Category Archives: History of Medicine

Frederik Ruysch’s Anatomical Art

Anatomical specimens emerged as an art form near the end of the seventeenth century. Although they may seem morbid today, at the time of creation, they were viewed as striking a balance between the scientific and the artistic. They served to educate people on human anatomy as well as to remind them of the fleeting nature of life.

Illustration from Opera Omnia Anatomico-Medico-Chirurgica, ca. 1737.
Illustration from Opera Omnia Anatomico-Medico-Chirurgica, ca. 1737.

One of the more notable creators of anatomical art is Frederik Ruysch, a Dutch botanist and anatomist who lived from 1638 to 1731—an impressive 93 years in a time when many died young. A capable researcher, Ruysch was the first to describe bronchial blood vessels, the vascular plexus of the heart, and the valves of the lymphatics. However, his real interest lay in anatomical preparations, and he has been described by a recent biographer as “probably the most skilled and knowledgeable preparator in the history of anatomy” (Gould, p. 20). Ruysch served as the chief instructor to midwives and the “legal doctor” to the court of Amsterdam. Through these positions, he had easy (and legal) access to the bodies of stillborns and dead babies.

The preparations were initially created to use in his classes, but they eventually gained an interest from the public. To showcase his vast collection (he created more than 2,000 from 1665 to 1717 alone), he opened his own cabinet of curiosities to the public, which for many marked the first time they were able to see human internal organs. The collection was also noteworthy because of the lengths to which Ruysch went in an effort to make the specimens appear more natural. For example, embalmed children were clothed or held bouquets of preserved flowers. In 1717, Peter the Great, who was an admirer of Ruysch, purchased the entire cabinet of curiosities for 30,000 guilders. The collection was then shipped to St. Petersburg, and along with the cabinet of curiosities formed by Albertus Seba, they became the core of the Kunstkammer—the Academy of Sciences of Russia’s first public museum.

Although a number of Ruysch’s wet preparations still exist today (a fact which he would find unsurprising), none of his dry specimens have been located. He used fetal skeletons and other body parts to create multi-specimen scenes. These scenes served as the centerpieces for each of the literal cabinets within the rooms of his museum. As Gould points out, these tableaux were focused on allegorical themes such as death and the transience of life. The small skeletons are decorated with symbols of death and short life: mayflies rest in hands, skulls weep into handkerchiefs made of mesentery, and snakes made of intestine wine their way through bones. Today, these still-life scenes exist for us only through second-hand descriptions and, fortunately, through a number of engravings.

Fortunately for those interested in seeing these illustrations up close, the History of Medicine Collections has two volumes from the multi-volume Opera omnia anatomico-medico-chirurgica. On October 29, from 2-4 pm, they will be on display as part of Screamfest in the Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room.

Recommended Reading:

Post contributed by Amelia Holmes, Josiah Charles Trent Intern for the History of Medicine Collections.

Screamfest III: The Cutening

Date: Thursday, October 29, 2015
Time: 2:00-4:00 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room
Contact: Amy McDonald,

Y’all, we hear you. The semester is getting more and more intense and sometimes Duke is just so . . . gothic, you know? Sometimes you just need to eat some free candy and look at cute things. And what better time to do that than in celebration of that traditionally cute holiday, Halloween?

Your cuddly Rubenstein librarians would like to invite you to visit us for Screamfest III, an open house featuring creepy ADORABLE things from our collections.

Halloween Postcard
Like this postcard of these sweet black kitty-cats, bringing you Halloween joys in their happy hot air pumpkins.

Illustration from Opera Omnia Anatomico-Medico-Chirurgica, ca. 1737.

Or this illustration of these precious babies from our History of Medicine Collection’s Opera Omnia Anatomico-Medico-Chirurgica by Frederik Ruysch. Yes, fine, they’re skeleton babies, and they’re standing on a pile of human organs, but they’re totally listening to a song by The Wiggles.

