesting. Please believe us." I don't know what that last sentence means, but I like it, and think about getting something in the mail you have not yet paid for.

Some of the names of the bookstores are Emile Nourry Librarie Ancienne (Paris); Libreria Antiquaria Editrice (Florence); and Buchhandler und Antiquar (Leipzig). I think they'd be great places to poke around in.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What was 'black tongue?'

We got a research inquiry today asking ‘what was ‘black tongue’ which threw me for a moment as I’d never heard of it. Fortunately my predecessors recorded information about it.

Black Tongue was a common name for erysipelas – see the two attached documents from the Medical & Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion (3rd Surgical vol.) in the footnote starting on the first page. gives an overview and you can see why it would be a dangerous disease before antibiotics.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Latest Flickr statistics

1,625 items - 885,625 views.

This mustard gas testing shot has been popular lately:

NCP 1057

We're working on a project to get many 700,000 images we currently have scanned online for searching and use (although as many as 50,000 of those are book pages we've already loaded onto Internet Archive). Stay tuned for more details.

Clubfoot treatment developer dies

Fascinating article here on Ignacio Ponseti and his development of non-surgical treatment for clubfoot, which took fifty years to become widespread.

Ignacio Ponseti, Hero to Many With Clubfoot, Dies at 95
Published: October 24, 2009

Photographic coverage of military war dead at Dover

Here's a good article from the Washington Post about changes in media coverage of the arrival of military dead to Dover Air Force Base -

With ban over, who should cover the fallen at Dover?
Few in media choosing to capture events, but military posts pictures

By Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 24, 2009

- after the fallen soldiers arrive, they're examined by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner which is part of AFIP (until BRAC finishes)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Oct 26: Museum on History Channel's Death Masks

 I think I was interviewed for this about Lincoln and the Civil War and they filmed in the archives with spooky blue lighting - Mike


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bring your kids! Halloween at the Medical Museum, Sat. 10/31, 10am-1pm

Halloween at the Medical Museum


MCSO02952_0000[1]When: Saturday, October 31, 2009, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.


Where: The National Museum of Health and Medicine

Building 54


What: The National Museum of Health and Medicine and Family Magazine will host family-friendly Halloween activities for ages 5 and up. Children will be able to participate in a costume contest (with prizes!) and make skeleton crafts (a dancing macaroni skeleton, a medieval plague mask, and a skeleton wall hanging) as well as join in a Halloween-themed family yoga demonstration by Shakti Yoga.


Cost: FREE


Photo ID required.


For more information: or (202) 782-2673



Outbreak: Plagues That Changed History


On Exhibit October 31, 2009 – January 22, 2010


OUTBREAK is the story of epidemics that changed human society. Learn how diseases such as smallpox, cholera and yellow fever shaped our history, our culture and our civilization. Featuring the art of Bryn Barnard.


Monday, October 19, 2009

More Agent Orange news

Maybe you remember that I wrote about the link between the Vietnam War's use of Agent Orange and diabetes. Well, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki just added three new ailments to the list: hairy-cell leukemia and other B-cell leukemias, Parkinson's disease, and ischemic heart disease. Thanks to a recent National Academy of Science's report, there's enough evidence to make the presumption that if you're a Vietnam vet and have these, you don't have to jump through 1000 hoops to receive services. These latest three, which will probably be official early next year, join this infamous list:

Acute and subacute transient peripheral neuropathy
AL amyloidosis
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
Diabetes Mellitus (type 2)
Hodgkin's disease
Multiple myeloma
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Prophyria cutanea tarda
Prostate cancer
Respiratory cancer
Soft tissue sarcoma other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma or mesothelioma

Here's a link to the Washington Post article about Agent Orange and the new diseases.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Morbid Anatomy in Time Out New York

Joanna Ebenstein has an article profiling her in Time Out New York. She's the force behind which has said kind things about us in the past. There's a lot of pictures on the website.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog tip - Civil War Medicine (and Writing)

Steven Solomon, our former public affairs officer, pointed out this Civil War Medicine (and Writing) blog to me today. At my first quick glance, the author Jim Schmidt has a couple of posts about the Medical Museum - one on the Museum proper and another new one on Doctor (and photographer) Reed Bontecou which is the one Steven pointed out. Besides Blair's articles mentioned therein (I think I'm a co-author on the 2nd), anyone interested in Civil War medical photography might want to check out this Shooting Soldiers article.

