Please join us on Tuesday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. for our next Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series event. Paul Kligfield, MD, will present The Strange Case of “Dr. Anonymous,” a Mystery in the Early History of Coronary Artery Disease: Passion, Discovery, and Serendipity in Book Collecting.
William Heberden’s classic description of angina pectoris in the 18th century contained no speculation as to its cause, now known to be coronary artery disease. Shortly after publication of his paper by the Royal College of Physicians, he received a letter from a man offering his body for autopsy to help search for a pathologic basis for his symptoms. Indeed, death occurred within weeks of his correspondence and autopsy was performed by John Hunter. The writer’s clinical description of his own symptoms of angina and impending sudden death was so medically accurate that historians have identified him as an unknown physician, described as “Dr Anonymous.” Nearly half a century of interest in the history of cardiology, combined with passion and serendipity in medical book collecting, have now uncovered the true identity of Heberden’s previously unknown correspondent. Come and share the discovery.
Paul Kligfield, MD, is Professor Emeritus of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, whose interests in the history of medicine include the development and early use of the stethoscope, the origins and technology of the electrocardiogram, and the development of the pathophysiologic understanding of angina pectoris. Dr. Kligfield has served on the Board of Governors of the American College of Cardiology, as President of the International Society for Computerized Electrocardiography, as President of the New York Cardiological Society, as a Director of the New York Heart Association, as Secretary and Trustee of the New York Academy of Medicine, and as President of the American Osler Society. He is a member of The Grolier Club of New York and an admitted bibliophile and recovering bibliomaniac.
Join the Duke University Libraries as we honor Dr. Janie Long, retired Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Duke and former Director of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, with a dedicated study space and the launch of a new speaker series, the first in our history named for an LGBTQ administrator.
Panel Discussion: Queer Student Activism at Duke
Moderated by Steven Petrow T’78, Contributing columnist, The Washington Post, and author, in conversation with:
The Duke University Libraries are proud to present the 2023 Andrew T. Nadell Prize for Book Collecting. The contest is open to all students enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate/professional degree program at Duke, and the winners will receive cash prizes.
You don’t have to be a “book collector” to enter the contest. Past collections have varied in interest areas and included a number of different types of materials. Collections are judged on adherence to a clearly defined unifying theme, not rarity or monetary value.
Post contributed by Vincent Carret, Part-time Research Scholar for the Economists’ Papers Archive and Visiting Scholar at the Center for the History of Political Economy.
The Leonid Hurwicz papers are now fully reopened for research as part of the Economists’ Papers Archive. Over the past few months, the bulk of the 252-box collection has been reprocessed by inventorying, describing, and rearranging its contents, in particular the now distinct Research and Writings series. The following blog post describes Hurwicz’s professional trajectory, as it emerged from his papers, and outlines some files present in the collection.
Leonid Hurwicz was a Polish-American economist who immigrated to America in 1940 after fleeing Poland, which is documented in several folders. While Hurwicz never received a diploma in economics, he worked with and learned from some of the most recognized economists during the 1940s. When he arrived in the United States, Hurwicz joined the Cowles Commission for Research in Economics, which had just recently moved to Chicago. The Commission was the major driver in the development of econometrics, a new field of economic inquiry bringing together economic theory, mathematics, and statistics, and Hurwicz participated in the discussions surrounding the use of statistics in economics (collaborating for instance with Theodore Anderson).
At the end of the 1940s, the focus of the Cowles Commission turned to the theory of resource allocation, a field of economics inquiring into the best use of scarce resources in interdependent economic systems. Hurwicz, who was recruited by Walter Heller at the University of Minnesota in 1951, followed this shift. His work during the 1950s focused on the study of abstract market mechanisms, as documented in his collaborations with Kenneth Arrow and Hirofumi Uzawa. One question that became central to his work was the use of information in centralized and decentralized economic systems. Hurwicz built and studied economic models dealing with this problem, leading him to several long-standing collaborations with Thomas Marschak and Stanley Reiter.