Ghost at the Library. From the 1984 Chanticleer.

You can also page through the 1984 Chanticleer to view the photos of this friendly library ghost, who just wants to bring you fuzzy slippers so you can study comfortably.

Demon Miniature from Edwin and Terry Murray Collection of Role-Playing Games.

And sure, scourge and sword-wielding demons are very scary when they’re life-sized. But swing by our open house and you’ll be able to bravely make kissy-faces at this little dude (paperclip for scale) from the Edwin and Terry Murray Collection of Role-Playing Games.

In fact, we promise that there will be so much cuteness (and candy) that, well, you might die. See you there!

Promising Cures for Hearing Loss in Early 20th Century America

Is there damage to be done from meddling with the ear or attempting any cure for deafness?

“Now, right here,” says T.Page, “stop and think a moment…If your stove smoked constantly, day after day, you would not place a poultice around the stove pipe, would you? You would clean out the flue or chimney, wouldn’t you?” Well, would you? Well, the same should go for fixing deafness, according to Page in his 1891 pamphlet: “Clean out the obstruction inside of your head, and you hear again as well as ever.” Why should one pay for a high-priced aurist (a specialist of the ear), when an easy remedy promises to do the same, at half the cost, and with minimal pain?


Indeed, what motivated people with hearing loss to select amongst an abundance of deafness cures or make plans to visit the aurist? My monograph, tentatively titled Deafness Misery, Hearing Happiness: Fakes and Fads in Deafness Cures, 1850-1950, examines these motivations, exploring how the lines between reputable medical treatment and “quack cure” were frequently negotiated as newer surgical procedures and technologies redefined, if not reflected, cultural expectations of “normalcy.” As it was difficult to distinguish between the “quack with a scheme” and the “visionary with a theory” promising a permanent cure for hearing loss, deaf persons were portrayed as particularly vulnerable to the clutches of fraud, since once “cured,” they were no longer condemned to the “miserable,” “isolating” state of deafness.

In June, I visited the David M. Rubenstein Rare Books and Manuscript Library at Duke University, a trip made possible thanks to the library’s generous History of Medicine Travel Grant. My research had two aims. First, to examine through the advertising collection in both the History of Medicine collections and the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History to investigate the cultural history of American advertisements for deafness cures and hearing aids. This research, which will be incorporated into one of my book chapters, “Those Instinctive, Invisible, Improved Aids,” examines how these advertisements embodied the rhetoric of “curability” and what disability scholars refer as “passing”—the masking of disability or infirmity to appear as “normal”—as marketing and sales techniques. Advertisements not only reveal the kinds of technological options available for deafened persons, but enable us to investigate the ways in which deafness was constructed as a stigma and how goods for hearing loss was marketed and sold. Indeed, many adverts propagated the refrain “Deafness is Misery,” addressing the despair and desperation deaf people felt over failed medical therapeutics. They also justified the exorbitant price of goods by connecting to the marvels of electricity and communication.

Secondly, I hoped to uncover (hidden) stories of deaf persons or persons with (temporary) hearing loss, and whether they attempted any treatment(s) for deafness. This was a more challenging task, but a good place to start was the collection of recipe books/receipt books in the History of Medicine collection. Some of these books were written by physicians and surgeons, who kept tally of the treatments they advised to their patients. For instance, I came across the receipt book of John Kearsley Mitchell (1793-1858), which lists a treatment for deafness:

“If deficy [sic] of cerumen – use salt dropped into ear or place on coarse wool some of Rx __ terebinth [an aromatic used to interrupt condition by stimulating senses and dissolve wax] gtt 10. [10 drops]. Ol olio [to oil in Italian] [symbol for fluid ounce].”
By the way, I had a difficult time comprehending Mitchell’s writing—so I did what any historian fluent in social media would do: I asked my twitter followers to help me decipher the text!