Trade literature additions

A couple of weeks ago, I personally bought a few pieces of 1950s trade lit for the collection - these pharmaceutical ads are all blotters for fountain pens. They're filed under companies' names now. They're not exciting, but the price at the flea market was right, and now perhaps someone will use them. Blotters, Phedrol, Agarol, Alcaroid... all gone.

Phedros blotter
Blotter - Phedros eases spasmodic and irritating bronchial coughs due to colds.

Agarol blotter
Blotter - Agarol for Constipation, William E Warner & Co.

Alcaroid blotter
Blotter - Alcaroid, an effective alkalizer and digestant, American Ferment Company.
[American Ferment Company? An honest name at least.]

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dr. Paul Cannon's vision of the future

Paul Roberts Cannon is another name on the list of Noteworthy Pathologists. He received the Golden Cane Award (a kind of interesting story I'll tell another time) in 1965 and we have his handwritten notes for his acceptance speech. He led off with paraphrasing what Jack Benny said when Benny received the Eleanor Roosevelt Award: "Modesty should force him to say that he didn't deserve it. But he couldn't do that because he also had arthritis and he didn't deserve that either."

But he ended with his vision of the future. I think he'd be pretty disappointed to see what little progress has been made.
--Vaccinations for leukemia and cancer
--Control of population explosion
--Control of atherogenic elements [having to do with cardiac disease, if I read Google correctly]
--Control of air pollution
--Control of water pollution
--Control of factors of mental health

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Another museum selling collections to pay bills

Widow of Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum founder works to save husband's legacy

By Joan Mazzolini, The Plain Dealer

October 05, 2009, 6:29PM


This was a bit of a surprise* when it was pointed out to me, but I'll be there.

National Archives
9th and Penn Ave, NW
Tuesday, October 27, at 11 A.M.
Room G-24, Research Center (Enter on Pennsylvania Avenue)
Civil War Medicine
Archives specialist Rebecca Sharp and reference librarian Nancy Wing discuss The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, 1861–1865. This published source contains details of Civil War medical and surgical procedures, and information about individual patients. (This lecture will be repeated at the National Archives at College Park, MD, in Lecture Room B, on Thursday, October 29, at 11 a.m.)

This one looks relevant too:

Tuesday, October 6, at 11 A.M.
Room G-24, Research Center (Enter on Pennsylvania Avenue)
Documenting Death in the Civil War
John Deeben, genealogy archives specialist at the National Archives, explores death records created during and after the Civil War by the War Department, examining how they documented personal circumstances of soldiers’ deaths in various situations, including the battlefield and military hospitals and prisons. (This lecture will be repeated at the National Archives at College Park, MD, in Lecture Room B, on Thursday, October 8, at 11 a.m.)

*The Army Medical Museum (ie us) wrote the book and we retain original records and specimens that were used to compile it.**

**We also scanned it for you all.

More good stuff from the Registry

I finally got back to work on the Registry of Noteworthy Research in Pathology and today found some letters.

James Carroll was a Major in the Army who worked with Walter Reed on his yellow fever research. He volunteered to be bitten by a mosquito that had previously bitten three others who had yellow fever. He contracted the disease and several years later died of cardiac disease that was attributed to his bout of yellow fever.

Here's a letter from the President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, petitioning a Congressman to grant a special pension to Carroll's widow.

Page 1

Page 2

And here is the Congressman's reply.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I thought being a Major in the Army meant you were in military service to your country.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Red Cross selling items from Archives to close budget gap

The NY Times has the story today -

Red Cross to Auction Off Little Pieces of Its History
Published: October 3, 2009
To help address a $50 million budget deficit, the American Red Cross will sell some of the memorabilia it has squirreled away over many years.

This is a trend we're seeing more and more of.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Garfield autopsy letter

I just scanned this letter, written by the surgeon (D.W. Bliss, but the signature doesn't look like "Bliss" to me) who performed President James Garfield's autopsy, where he certifies that the bullet shown with the letter was taken from the body of the president. Thought you might like to see it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You never know what you'll find in the archives

reeve 39645
Balkan Owls, ca 1913, by Merl LaVoy. (Reeve 39645)

And our Flickr stats for the moment stand at 1,618 items / 876,972 views, up only ~7000 views in the two weeks from Sept 15th when I posted 1,605 items / 870,097 views.

