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A Sound Mind in a Sound Body: Health Advice for Scholars and Students

19th century illustration showing two school boys sitting opposite one another at a table. According to the image's caption, the one on teh left is showing poor writing posture, while the one on the right is showing the proper posture.
Calvin Cutter. A Treatise on Anatomy, Physiology, and Hygiene: Designed for Colleges, Academies, and Families. Philadelphia, 1852.

“It is an old complaint,” wrote the eighteenth-century Swiss physician Samuel-André-Auguste-David Tissot, “that study, though essentially necessary to the mind, is hurtful to the body.” Student health is the subject of a new exhibit entitled “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body: Health Advice for Scholars and Students,” now on display in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room.

Photograph of the title page of the book "The Haven of Health"
Title page to Thomas Cogan. The Haven of Health… London, 1612.

Since antiquity, scholars and students have been bombarded with warnings about the potential health hazards associated with a life of sedentary study, the medical side effects of which have been said to range from a loss of vision, cramped posture, and consumption to melancholia, bad digestion, and even hemorrhoids. Heeding these warnings, scholars and students have for centuries turned to medical guides for advice on how best to counteract the effects of “hard study.” While such guides often vary as to specifics, all commend some form of attention to diet, exercise, and regimen as means to a long and healthy life, urging adherence to an ancient ideal: mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body.

Image in honor of W.W. Card, director of athletics at Trinity College. Image includes 11 photographs of Card in various athletic poses.
“Health and Strength,” Wilbur Wade Card Papers, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

The items in the exhibit trace the history of medical advice written specifically for scholars and students and reflect the wide range of approaches to scholarly health.  The exhibit, on display in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room, runs through July 16, 2017.

A Sound Mind in a Sound Body is curated by Thomas Gillan, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern




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