Another receipt book, this time belonging to Dr. William R. Blakeslee, a civil war surgeon, contains a list of prescriptions the surgeon recommended while stationed at Camp Muhlenburg with the 48th Regiment of the Pennsylvania State Militia (near Scranton) during August 1863. Blakeslee provides details for various soldiers’ treatment(s) and his prescribed remedy, but in the case of Private William Workeizer (?) who suffered from otitis, there was no remedy listed. Does this mean that Blakeslee did not provide a treatment? Or that there was no remedy for otitis that would help the private?

There are also recipes for ear ailments written in home recipe and remedy books. One from 1896 copies a recipe from “Farmer’s Friend” for earache: “A remedy which never fails is a pinch of black pepper gathered up in a bit of cotton batting wet in sweet oil and inserted in the ear. It will give immediate relief.”

I came across many more examples, far too many for this blog post. I’d like to share one more, a letter that was out of place in the Eva Parris Letters (1892-1909) collection, written by a Virginia P. Dean of Montgomery, to G.H. Branaman of Kanas City, on July 10, 1909. In the short, carefully written letter, Dean thanks Branaman for his “cure,” which left her hearing “as good as it ever was,” and promises to recommend his method for anyone else afflicted with catarrhal deafness. This was a tremendous find for me: Branaman established the Branaman Medical Institute, which was notoriously exposed in the 1910s by the U.S. Post Office for its mail-order fraud and quackery in delivering deafness “cures.” His deafness treatment was a strange combination treatment, which made use of a special nostrum medicine and the use of his “electro-magnetic head cap.” Used properly, Branaman claimed his method could cure even the most incurable cases of deafness—or your money back! He was eventually charged with four counts of fraud and eventually put out of business.

Submitted by Jaipreet Virdi-Dhesi (Brock University), 2015-16 History of Medicine Collections Travel Grant Awardee

Congratulations to Our 2015-2016 Research Grant Recipients

The Rubenstein Library’s research centers annually award travel grants to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars through a competitive application process. Congratulations—we look forward to sharing our collections with you!

History of Medicine Research Grants

Lindsey Beal, MFA, for photographic research on late nineteenth and early twentieth century obstetric and gynecological instruments.

Forceps from the History of Medicine instrument collection
Forceps from the History of Medicine instrument collection

Elaine LaFay, PhD candidate in History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania, for dissertation work on “Weathered Bodies, Sickly Lands: Climate, Health, and Place in the Antebellum Gulf South.”

Jaipreet Virdi-Dhesi, PhD, for work on “Deafness is Misery: Advertised Cures for Hearing Loss in Early 20th Century America.”


John Hope Franklin Center for African and African-American History and Culture Research Grants

Wangui Muigai, Princeton University, “An Awful Gladness: Infant Mortality and Race from Slavery to the Great Migration”

Jessica Parr, University of New Hampshire at Manchester, “’Saved from My Pagan Land:’ the Role of Religion in Self-Making in the Black Atlantic, 1660-1820.”

Whitney Stewart, Rice University, “Domestic Activism: The Politics of the Black Home in Nineteenth-Century America”

Brandon Winford, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, “Building New South Prosperity: John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights”

N.C. Mutual Home Office and Mechanics and Farmers Bank
N.C. Mutual Home Office and Mechanics and Farmers Bank


John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History Research Grants

Dana Alsen, Department of History, University of Alabama, “Changing Patterns of Food Consumption in North Carolina, 1945-1989”

Dr. Makeda Best, Dept. of Visual Studies, California College of the Arts, “Sensing Memory: Kodak Cameras, Class, the Haptic, and the Labor of Memory in Late Nineteenth Century America”

Cari Casteel, History of Technology, Auburn University, “The Odor of Things: Deodorant, Gender, and Olfaction in the United States, 1888-2010”

Advertisement for Jergens Dryad Deodorant
Advertisement for Jergens Dryad Deodorant