During the 1960s, Hurwicz explored new ways of modeling the exchange of information, developing the concept of incentive compatibility to take into account individual agency in the distribution of information. His writings in the early 1970s document these new questions, Hurwicz’s answers, and the tools that he used, including game theory, which was also used to study different institutional arrangements. In the 1980s and 1990s, Hurwicz started working on a book collecting the state of the art on mechanism design, which brought together his interests in decentralization, information, incentives, and institutions. A highly formalized, mathematical endeavor, its theory and applications to auctions have led to several Nobel Prizes, including one for Hurwicz in 2007. His book, Designing Economic Mechanisms, coauthored with Stanley Reiter, was published in 2006.
Hurwicz’s success can be measured by the number of manuscripts preserved in his papers, his many correspondents, and the amount of working papers that he received from colleagues. His success also hinged upon his central place in the Department of Economics at the University of Minnesota, which became a powerhouse of economics in the 1970s-1980s.
Hurwicz’s work was abstract in a mathematical way, although always related to questions raised by changes in society. Among the most surprising items in the collection, perhaps attesting to Hurwicz’s ability to consider a problem under its most pure and abstract forms, I was amazed to find dozens of doodles that he made while taking notes. “Doodle” does not do justice to the intricate shapes, lines, circles, and points that make up these drawings. Seeing them next to the models and demonstrations that made up Hurwicz’s work, I was reminded of the Italian futurist movement and its celebration of the modern, industrial society. As I learned more about Hurwicz’s interests and work while processing his papers, these drawings became for me a metaphorical illustration of the mutation of economics from “political economy” to “economic science.”
Research travel grants of up to $1500 are offered by the following Centers and research areas:
Archive of Documentary Arts
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Travel Grants
Harry H. Harkins T’73 Travel Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History
History of Medicine Collections
Human Rights Archive
John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture
John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture (Mary Lily Research Grants)
Each grant offering is specific to the associated subject area and collection holdings, and our archivists can help you determine eligibility for your project. We encourage applications from students at any level of education; faculty and teachers; visual and performing artists; writers; filmmakers; public historians; and independent researchers. Applicants must reside beyond a 100-mile radius of Durham, N.C., and may not be current Duke students or employees. Awards are paid as reimbursement after completion of the research visit(s). The deadline for applications will be Friday, February 24, 2023, at 6:00 pm EST. Recipients should be announced by the end of April 2023, and grants will be for travel during May 2023-June 2024.
An online information session will be held Thursday, January 19, 2023, 1-2 EST. This program will review application requirements, offer tips for creating a successful application, and include an opportunity for attendees to ask questions. This program will be recorded, and posted online afterwards. Register for the session here. Further questions may be directed to AskRL@duke.edu with the subject line “Travel Grants.”
[An earlier version of this post had the incorrect date for the info session. It will be held Thursday, January 19.]
Post contributed by Michelle Wolfson, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern.
The History of Medicine special collection houses many exciting—and, dare we say, sexy—artifacts that draw the interest of students, staff, and researchers. The carved ivory memento mori is a thing of beauty. The amputation set invites people to picture themselves on a battlefield during the Civil War. Anatomy and dissection are contemplated as one looks at flapbooks and manikins.
But what draws me in? The written word. The books, the pamphlets, the zines—they are the voices echoing to me through time.
With abortion constantly in the news at this cataclysmic time, and with a young child with many questions about puberty, I threw myself into the History of Medicine Collections as its latest intern, wanting to know, “What do we say about puberty? About menstruation? About abortion? What do doctors say? What do mothers say? What does corporate America say? For heaven’s sake, what do we tell the children?!” Here is a small sampling of what the special collection offers.
The Ladies’ Physician: A Guide for Women in the Treatment of their Ailments by a London Physician is a book from 1884. This guide has several redeeming factors. It makes clear that it is the mother’s duty to inform their daughters of what to expect before menstruation begins. While not always feasible (what does one do when there is not a maternal figure in the child’s life?), I generally like the attitude that we do not leave young girls and women in the dark regarding their health. In some ways, the text is very thorough in covering many common issues that women might experience, including the more benign, such as leukorrhea (“the whites”, or simply, vaginal discharge), to the more serious, such as tumors and endometritis. This was somewhat shocking to me as, anecdotally, I hear from many women that their endometritis was ignored by health providers for many years before being properly diagnosed. Pregnancy and many of the possibilities an expectant mother might experience as the body changes are also covered—from varicose veins to constipation to neuralgia of the face.