Two pictures from 1898



This is a test to see what emailing photos to the blog results in...

More new pictures will go up on our Flickr site tonight as I browsed and picked some using the new software.

Museum's scanning software upgrade adds thumbnails

We've got 2 online catalogues running now - EMU for our internal databases and another for our scanning project. The scanning project one got upgraded yesterday. The latest version of NISC's AWARS / Wizard software carries thumbnails with it, making photo research much easier as you can see from the  picture. This is three shots from our Surgical Photographs collection which began with the Civil War but wandered into other types of surgical problems as the years went on. Hopefully we'll figure out how to share these photos online soon. More new pictures will go up on our Flickr site tonight as I browsed and picked some using the new software.


Feed the Dawgs

Mike Lemish, one of our researchers who wrote a book on military working dogs in Vietnam, (due out in February) sent me an email about a fund-raising effort to Feed the Dawgs. A small group of volunteers provides a steak dinner to returning and deploying dog handlers, and they need cash to do it. If you can help, please do. This latest fund-raising effort is for Marines at 29 Palms. OOHRAH!!

Here's Mike's email:

Just wanted to pass this along to all my "dog friends." I know things are tight all around but if your are looking to support our troops (both 2-legged and 4-legged) this may a good choice.  More info at their site If you get a chance, check it out.




Will you forward my email to the other VDHA Unit Directors and have them pass it on to the members of their units.  The Feed the Dawgs guys are doing a great thing for today's dogmen and women.  They can use our support if any of the guys can afford to make a donation.


Jim Stewart    377 SPS Unit Director VDHA

                    377 SPS K9 9/67-9/68  Dobe 7X49



I just received an email from our brother 377 SPS dogman, Jon Hemp.  He is involved with Feed the Dawgs, to which I have just made a donation, and they could use some additional donations to keep going.  Jon explained their upcoming project like this.

 Just about every time it looks like we're running out of fuel and headin' for the ditch, someone steps up.  No money from donations has ever been spent on anything BUT the new troops.  A big piece of your donation will go towards feeding 82 3rd Marine Division Dawgs at 29 Palms on 7 November.  Best guess is that the event will cost us approximately $700 to $800 once we have a final headcount including family members, vet detachment, PAO personnel and the Base Commander - estimated now at 130 people.

 The Feed the Dawgs web site is at:

 If you can help this group of guys feed some of today's MWD handlers send your donation in the name Jon Hemp to:

 Jon Hemp

1437 Revelation Way

Redlands, CA  92374

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"New" Civil War picture found

The other day someone asked about Civil War surgeon Eugene Shaw. I would have walked right to the Shaw collection, but Jasmine handled the request and ran his name through our Emu database. In doing so, she found the CDV below that was filed in our biographical files (we've since moved it to the collection).

Shaw CDV front

Shaw CDV verso

The text says, Eugene Shaw M.D. Written up in New York Herald for bravery and skill on the battle fields of the Civil War - 21 years old when he was made Ass't Surgeon, 116th NY Regiment.

Rec. Feb. 1939.
Ac. 52965.

Digital archives

A friend sent me a link to an article in Library Journal, The E-Memory Revolution, which discusses a topic that is so important to archives and archivists - digital archiving. I can't imagine an archives that isn't affected by this revolution, unless it's run by Luddites.

One thing that gives me the heebie-jeebies, though, is where the author says, "We horrify archivists when we talk about digitizing things and then throwing them away. Of course, one need not destroy the physical object after making a digital copy, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of Total Recall is the reduction of clutter; it is especially satisfying to shred one's papers and eliminate rows of filing cabinets and shelves. When curators come to deal with our archives, they will surely find hundreds fewer physical objects because of Total Recall. But they will have hundreds of thousands of additional digital artifacts. Whether you agree that is a highly positive trade-off, it is surely coming."