Dr. Victoria Greive, Dept. of History, Utah State University, “Childhood and the Ideology of Domestic Security: Advertising During the Cold War”

Kira Lussier, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto, “Managing Your Self:  Personality Testing in Corporate America, 1960-present”

Dr. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox, Visiting Scholar, Institute of Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Columbia University,  “Ad Women in a (Mad)Men World: Negotiating Gender in the Advertising Business 1910-1930”

Dr. Rebecca Sheehan, United States Studies Center, University of Sydney, “The Rise of the Superwoman: How Sex Remade Gender in America’s Long 1970s”

Dr. Mark Tadajewski, Professor of Marketing, Durham University, “Jean Kilbourne: Recalling the Contributions of a Feminist Critic of Advertising”

Seth Tannenbaum, Department of History, Temple University, “Take Me Out…To the Concession Stand: Baseball, Food, and Citizenship in the Twentieth Century”


Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, Mary Lily Research Grants

Meaghan Beadle, Ph.D. candidate, history, University of Virginia, “This is What a Feminist Looks Like! Photography and Feminism, 1968-1980.”

Hanne Blank, Ph.D. candidate, history, Emory University, “Southern Women, Feminist Health: Activist Health Service and Communities of Radical Conscience in the Southeastern U.S., 1968-1990.”

Feminist Women’s Health Center
Feminist Women’s Health Center


Samantha Bryant, Ph.D. candidate, history, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, “‘Black Monster Stalks the City’: The Thomas Wansley Case and the Racialized Cultural Landscape of the American Prison Industrial Complex, 1960 – 1975.”

Jaime Cantrell, Visiting Assistant Professor of English, The Sarah Isom Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Mississippi, “Southern Sapphisms: Race, Sexuality, and Sociality in Literary Productions, 1968-1994.”

Ariel Dougherty, Independent scholar, for book research on film teaching programs for young women, women of color, and queer women.

Anne Gray Fischer, Ph.D. candidate, history, Brown University, for dissertation research on the politics of prostitution in the US from 1960s – 1980s.

Anna Iones, Ph.D. candidate, English language and literature, University of Virginia, “Shocking Violence, Contested Consent: The Feminist Avant-garde from Kathy Acker to Riot Grrrl.”

Catherine Jacquet, Assistant Professor, history, Louisiana State University, Responding to Rape: Contesting the Meanings of Sexual Violence in the United States, 1950-1980.

Whitney Stewart, Ph.D. candidate, history, Rice University, “Domestic Activism: The Politics of the Black Home in Nineteenth-Century America.”

Mary Whitlock, Ph.D. candidate, sociology, University of South Florida, “Examining Forty Years Of The Social Organization Of Feminisms:  Ethnography Of Two Women’s Bookstores In the US South.”

Leah Wilson, Master’s student, English, Iowa State University, “Fleeing the Double Bind: Subverting the ‘White Trash’ Label through Female Solidarity and Erotic Power in Dorothy Allison’s Cavedweller.”

The Right to Remain Private: Challenges to Protecting Health Information in Historical Research

Join us for a round table discussion on how the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) impacts research conducted in libraries and archives.

Thursday, April 16, 5:30 pm, Room 217 of Perkins Library

Panelists include:

  • Cynthia Greenlee, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Richards Civil War Era Center and the Africana Research Center, Penn State
  • Phoebe Evans Letocha, Collections Management Archivist of the Alan Mason Chesney Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
  • Laura Micham, Merle Hoffman Director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University Libraries
  • Stephen Novak, Head of Archives & Special Collections at Columbia University’s Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library
  • Kevin Smith, Director of Copyright and Scholarly Communication, Duke University Libraries

Scholars and researchers encounter issues with accessing information when researching 20th century materials containing sensitive health information. Archivists grapple with how to collect and describe sensitive health information. This roundtable discussion will discuss the legal and ethical implications of HIPAA and how to move forward in a scholarly community.

