As a volunteer for the History of Medicine (HOM) Collections, one of my projects was to create subject guides for several of the Collections’ strengths. I focused on collection strengths in areas of anesthesia, human sexuality, materia medica, pediatrics, psychiatry, vivisection, and yellow fever. I spent the past few weeks gathering sources and images to highlight the HOM’s interesting collection of vivisection materials, many of which come from the large vivisection pamphlet collection.
A significant amount of the collection features philosophical debates between those who regard surgery on live animals for experimental purposes as cruelty and those who support vivisection for benefits stemming from progress and advancements in medical science (e.g., creation of immunizations and vaccines).
On the other hand, animal experimentation has played a crucial role in helping to develop immunizations against infectious diseases, such as polio and diphtheria. The photographs below feature children whose lives were saved by antitoxin discovered through medical research using animals. In an attempt to appeal to people’s emotions and gain acceptance for animal experimentation, one of the captions contains a suggestion for others to imagine their own child as one of the pictured victims of infantile paralysis. The question is asked, “Would you hesitate to sacrifice under ether one or more animals if through the knowledge gained the disease could have been prevented, or your child could have recovered without being crippled?”
The vivisection controversy brings up other provocative questions: Is animal experimentation justifiable if it results in the possibility of a cure/immunization/vaccine for a disease (e.g., cancer, HIV/AIDS)? Do the benefits of eradicating diseases for humans outweigh the suffering and pain caused to animals in medical research? Does the use of anesthesia make vivisection more acceptable? Are there parallels between animal vivisection and human vivisection as historically conducted by the Nazi and Imperial Japanese armies? Come examine the materials in the History of Medicine Collections and develop your own conclusions.
Post contributed by Christine Cheng, former volunteer for the History of Medicine Collections. Christine is now the Research Services Coordinator for George Mason University Libraries Special Collections & Archives.
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The Devil’s Tale Archive
- William C. Hall papers, 1873-1876 and undated. October 17, 2014
- Dainty-Maid product brochures, 1947,1953 and undated. October 16, 2014
- Noma Lee Goodwin congressional letters on price controls, 1946. October 15, 2014
- Ernest F. Hollings senatorial report to South Carolina 1968 May 7. October 14, 2014
- Works Progress Administration of Virginia notes for a Virginia tourist guide, 1936-1937 and undated. October 14, 2014
- Ricordo di Roma : 48 vedute October 16, 2014
- Manures, how to make and how to use them : a new, practical treatise on the chemistry of manures and manure-making October 16, 2014
- La photographie judiciaire October 15, 2014
- The last bizarre tale : stories October 14, 2014
- Tell the world you're a wildflower : stories October 14, 2014
- Dr. Bate's true marriage guide : (Volume c.1) October 20, 2014
- Abrégé de l'art des accouchements, dans lequel on donne les preceptes necessaires pour le mettre h (Volume c.1) October 20, 2014
- From slave cabin to the pulpit; (Volume c.1) October 20, 2014
- Egypt and the Soudan : (Volume c.1) October 20, 2014
- Minnie Albright's experience, or, A friendly warning to young ladies forming acquaintance with stran (Volume c.1) October 20, 2014