Archivists are fascinated by having/handling the real thing. I'm a big fan of not keeping multiple copies of some journal article but no way is some one-of-a-kind document going through the shredder because we've scanned it. Will I pitch my uncle's handwritten pages of his poetry because I have 600 ppi scans of them? I'll keep that clutter, thank you.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Darwin Symposium: Finished Proofs? A symposium to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species (1859)

The History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine and the Office of History at the National Institutes of Health are pleased to announce a symposium:


Finished Proofs? A symposium to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species (1859)


Location:        Lister Hill Auditorium, National Library of Medicine (NIH)

                8600 Rockville Pike, Bldg. 38A

                Bethesda, MD

Date:            1 October 2009

Time:            9:00 AM – 6:15 PM





Janet Browne, Harvard University

Eric Green, National Human Genome Research Institute

Michael Ruse, Florida State University

Barry Werth, Independent Author

Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University           




Nathaniel Comfort, Johns Hopkins University

Alan E. Guttmacher, National Human Genome Research Institute

Joe Palca, National Public Radio

Maxine Singer, Carnegie Institution for Science



All are welcome.




Michael J. North,
Head of Rare Books & Early Manuscripts
History of Medicine Division
National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD  20894

(301) 496-9204 * fax (301) 402-0872

National Institutes of Health
Department of Health and Human Services


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Inventor of medical ultrasound has died

Interesting obituary for him in JOHN J. WILD, 95; Doctor Advanced Medical Uses of Ultrasound, By Patricia Sullivan, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, September 24, 2009.

Civil War Reenactment at NMHM next Saturday, 10/3, 10am-5pm

“Civil War Reenactment at the Medical Museum”


When: Saturday, October 3, 2009, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.


Where: The National Museum of Health and Medicine

Building 54


What: The grounds of the nation’s medical museum will be transformed into a living history experience of Regular Army life during the Civil War. Displays on Civil War medicine and the role of the Sanitary Commission will be available along with exhibits on camp life, infantry drilling exercises and 19th century weapons displays. Children will enjoy hands-on activities such as building a replica of the hospital ship USS Red Rover, making a medical unit flag and creating a pin-hole camera.


Performances by the Federal City Brass Band at 10:00, 11:00, 1:30 & 2:30.


The reenactment is made possible by members of the 3rd U.S. Regular Infantry Reenactors. AFIP’s very own YN2(AW) Kelly Cochran is a member of the 3rd U.S. and will participate in the program!


While visiting the reenactment, visitors are encouraged to tour the Museum's permanent exhibition "To Bind Up the Nation's Wounds: Medicine During the Civil War." NMHM was founded in 1862 to study battlefield medicine in order to improve the care of the soldier.


The event will take place on the west grounds of the museum and in the museum galleries. This family event is open to the Walter Reed community and the general public.


Cost: FREE


Free parking available. Photo ID required.


For more information: or (202) 782-2673

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NY Times on insurance falling behind medical technology

Insurers Fight Speech-Impairment Remedy
Published: September 15, 2009
Devices like iPhones and netbook PCs that can help the speech-impaired are not covered by Medicare or insurers.

Flickr picture statistics

Since the Flickr site is blocked at work, we've been spending less time updating it - it's no longer a useful tool for showing researchers a picture we're trying to describe over the telephone for example. But our current statistics are 1,605 items / 870,097 views. I put up a new Korean War-era prosthetic photo tonight.

Ruminations on the latest issue of museum & society

This rolled in recently:



Hello, Subscribers to museum & society ,


The latest issue of museum & society is now available online at:




‘Journey without maps’: unsettling curatorship in cross-cultural contexts

Lisa Chandler


Translations: experiments in dialogic representation of cultural diversity in three museum sound installations

Mary Hutchison and Lea Collins


Objects, subjects, bits and bytes: learning from the digital collections of the National Museums

Siân Bayne, Jen Ross and Zoe Williamson


Review Article


Simon J. Knell, Suzanne MacLeod and Sheila Watson (eds),

Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and are Changed

Kylie Message



Best wishes,


Jim Roberts

Production Editor

museum & society


Jim Roberts Hon FMA
University of Leicester
School of Museum Studies


The third article is of interest to me. One point that I think wasn’t emphasized enough is that non-art museums can only put about 1%, in a best case scenario, of their collections on display. Therefore the online museum gives people an opportunity to access objects that no one else, including the curators, are using or paying attention to. In our scanning project, we have over 700,000 images created. Some of them are books, but the great majority are photographs that nobody had looked at since they were taken and the only record of them had been an index card in a nondescript building in Washington, DC. Someday soon, these will be available to anyone in the world who has Internet access. To me, that’s a big change in the status quo.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Interesting public health article on social media and hapiness

This has some very interesting ideas in it - I think I believe they're correct. Any opinions?