Sponsored by the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture and History of Medicine Collections.

This event is free and open to the public.

Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities Quiz

How well do you know your old medical instruments? Take our quiz and find out!


medicine cabinet of curiostiy

The History of Medicine Collections has over 850 unique medical instruments and artifacts. These items compliment our incredible book and manuscript collections. Along with the largest collection of ivory anatomical manikins in North America, we hold numerous surgical instruments and devices, microscopes, and an assortment of other unusual items.

Check out our collection guide for descriptions and thumbnail images of these items. And stay tuned – as our renovation nears completion, a number of these items will be on display in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room.

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections

Shin of Beef Stewed with Wow Wow Sauce (1823) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

“DINNER is the only act of the day, which cannot be put off without Impunity, for even FIVE MINUTES.”

William Kitchiner, The Cook’s Oracle, “Invitations to Dinner,” p. 39.

English cooking is a punch line. You don’t even need a joke to set it up. Just say, “English cooking,” and people start smirking, or chortling, even suppressing laughter. It hardly seems fair.

After all, Great Britain boasts its share of culinary scores. The Scotch egg is a triumph of human ingenuity, I’ll take a ploughman’s lunch any day of the week, and the standing rib roast with Yorkshire puddings rates as a time-proven classic. Really, America, with your pit-cooked barbeques and New York-style slices, don’t be so glib. Arthur Treacher would like a word.

When I volunteered to write a Rubenstein Test Kitchen post, I had no real ideas for it, but set out on a path of discovery, like Walter Raleigh sailing for Carolina.1 I can’t remember how I came across William Kitchiner’s proto-Victorian cookbook, The Cook’s Oracle, in our catalog, and learned that the History of Medicine Collection holds a copy of the Fifth Edition, published in 1823. But I can tell you that I was drawn to it by one word: Wow.

More particularly, it was that word, twice. I learned that Kitchiner is credited as the inventor of a thing called Wow Wow Sauce, an accompaniment for boiled meat dishes. Intriguingly, the recipe includes two English condiments I never knew existed: pickled walnuts, and mushroom catsup.

How – I asked myself – could I not cook something called Wow Wow Sauce? The answer is, I couldn’t. I couldn’t not cook Wow Wow Sauce.

Kitchiner was a physician by profession, but seems to have been stern and serious in his approach to cooking and socializing. His cause was to bring scholarly and scientific order to the chaotic affairs of households and kitchens. Wikipedia claims his name was a household word and the book a best-seller. Chambers’ Book of Days, a miscellany published in 1879, provides background on his life and habits.

So the two recipes I select from Kitchiner’s book are Shin of Beef Stewed (No. 493), and Wow Wow Sauce for Stewed or Bouilli Beef (No. 328). The first order of business is to secure the ingredients, and in this effort I turn to two eminent local suppliers. First, I head to Southern Season in Chapel Hill, on whose shelves I locate both Opie’s brand pickled walnuts and George Watkins brand mushroom catsup.


Second, I need meat. Now, I happen to live in the town of Pittsboro, where I’m lucky to shop with Lilly Den Farm at the Chatham Mills farmers’ market each week. Tucker and Mackenzie’s place is out past Goldston, down in what’s called Deep Chatham. They hook me up with a nice-looking foreshank, a shin indeed, nearly two feet long and heavy with marbled meat. It’s covered in a tough membrane, which I skin off with a knife. Then I coat the whole thing in a generous amount of kosher salt, wrap it, and store it in the fridge overnight.


The next day, just before noon, I set the shank in a pot, cover it with cold water, and bring it to a simmer.

Usually, one buys a beef shank this size cut crosswise into two or maybe three discs. The flat surfaces from these cuts are convenient for seasoning and placing in a hot, oiled pan for browning, which produces the Maillard reaction, enhancing the flavor of the meat and leading to a rich, brown broth.