The section on pregnancy begins with a quick history of how much has been discovered recently—such as how physicians can now say with certainty that a person is pregnant by using a stethoscope and auscultation. Only sixty years ago, our London Physician tells us, did a woman claim to be pregnant by the Holy Ghost and had many followers who believed her, including people in the medical field. (Actually, the London Physician says “medical men”, and I wondered if midwives were at all involved.) Different signs of pregnancy are written about, but we are also told that there may not be any signs at all, at which point, a story is told about a Mrs. G—–, which feels straight out of a modern showing of “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant”. Neither Mrs. G—– nor the neighborhood physician ever guessed she was pregnant, and indeed she was in labor and they still did not suspect that she was giving birth. Ten hours into labor, another doctor examined her and realized what was happening, though the expectant parents still did not believe it. The story has a happy ending—healthy mom, healthy and loved daughter. The London Physician also tells us that the opposite can occur, when a person thinks they are pregnant when they are not, whether it is due to false signs from tumors, an abnormal menstrual cycle, or simply gas or muscles twitching.
As one might expect, The Ladies’ Physician has its problems and questionable moments, too. The causes of puberty and menstruation are written about obtusely—I could not guarantee that a person without some prior knowledge of menstruation would completely understand what the book is saying happens during “the process which marks woman as woman.” (I will not even get into how this is not how we define “woman” anymore because now we know not all women experience menstruation.) The text also does not include visuals. At another time, the London Physician gives somehow not enough information by giving us too much information. We are initially told the average pregnancy is about nine or ten months, but the London Physician goes on for a distressing couple of pages about how some countries and cultures think that the duration of pregnancy lasts longer–three hundred days, or even going into years, the most being four years. (FYI: Elephants have the longest pregnancies of any land mammal, somewhere between eighteen to twenty-three months.) I do not know if this was simply an interesting point about varying belief systems, or to go back to the point about how physicians have recently learned more about pregnancy, or to cover all the bases of how long one might be pregnant in case somebody is incorrect.
One section regarding abortion was interesting to me, and I feel the need to quote it to get it exactly right. From pages 222-223, regarding severe cases of illness:
The cases in which such extreme measures are called for are of extreme rarity. It happens only when the mother’s life is in imminent and urgent peril; then it becomes a duty to act promptly and empty the uterus, and thus save the only life that can be saved, unless, indeed, it be in the later months of pregnancy, when both lives—the mother’s and the child’s—can in this manner be spared. Repulsive as it is to destroy the child, still it is the highest duty, and no hesitation should be felt in sacrificing it in circumstances stated, for unless this be done, and done promptly, not only the life of the child, but that of the mother will also be lost.
Another section about quickening was of interest from page 196. The London Physician does not think this is the moment a child is considered alive, instead that the
…embryo is alive from the first, though its life is a lower form of life than it is after the fifth or sixth month, just as the life of a child an hour before birth is a lower form of life than that it possesses an hour after birth.
They do not know when the child possesses a soul but
…[l]et it suffice here to say that from the time of conception there is life in the embryo, simple though it be when compared with the higher life of a born child or an adult man, yet too complex to be solved by the greatest philosopher.
I think the London Physician dropped the mic there, so I will end here as well.
Some of this blog post was written tongue-in-cheek, but that does not discount how I think on this book. In 1884, women had something to refer to that gave them reassuring and helpful information regarding their bodies. The information is given in a matter-of-fact manner, not sensationalized or hidden in shame (though we could work on some bits for clarification). It still leaves me with many questions—how many people had access to this book? Who was the London Physician? What did people do if they did not have access to a book like this? I am assuming they sought other women for advice, or at least I am hoping they did.