Is Happiness Catching?
Published: September 13, 2009
Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler say your friends — and even your friends’ friends — can make you quit smoking, eat too much or get happy. A look inside the emerging science of social contagion.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Excellent water public health article in NY Times

The Times has an excellent investigative report on the public health issue of clean water in today's paper -

Toxic Waters
Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Human Suffering
Published: September 13, 2009
In the past five years, companies and workplaces have violated pollution laws more than 500,000 times. But most polluters have escaped punishment.

Today's Post has an editorial on Walter Reed

The New Walter Reed: Less Than 'World Class'?
By Stephen Schimpff
Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Teddy Bear Clinic on Saturday

Teddy Bear Clinic to take place Saturday, September 12

On Saturday, September 12 from 1-3 p.m., the National Museum of Health and Medicine will its first Teddy Bear Clinic. It should be a lot of fun!


We’re asking kids in PreK-3 to 2nd grade to bring their favorite stuffed animals to be checked out by the experts. First they’ll visit a craft station where they’ll make doctor’s headbands, nurse’s hats, and doctor’s bags. Then, they’ll visit several stations where their stuffed animal’s vitals and teeth will be checked, shots will be administered, and healthy eating and exercising habits will be discussed.  (Hopefully the kids will learn a few things, too!)  At the end of the program, their friend will be issued a clean bill of health certificate.


This will be the last in a series of programs that were designed to complement the exhibition entitled “David Macaulay Presents: The Way We Work.” The exhibit closes on September 20, so stop by soon if you haven’t had a chance to see it.


The Public Programs staff would like to thank Aileen Mavity, one of the museum’s summer interns, for her help in designing this program!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

On a couple of nondescript stereographs

Here's a couple of stereographs I bought over the weekend, due to their rough relationship to the Museum:

Rau - dutch courtship
The 'Dutch Courtship' was probably intended to be humorous.

Rau - crowd scene
This crowd scene is meaningless now without its caption.

So, why did I buy these?

Rau - dutch courtship credit

Rau - crowd scene credit
Both are by William H. Rau.


He was William Bell's son-in-law. Bell was the Museum's best photographer of the 19th century who took photographed many of the Civil War soldiers at the Museum. He was the subject of a small exhibit at the American Art museum last year.

Friday, September 4, 2009

We've been blogged

A couple of our flu photos have shown up on the blog e-l-i-s-e. When I saw the title of yesterday's post - GRIPPE ESPAGNOLE 1918 1919 - SPANISH FLU - INFLUENZA - I had I feeling I'd see something from our collection. She used our ever-popular NCP 1603 and Reeve 14682.

Museum to Participate in Cultural Tourism DC's Fall WalkingTown DC

Museum to Participate in Cultural Tourism DC’s Fall WalkingTown DC


Below is the listing from Cultural Tourism’s website ( for the walking tour that the Museum will take part in on September 19. If you’d like to join in, make your reservation soon because we can only accommodate 30 participants. Last spring, we participated in WalkingTown for the first time with rave reviews.  This year, John Pierce, Walter Reed Society historian, will lead the walking tour of the Walter Reed campus—he plans to take the group into the lobby of Building 1 to share the history of that beautiful structure. He will end his portion of the tour at the Museum, where Andi Sacks, Museum Docent Extraordinaire, will provide an introduction to the exhibtions and walk around with the group to describe highlights.


Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Museum of Health and Medicine
Saturday, September 19
9 - 11 am
Meet at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Building 1 (enter Georgia Avenue/Elder Street gate)
Nearest Metrorail/Metrobus: Takoma Park Metro station (Red line), 70 Metrobus
End at National Museum of Health and Medicine, Building 54
Reservations required: Online

Explore the 100-year history of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and learn how one man’s dream led to one of today’s leading medical facilities. Landmarks include the original US Army General hospital, where Eisenhower and General of the Armies John J. Pershing spent their final days, the new hospital complex, the formal Rose Garden, the Memorial Chapel, the Walter Reed Memorial, and the spot President Lincoln was nearly shot during the Battle of Fort Stevens. Then tour the National Museum of Health and Medicine to learn about the history of military medicine, including a special exhibit about the medical care given to President Lincoln during his last hours. Tour is just over one mile long. Led by John Pierce, a retired Army physician and historian of the Walter Reed Society and Andi Sacks, a National Museum of Health and Medicine Docent.
Note: Photo ID required.


Development of the Historical Archives

The Registry of Noteworthy Research in Pathology disgorged another treasure this morning. We have a copy of the AFIP Letter, this particular issue from April 1969, which has a feature on the "Old Red Brick" closing. The Old Red Brick was the museum's home on The Mall, when the Museum was the parent organization and the AFIP the child. This article notes we vacated it January 7, 1969 and everything was put in storage. We knew that. What's interesting here is that an "extremely active" program in the museum during the prior year was the development of the Historical Archives. At the time of this article, the archives had amassed a collection of more than 1169 items. I think I have that number of items sitting on my desk right now, a tiny little drop in the now vast bucket of the archives.

Bring your kids! Teddy Bear Clinic at NMHM, Saturday, 9/12, 1:00 p.m.

“Teddy Bear Clinic”


When: Saturday, September 12, 2009 (1:00-3:00 p.m.)


Where: National Museum of Health and Medicine


What: Bring your favorite stuffed friend and explore the Teddy Bear Clinic with activities and crafts designed to highlight the body, nutrition, physical fitness, and healthy habits.


Recommended for grades PreK-2.


Cost: FREE!


Information: or (202) 782-2673

Thursday, September 3, 2009

2 pictures of Sickles

One of our main Civil War attractions is General Sickle’s legbones, which he sent into the Museum. I found two pictures of him on the web today, at New Jersey’s Archives website at . They’re at the bottom of this page.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Swine flu

Another cool find from the Registry of Noteworthy Research in Pathology - I just opened the Richard E. Shope folder which contains his original, handwritten research records documenting the first isolation of swine influenza. In an article from the Medical Tribune of June 17, 1963, Dr. Shope "described the appearance of a new respiratory disease among swine in the Midwestern states, in the autumn of 1918. Since there existed at that time a widespread outbreak of human pandemic influenza, and since the disease in swine, both clinically and at autopsy, resembled the human disease, it was named swine influenza." He said that swine flu was suspected to be as a result from an infection from humans, but because no virus from the human disease was yet available, it was impossible to make the connection.

But!! When the human influenza virus was discovered in 1933, it was found to be closely related to the swine virus, which supported the notion that swine flu originated in humans. So why did swine flu continue to appear once human flu more or less disappeared, at least as a pandemic, in about 1920? Dr. Shope maintained that the virus found a way to perpetuate itself in the hog population, which was ultimately proven when the swine lungworm, a nematode parasitic in the respiratory tract, was discovered. It serves as a reservoir and intermediate host, which is why the flu sticks around. If not for this reservoir, swine flu would have subsided about the same time as the human influenza virus.

Still with me? The article in the Medical Tribune, where I got all this information, is illustrated with a photo of Dr. Shope receiving the Ricketts Award from the son of Howard Taylor Ricketts, the doctor I wrote about yesterday, and for whom the award was named.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rickettsial spotted fever

As part of the work I'm doing on processing the Registry of Noteworthy Research in Pathology collection, I've just come across a little bit of material on Howard Taylor Ricketts. This is the man who discovered the bacterium that causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (called rickettsia) and epidemic typhus. We have a copy of a letter he wrote to his wife, which is the first mention of his having seen the micro-organism of typhus, nine days after his arrival in Mexico City. The letter was dated December 20, 1909.

"I kept at the microscope this afternoon because I felt pretty sure that I was finding some micro-organisms in the blood taken from the spots of the patients. I think I am not mistaken. They resemble the spotted fever bacilli somewhat, but stain poorly. I hope within a day or two to feel pretty sure one way or another. They are so hard to recognize that I doubt whether any one else here would see them. But I have so strongly suspected a relationship between spotted fever and typhus that I was looking for that very thing. Don't get excited over it, for it may be some accidental affair. However, I shall push it as rapidly as I can, and as soon as possible shall begin a paper so that there would be little delay in publication..."