But that’s not what I’m looking for here. Yes, Kitchiner himself recommends a shank cut into sections (and doesn’t mention browning), but I prefer the shin intact. No fancy Maillard crust for my Test Kitchen project. I honestly can’t describe my vision better than this Guardian author: “The grisly, gristly spectre of an ashen Victorian joint – a lump of cracked cement flanked by dismal sprigs” – Yes! That’s exactly what I’m going for, and by the way, I love your accent, please do continue – “speaks of cabbagey kitchens and bones poking out of stockpots, of puritan blandness and the unfashionably old-fashioned.” Swoon! You had me at “bones poking out.”

I’ll leave it to other Test Kitchen authors to write up dishes that are “delicious,” or “good.” I’m going for something else entirely – “English.”

Okay, that was a cheap shot. But let’s just say the target aesthetic here is more steampunk than “Top Chef.”

Kitchiner was a staunch pro-boiling partisan; he begins the “Rudiments of Cooking” section of his book with a chapter on it. His main points of advice are time-tested – skim the pot and keep it low and slow. He also shares data from his own experiments comparing the loss of mass for roasting (more) versus boiling (less, especially when the broth is reserved and used).

Kitchiner’s entry for Beef Bouilli (No. 5) is really more of a polemic in favor of boiling than it is a recipe. “Meat cooked in this manner,” he says

affords much more nourishment than it does dressed in the common way, is easy of digestion in proportion as it is tender, and an invigorating substantial diet, especially valuable to the Poor, whose laborious employments require support.

He continues in this vein, excoriating the poor for neglecting the “coarser cuts of meat” and choosing roasting over boiling, losing mass and nourishment in the process. Why, he wonders, can’t the miserable, hard-boiling, hard-drinking English be more like the French, who – despite having access to all the best booze – simmer and sip their way to perpetual good grace and humor?


When the pot begins to simmer, per Kitchiner’s instructions, I skim the top with a ladle, then add a quartered onion, two stalks of celery, a dozen berries each of black pepper and allspice, and a few sprigs of thyme. About four hours later, I remove the shank. I would say that I pull the meat off the bone, but more accurately it slides off onto the platter. At this point, I figure the shin bone has a few more hours of good boiling left in it, so I return it to the pot and let it go at a rolling pace for a while. The result is three quarts of rich, heady broth.



I’m sorry to report that I’ve completely failed in my efforts to turn the shin into a bland, dun-colored, flinty gnarl of meat. The beef I taste is flavorful, moist, and tender. Here’s my hot take on the Maillard reaction – it’s overrated.

Now it’s time to whip up the Wow Wow Sauce. I sample the mushroom catsup: liquid, salty, redolent of clove. It’s reminiscent of Worcestershire sauce, but in a different shape of bottle. The pickled walnuts are … unusual. The balsamic vinegar in which they’re packed dominates the initial touch on the palate, followed by traces of woodiness and tannin, like pine bark softened in mouthwash. Are they packed in the jars by smelly feet? I can’t say for sure. The texture is wet, crumbling clay.


Kitchiner’s Wow Wow recipe is fairly specific:

Chop some Parsley leaves very finely, quarter two or three pickled Cucumbers, or Walnuts, and divide them into small squares, and set them by ready; put into a saucepan a bit of Butter as big as an egg; when it is melted, stir to it a tablespoonful of fine Flour, and about half a pint of the Broth in which the Beef was boiled; add tablespoonful of made Mustard; let it simmer together till it is as thick as you wish it, put in the Parsley and Pickles to get warm, and pour it over the Beef, or rather send it up in a Sauce-tureen.

He then describes a series of optional ingredients one could add to make it more “piquante.”

Here’s a summary of what I ended up doing:

2 T chopped parsley
3 pickled walnuts, diced
2 T butter
1 T flour
1 c beef broth at room temperature
1 T vinegar from walnuts
1 T mushroom ketchup
1 t horseradish
2 T beer

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the broth all at once, whisk into the roux, and allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Add the remaining ingredients except for the parsley and simmer for several minutes, until the sauce is thick and blended through. Finish with the parsley.


