Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Dr Mary Walker comic book released

Groundbreaking Civil War Doctor Showcased

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Some of Walker's possessions are in the National Museum of Health and Medicine

Monday, August 17, 2020

Responding to the Washington Post's mistaken criticism of Hammond

In this article,"The stench of colonialism mars these bird names. They must be changed" by Gabriel Foley, Jordan Rutter, published online August 4, 2020, the authors write,

"When we name an animal species after the person who first made it known to science, we are effectively honoring that person's contribution. ... Yet these honorific names — known as eponyms — also cast long, dark shadows over our beloved birds and represent colonialism, racism and inequality. It is long overdue that we acknowledge the problem of such names, and it is long overdue that we should change them." They follow that up by claiming, "William Alexander Hammond, once a surgeon general of the United States, asked U.S. soldiers to send him the bodies of indigenous people for comparative anatomy studies"

I sent a letter to the Post that they chose not to publish, so I'm posting it here:

Notwithstanding any validity of Foley and Rutter's argument about bird names, they are factually wrong in stating Army Surgeon General Hammond asked U.S. soldiers to send him bodies of indigenous peoples. Hammond founded the Army Medical Museum as the first federal medical research facility, holding human specimens (including skulls), photographs, and case histories from ill and injured Union soldiers, usually white males. Medicine at the time was unrecognizable to us - there were no ambulances, x-rays, antibiotics, or germ theory. Hammond proposed to produce a Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion and the 6,000-page, fifty-six pound History took twenty-three years to finish. By the 1870s, ethnography and anthropology were growing scientific fields, and the Museum had a pre-existing core of bored Army officers to draw on for donations. As early as 1869, the Smithsonian had proposed "an exchange of specimens which are now in possession of the Army Medical Museum, relative to Indian Archaeology and Anthropology, for specimens relative to human and comparative Anatomy in the Smithsonian Institution." Museum curator JS Billings renewed this exchange in 1884, 20 years after Hammond left Washington. In fact without Hammond and his colleagues, Foley and Rutter's field may have been much slower to develop. An entire book, Ornithologists of the United States Army Medical Corps, was written by EE Hume in 1942. Medicine, anthropology, and ornithology have all evolved since the 1860s, and while 'science never exists in a vacuum' as the authors note, it has to start somewhere.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Red Cross photo collection at Library of Congress

Behind the Scenes: an Archivist Draws on Myriad Experiences

Below is an interview with Kristen Sosinski, Archivist in the Prints & Photographs Division at the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

From Anderson’s Holler – A World War II medical photographer’s story- available now

From Anderson’s Holler – A World War II medical photographer’s story- available now

A memoir of growing up in the hills of West Virginia and suddenly becoming a World War II medical photographer, with a clearance to go where others could not.

By Melvin C. Shaffer
Dallas: DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University
Price $30
ISBN 978-1-878516-16-9 (paper)
          978-1-878516-17-6 (cloth)

June 25, 2020 – Green Valley, Arizona

In his first memoir, pioneering medical educator and Army Sergeant (ret.) Melvin C. Shaffer recalls his upbringing in rural West Virginia, his efforts to escape the narrow life of his peers, and his service in World War II. Foreshadowing his global wanderings, Shaffer’s first memory is of his father receiving a telephone call on his family’s wall-mounted crank telephone, announcing Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight arriving in Paris. As a boy, he developed a dual love of travel and photography. When World War II called, these passions fueled his success as a photographer in the Army’s 3rd Medical Museum and Arts Detachment (MAMAS). Trained and equipped as a medic, he also carried a full photography kit on assignments given him by the Army Medical Museum in Washington to document medicine and surgery – both advances and problems. First sent to North Africa, his own resourcefulness got him to wide-flung duty stations: Sicily, Salerno, Naples, Anzio, Rome, Florence, Poltava, Southern France, Dachau, and Berlin. Shaffer finds himself pulling soldiers off the battlefield while under fire, as well as documenting the new wonder drug, penicillin. His post-war civilian duties took him to Nuremberg and Tokyo on assignments related to Hitler’s bunker suicide and the atomic bombing of Japan.

Shaffer, retired after long careers at the Medical College of Virginia (now Virginia Commonwealth University) and the World Health Organization, has a folksy way of telling his story. Readers of Shaffer’s book will feel as though they are sitting across from him at the dinner table, but his tales are true and not tall ones. He says, “I tried to write the book in such a way that readers could experience the war as I did, that they could see and feel the power of things as they came to me and, occasionally, find the humor of it all.”

Now in his 90s, Melvin Shaffer still travels as much as he can and has never satisfied his wanderlust. He is writing a sequel to From Anderson’s Holler, covering his post-war experiences in medical education.

He is available for interviews and can be reached via email at
The book may be purchased from Southern Methodist University (SMU) at
Shaffer’s personal photos taken during the war have been donated to SMU and can be found at

Thursday, June 18, 2020

1st piece on COVID-19 by Navy's medical historian online

The Nay's medical department historian has been conducting oral histories for weeks to document the coronavirus response. This is the first piece to come out of that effort.

Presence and Partnerships: NEPMU-5's Fight Against COVID-19



Story by AndrĂ© Sobocinski 

U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

it's also at

Preventive Medicine Unit Partners With Commanders, Sailors to Fight COVID-19

Story Number: NNS200618-15Release Date: 6/18/2020 1:44:00 PM      
From Andre B. Sobocinski, Historian, BUMED Public Affairs

Friday, March 13, 2020

Digitization proposed for former Armed Forces Institute of Pathology collection

Pentagon plans to digitize the largest repository of disease-related medical data in the world

The Department of Defense wants a digital repository of its 55 million tissue samples going back over 100 years

That's the former Armed Forces Institute of Pathology collection with many pre-World War II Army Medical Museum specimens.

As of 2011, they were scanning patient records and creating metadata, but then the AFIP was BRAC'd and recreated as the JPC. How does one digitize wax tissue blocks? Or wet tissue?