Post contributed by Haleigh Yaspan, Independent Researcher
Pregnancy and birth, as universal and unvarying phenomena, can offer a revealing and reflective view into a specific historical chapter. Careful attention to the dynamic nature of the circumstances that have historically defined the experiences of pregnant and birthing women can help us contextualize and better understand our present moment. The relationship is bidirectional: so too does an exploration of historical factors help shed light on the rationale for trends in the medicalization of birth. The aid of a generous History of Medicine travel grant allowed me to spend time with a number of fascinating collections at Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library that can offer such insight. These included, for example, the collection of medical instruments from the practice of Dr. LM Draper, the Louise Hortense Branscomb papers, and the Wilton G. Fritz Collection Artifacts.
In the United States, the circumstances of birth changed dramatically toward the end of the Progressive Era. Prior to the twentieth century, the care of pregnant and birthing women was most commonly the domain of midwives and other female practitioners, who were not incorporated into a recognized professional body. The shift toward a physician-centric approach can be traced back to a revolution within the medical profession, beginning in the late 1800s and continuing well into the following century. The wide variety of obstetrical tools surviving from Dr. LM Draper’s twentieth-century collection offers insight into standard practices of American physicians of the day. I was particularly intrigued by the array of various iterations of forceps, insinuated as they are in the medical profession’s early- and mid-century proclivity toward instrumental intervention in labor, an intentional move to set physicians apart from low-interventionist midwives.
The glass slides for Dr. Carter’s OB/GYN lectures provided a window into the education aspect of the medical approach to obstetrics. Such primary sources set forth the gold standard of mid-century medical education of the day. The use of visuals in the slides informs an understanding of the historical pedagogical practices in this field, while the language employed clues us into the sociocultural milieu that circumscribed and defined medical education of the day.
The medicalization of birth that took shape in the early twentieth century has attracted both celebration and criticism. Many have critiqued physicians, both in this period and since, for their quickness to instrumentally intervene in birth and their failure to outperform more hands-off midwives in terms of clinical outcomes. In the early twentieth century, Abraham Flexner, under the aegis of the Carnegie Foundation, set out to survey the state of medical education in the United States and Canada. His 1910 report eviscerated the medical profession, suggesting that a vast majority of American doctors were woefully unqualified and had received what little education they possessed from institutions of highly dubious rigor and quality. “But the very worst showing,” he noted, “is made in the matter of obstetrics.”
Post contributed by Joshua Larkin Rowley, Reference Archivist, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
The Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History acquired the archive of Consumer Reports, the consumer advocacy and education non-profit, in October of 2019. Staff were thrilled with the new acquisition and eager to make these fabulous collections available to researchers as soon as possible. Then…the pandemic hit.
Finally, after nearly three years and hours of work by staff and interns in the Rubenstein Library’s Technical Services Dept. approximately 65 individual collections have been fully described and made available. To mark the occasion we’ve published a website dedicated to highlighting the breadth of the Consumer Reports Archive, the history of the organization, a selection of archival collections, recently cataloged print items, and its interdisciplinary potential in teaching. Explore the site here and check out some highlights from the collection below.
Post contributed by Zachary Tumlin, Project Archivist for the Economists’ Papers Archive.
The Marc L. Nerlove papers are now open for research as part of the Economists’ Papers Archive, a joint venture between the Rubenstein Library and the Center for the History of Political Economy. Marc Leon Nerlove is a white American agricultural economist and econometrician who was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal from the American Economic Association (AEA) in 1969 and held appointments at eight different universities from 1958-2016: Johns Hopkins (where he earned his PhD), Minnesota, Stanford, Yale, Chicago (where he earned his BA), Northwestern, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The Clark Medal is awarded to an economist under the age of 40 who “is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge,” and when the AEA appointed him as a Distinguished Fellow in 2012, they cited his development of widely used econometric methods across a range of subjects, including supply and demand, time series analysis, production functions, panel analysis, and family demography.
Nerlove was born and raised in Chicago and credits his father, S. H. (Samuel Henry) Nerlove, for his interest in economics. In addition to being a business economist at Chicago and a founding member of the Econometric Society (of which Marc would become President in 1981), S. H. “inadvertently” became the trustee of a large, bankrupt midwestern life insurance company in 1933 during the Great Depression. This company “held mostly foreclosed farm mortgages,” with the farms now being “operated by their former owners as tenants.” S. H. would share stories around the dinner table of his visits to these farms, since the family did not have one of their own in Hyde Park.