I spoon some of the sauce over the beef and serve it with mashed potatoes (No. 106) and green beans (No. 133, more or less). I’m usually someone who likes things, but to be honest, I’m not a fan of the Wow Wow Sauce. It’s essentially gravy with pickled walnuts, and since I don’t love the pickled walnuts, the gravy isn’t working for me. One Internet commenter refers to it as “basically adding all the strong stuff the Victorians might have found in their kitchen together,” and I think that sounds about right.


In the end, I mince the leftover meat, combine it with the stock, some vegetables, a splash of the mushroom catsup, and a cup of pearled barley, to make a substantial soup that – in the spirit of economy attested by Kitchiner – provides for lunches all week. This quality, the versatility of the boiled beef, is my main takeaway from my Test Kitchen endeavor, and it echoes in this proverb – with which I’ll conclude – quoted by the ever class-conscious doctor:

“Of all the Fowls of the Air, commend to me the SHIN OF BEEF, for there’s Marrow for the master, Meat for the mistress, Gristles for the servants, and Bones for the dog.”

1. Raleigh never came to Carolina, and in the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t visit the Rubenstein reading room until after I’d made the dish and drafted half this post. I did lay hands on the Fifth Edition in Duke’s collection. I also pulled out the single folder of Kitchiner manuscripts in the Trent Collection, and perused the five handwritten notes on social and mundane matters. But for the cooking activities of this project, and the quotations and references in this post, I made use of an Internet Archive version of the Fourth Edition, published in 1822.

Post contributed by Will Sexton, Head, Digital Projects and Production Services

Trent History of Medicine lecture with Sabine Hildebrandt

Date: Monday, March 23, 2015
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: Room 217, Perkins Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold,  or (919)684-8549

Dr. Sabine Hildebrandt
Dr. Sabine Hildebrandt

Please join us on Monday, March 23, at 5:30 p.m. for our next Trent History of Medicine lecture. Sabine Hildebrandt, M.D., will present “The role of anatomists in the destruction of victims of National Socialism.”

The history of anatomy during the National Socialist (NS) period from 1933 to 1945  has only recently come under systematic investigation. A majority of German anatomists became members of the NS party, while other anatomists were persecuted for so-called “racial” or political reasons. The traditional legal sources for body procurement included increasing numbers of bodies of victims of the NS system. Anatomists used these bodies for teaching and research purposes, and thus played a decisive role in the NS regime’s intended utter annihilation of its perceived enemies. Current research is focused on the reconstruction of the victims’ identities and their dignified memorialization.

Dr. Hildebrandt is an assistant professor in the department of general pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital and a lecturer on global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School. After medical studies at the University of Marburg, Germany, and a professional start in experimental rheumatology, she became an anatomical educator. In this capacity she worked at the University of Michigan Medical School from 2002 to 2013, and since then at Harvard Medical School. Her research interests are the history and ethics of anatomy, and specifically the history of anatomy in National Socialist Germany, a field in which she is an internationally recognized expert. She continues to develop her educational work, which integrates anatomy, medical history and medical ethics.

Please note that Dr. Hildebrandt will be giving a related lecture, “From the Dead to the Living: Ethical Transgressions in Anatomical Research in National Socialism” on Tuesday, March 24, 2015, at noon in Duke Hospital Lecture Hall 2002.

Both events are sponsored by the History of Medicine Collections and the Trent Center for Bioethics, Medical Humanities & History of Medicine.


Apple Pudding Pie, or Pie Pudding, No. 2, Yankee Style (1896) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

It’s the fourth Friday of the month, so it’s time for another trip to the Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen!

title pageThe History of Medicine Collections has a number of popular medicine guides, truly some of my favorite material in the Rubenstein Library’s holding. When I use such items in undergraduate instruction sessions, I refer to them as the Web MD of the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Then we all chuckle and talk about how Web MD is terrible because no matter what you type into the search box, it tells you you’re dying.