Think of the excitement he had to have been holding in check, and hoping he wasn't seeing something that wasn't there.

Within six months he died from typhus, at the age of 39.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Commercialism, merchandising and the role of a museum

This is an interesting article - Kennicott's got a good perspective on the issue. As someone who's interested in popular culture, I personally feel that more could be done. He cites the National Portrait Gallery as a good example of an institution that let time decide some issues... however, they're way behind in collecting movie posters as a result, even though they were some of the most evocative images of artists of the 20th century. Read the article and let us know what you think in the comments.

Artifact or Artifice?
If Simon, Randy and Paula's Desk Sits in the Smithsonian, Is the Institution Performing Its Proper Role in Chronicling Our Culture?

By Philip Kennicott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 30, 2009

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.

Friday, August 28, 2009

PR: Eä - Journal of Medical Humanities & Social Studies of Science and Technology

This email came through the Caduceus history of medicine list today - I took a very quick look at the TOC for the first issue and it looks like they've got a good selection on South American history especially Argentina.

 Dear friends,

It is our great pleasure to inform you about the publication of Vol. 1 Nº 1 of Eä – Journal of Medical Humanities & Social Studies of Science and Technology (ISSN 1852-4680), a periodical electronic journal in an interactive format publishing papers on Medical Humanities and Social Studies of Science and Technology. The journal is available at the URL

The journal aims to be in the junction between academic excellence and the development of the new technologies of information and social networks. The journal gathers a prestigious editorial committee, is peer reviewed by international referees and meets the requirements of periodical publications indexes. Eä publishes three issues a year (April, August, and December). It is presented in Spanish and English, and accepts texts in Spanish, English, Portuguese and French, reaching global impact. This publication has been created under the Web 2.0 paradigm, with a dynamic layout that promotes user-reader's interaction between them and with the website.

We invite you to go through the contents of this first issue and we wait for your comments and suggestions in order to improve this journal. Next deadline for submitting papers to be published in Vol. 1 Nº 2 (December 2009) will be October 1st. We invite you to help us by spreading this initiative among your colleagues, and we also invite you to submit papers for publication for our next issue. You may find information for authors in the following link: or you can send us an e-mail to

Yours sincerely,

Jaime Elías Bortz, Academic Director

Gabriela Mijal Bortz, Editorial Director

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bert Hansen's book on mass media images reviewed in today's Times

This article -


When a Doctor Is More, and Less, Than a Healer


August 25, 2009


Reviews Bert’s new book -



A History of Mass Media Images and Popular Attitudes in America. By Bert Hansen. Rutgers University Press. 348 pages. $37.95.


-which I thought was excellent. We have a copy in the Museum.

1957 influenza epidemic

Today's Washington Post has a large article on the 1957 influenza epidemic. We've got a selection of photographs from this, mostly involved with diagnosing it in Japan, on our website.

4-volume book set of historical Ophthalmology photographs donated

Dr. Stanley Burns, a longtime friend of the Museum, donated his latest publication yesterday – a 4-volume book set of historical ophthalmology photographs. It’s only been out for two weeks and we’re quite pleased to get it. Dr. Burns has one of the largest private collections of history of medicine photographs and opens it for use as the Burns Archive in New York City. This is the 6th set of historical medical photographs that he’s published , and its formal title is Ophthalmology A Photographic History 1845-1945, Selections from the Burns Archive.

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.

Ben Gage, art handler, blogs about moving museum piece

Ben Gage put this link in a comment, but I'll highlight it on the main blog as it's an interesting side of museums that most people don't have to consider -

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

National Museum of Health and Medicine: Walter Reed Army Hospital

More Nursing Materials in the Archives

At a "junque" store in Tennessee Mike found some materials which belonged to Mary Charles Green Carter, who graduated from the School of Nursing at St. Mary's Memorial Hospital in 1956:  photos, a diploma, a Tennessee state nursing license, and a certificate showing three months' completion at Eastern State Hospital in Knoxville. We're going to scan these and add them to the NCP collection. In our line of work it's not always possible to put faces to names and names to faces. This tiny collection is a real treat because we have both.