The Nerlove papers consist of 195 linear feet (137 boxes) of physical material and a little over 0.1 gigabytes of digital material that primarily document Nerlove’s professional life through his correspondence, writings, teaching, research, and professional service. Other economists who appear most frequently in the papers include Kenneth Arrow, José Carvalho (student), Carl Christ (dissertation supervisor), David Grether (student), Zvi Griliches, Lawrence Klein, Tjalling Koopmans, Ta-Chung Liu (teacher), Theodore Schultz (teacher), and Lester Telser. To a lesser extent, there is some correspondence, teaching material, and two writings from Milton Friedman (teacher) and one handwritten letter from John Nash.
One unique aspect of the collection is how much of it comes from others besides Nerlove. There are 134 files of teaching material from others, 228 files of dissertations, and 343 files of writings by others, compared to 143 and 421 files of his own teaching material and writings, respectively. Although his own files are richer, the files from others give us a sense of what was happening around him and his professional interests and network.
The teaching material from others was acquired from coworkers and professional colleagues for reasons such as Nerlove teaching/researching a similar course/subject or sent in exchange for his own teaching material. The dissertations are not only ones that Nerlove supervised or sat on the committee for, but that he received from his department for review as a faculty member, received from the author due to citation/similar research interest, or personally requested. While it is not unusual for there to be writings by others/reprint files, what was unusual was the quantity of them—they were originally around a quarter of the collection/90 linear feet and occupied 20 filing cabinets in a separate room on campus at Maryland. These files were thoroughly weeded to focus only on items with correspondence, annotations, or that appeared to be unpublished (primarily pre-1990).
Lastly, 11 items from these papers will occupy a large case in an upcoming exhibit on administrative assistants scheduled to be installed in the Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery. These items are from the early 1970s and related to three of Nerlove’s secretaries at Chicago and Northwestern: Elizabeth “Betty” Ann Percell (1936-2005), Gloria Feigenbaum (1922-2006), and Stina Leander Hirsch (1919-2008). Such staff members have job duties that include basic records management—maintaining working files while they are still held by their creator before they are donated—and it is important to name them when they appear in the archival record because they are essential workers. A “good” secretary gives professors the ability to focus more on their research, and they make it easier for archivists to prepare these papers for long-term preservation (which ultimately benefits the archival user).
Post contributed by Janet Stiles Tyson, independent researcher.
This blog post concerns a copy of a historically significant English herbal, held by the Rubenstein Library. Along with its producer Elizabeth Blackwell, A Curious Herbal comprised the topic of my PhD thesis for Birkbeck College, University of London. It remains the focus of my post-doctoral research.
She was born in London in 1699 as Elizabeth Simpson, and married to a Scotsman named Alexander Blackwell. She made 500 life-size watercolor drawings of medicinal plants and translated those drawings on to etching plates, which were then sent to a printer to be produced as black-and-white multiples. After printing, Blackwell used watercolor paint to color many of the imprinted images. Between mid-1735 and mid-1739, those images were sold in fascicules or gatherings of four pages each. Each fascicule also included a page of text explaining the use of the four illustrated plants. Gatherings that contained four uncolored images cost one shilling; each group containing four colored images cost two shillings. Buyers compiled their pages (along with title pages, indexes, and other leaves that were printed and distributed) and had them bound—typically into two folio-format volumes.
Blackwell’s first publisher was Samuel Harding, whose name is found on title pages dated 1737. The name of Blackwell’s second publisher, John Nourse, is found on title pages dated 1739 and 1751. Copies also exist that were published under the name of Charles Nourse and dated 1782. However, composition and dating of extant copies isn’t as straightforward as this summary suggests, which is why much of my ongoing research involves finding and viewing as many copies as I can. Thus far, I have found about 110 copies, and have examined every single page of about sixty-five.
This brings me to the Rubenstein Library copy, which I visited in early August of this year . I first learned of it from catalogues for auctions held by Sotheby’s and Christie’s between 1981 and 2017. Online color photographs and verbal descriptions left me in no doubt about its beauty and importance. It was printed on extra-large folio sheets of paper, such that it measured about 18-by-12 inches in height and breadth. Pictures showed that its two volumes were bound in gold-stamped black morocco leather, and that the edges of its pages had been finished in gold. It also was evident that the plates had been colored with great care and subtly.
It originally had been owned by a London apothecary named Josiah Messer (1753-1830), whose signature was inscribed on the verso of the title page. A watercolor drawing and a hand-colored etching had been inserted at the back of volume one. Bookplates for another, presumably later, owner named George Hubbard were affixed to the marble endpapers in each volume. Assuming that its last sale at auction had been to a private collection, it seemed that I would never see Josiah Messer’s copy of A Curious Herbal.
Thus I watched, incredulously, as Rubenstein librarians removed the two volumes of the Messer copy from their archival boxes.
I began carefully turning its pages. Messer’s signature was on the reverse of the title page. There were the customary two pages of endorsements by various medical men. There were five lavishly etched and engraved dedicatory leaves that I knew from other copies. And there was a blank leaf where the first explanatory page should have been. Briefly perplexed, I decided that explanatory pages had been arranged to face the first image of each group of four. I’d seen that in other copies and would duly note.
I turned the page to find its verso filled with words from top to bottom, facing the front of another densely printed page. The word ‘Preface’ topped the first, and at the bottom of the second was the name ‘Elizabeth Blackwell’, and the legend: ‘Chelsea April ye 12th 1739’. After some preliminaries were the words:
I from my very Infancy shew’d an Inclination to imitate Pictures and
to attempt drawing such Things as pleased me; Whether this
proceeded from the strong impressions made on my tender Brain by
the agreeable Objects I was daily surrounded with (my Father Mr.
Leonard Simpson being a Painter) or a Genius born with me I can’t
A shiver of excitement shot from my head to my fingertips at ‘my Father Mr. Leonard Simpson being a Painter’. Hurriedly I told the librarians about this discovery, then returned to my table to email my Birkbeck supervisors, Vanessa Harding and Carmen Mangion. Both promptly messaged their kudos. Then, as I finished reading Blackwell’s preface and proceeded to examine and photograph further pages, Harding sent me another email.
Applying decades of research experience, Harding quickly found two other documents that cited Leonard Simpson by name. One announced the birth of a daughter to ‘Mr Leonard Simpson Designer in Paintings’, who lodged with a ‘Mr Simpson shoomaker of the Parish of St Mary Woolchurchhaw’. Dated ‘Aprill 1699’, it stated that daughter Elizabeth was born on the ‘three and twentith day of this moneth’ and ‘baptized the 4th of May following’. The second document further noted that shoomaker Simpson’s dwelling was ‘next door to the White Horse in Poultry’.
Over the years, I’ve found other Simpson references, including information that identified Blackwell’s mother’s name as Alice. But the Rubenstein copy holds the key to confirming Elizabeth Blackwell’s birth date and place. So much more could be said about this book and its illustrations, and the myriad curious tales of Elizabeth Blackwell. And perhaps further research will find further copies of that preface. For now, however, I hope that I have communicated the importance of this object at Duke University.
Blackwell, Elizabeth (1737). A Curious Herbal. Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the most useful Plants, which are now used in the Practice of Physick. Engraved on folio Copper Plates, after Drawings, taken from the Life. By Elizabeth Blackwell. To which is added a short Description of ye Plants; and their common Uses in Physick. London: Printed for Samuel Harding in St Martin’s Lane, MDCCXXXVII (1737) Rubenstein QK99.A1 B53 1737 folio v.1 c.1.
London Metropolitan Archives. Parchment register of the parish of St Mary Woolnoth, 1686-1726: LMA, P69/MRY15/A002/MS07636.
London Metropolitan Archives. Paper register of the parish of St Mary Woolnoth, 1695-1706: LMA, P69/MRY15/A/002/MSo7636.
 Full title: A Curious Herbal. Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the most useful Plants, which are now used in the Practice of Physick. Engraved on folio Copper Plates, after Drawings, taken from the Life. By Elizabeth Blackwell. To which is added a short Description of ye Plants; and their common Uses in Physick.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University