So it’s refreshing to consult 19th century popular medicine guides that don’t tell you you’re going to die and instead give you home health remedies, tips on teaching your children sex education, and recipes for healthy cooking. For my participation in the Rubenstein Library’s Test Kitchen, I chose one such popular medicine guide, Dr. Chase’s Third, Last, and Complete Receipt Book and Household Physician, or, Practical Knowledge for the People, as my source for culinary delight.

But what to choose? There were hundreds of recipes, including an entire chapter devoted to “Food for the Sick,” which includes recipes for “chicken water” and “corn coffee.” With another chapter devoted to “Culinary Recipes,” I opted to forego those targeting the sick, in an attempt to make something that my family might enjoy.

Having become totally obsessed with the Great British Baking Show, I wanted to try to make a pudding of some sort. Dr. Chase’s book has not one but six apple pudding recipes, and I thought surely I could make something work (even without a pudding bowl).  I opted for Apple Pudding-Pie, or Pie-Pudding, No. 2, Yankee Style. The ingredients seemed simple, the directions vague but not totally unclear, and honestly, it seemed like maybe it would be edible. I was also intrigued by this “plan that avoids the soggy and indigestible bottom crust.”

recipe - crop

The ingredients were bland enough: apples, flour, baking powder, an egg, butter, and sweet milk. I assumed that I could use evaporated milk for “sweet milk.”

I peeled, cored, and sliced three Granny Smith apples and sprinkled them with cinnamon. Not having a pudding bowl, I opted for a Bundt pan. I whisked the baking powder and flour together and separately melted the butter, then added the egg and evaporated milk to the butter and whisked these together. I added the wet to the dry trying not to over stir. I then had something that looked like Trader Joe’s pizza dough – not a cake batter at all. I spread this over my apples, even though it was hard to do, and put it into the oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. As my colleagues have noted, 19th century cookbooks aren’t known for giving tons of details, so I was winging it with the temperature and baking time.

before and after

At one point, I opened the oven, and the odor was reminiscent of mothballs. As I stood muttering about how long it should stay in, my husband (a Yankee, no less) quipped, “do you think if you leave it in there long enough it will turn into fudge brownies?” But I decided to wait, and after 45 minutes, took the pan out of the oven. I inverted the pan, and, I have to say, the hole created by the Bundt pan was aesthetically pleasing, and after tasting the pudding pie, this might have been a nice place to put loads of sugary, rich cream. Overall, the crust was indeed not soggy, nor did it have any flavor. And the apples were tasty when scraped off the digestible, spongey crust.


So while I may not be able to recommend this particular recipe, I would recommend this book for a multitude of other reasons, including some great illustrations.

key to a happy home

Post Contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator, History of Medicine Collections

Upcoming Trent Lecture on Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis

Date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Location: Room 217, Perkins Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold, or (919) 684-8549

Dr. Ignaz SemmelweisPlease join us on Wednesday, February 25, at 3 p.m. for our next Trent History of Medicine lecture. Constance Putnam, Ph.D, will present “A Revisionist View of the Semmelweis Story.”

Dr. Putnam has spent several years reviewing the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, a nineteenth-century Hungarian physician and leading proponent of antisepsis. Problematizing a story that many historians think they know is a complex and special challenge, though there is evidence that Semmelweis was more than the ‘hand-washing guy.’ He had a very full, though brief, career as part of a vital and impressive medical community—a part of the tale that is generally ignored.

Dr. Putnam is a medical history researcher and writer from Concord, Massachusetts. Dr. Putnam was awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowship to visit Budapest in 2005-2006. Since then, she has returned many times, learning Hungarian in order to make use of several archives.

This event is sponsored by the History of Medicine Collections.

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections.