Category Archives: History of Medicine

Edward Halperin on Slave Medicine

Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Time: Light buffet supper at 5:30 PM; lecture begins at 6:00 PM
Location: Duke Medical Center Library, Room 102
Contact information:  Rachel Ingold, 919-684-8549 or rachel.ingold(at)

Please join the Trent History of Medicine Society/Bullitt History of Medicine Club for its next speaker series event on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.  Edward C. Halperin, MD, MA, FACR, will be discussing “Slave Medicine and the Banality of Evil.”

Dr. Halperin received his undergraduate degree from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, his medical degree from the Yale University School of Medicine, and a masters’ degree in Liberal Studies from Duke University.  He served on the faculty at Duke University for 23 years where he held endowed chairs in radiation oncology and medical education, and served as chairman of the department of radiation oncology and vice dean of the School of Medicine. In 2006, he was named Dean of the Medical School at the University of Louisville in Kentucky and Vice Provost of the University. As of May 1 this year, Dr. Halperin will begin as Chief Executive Officer and Chancellor for Health Affairs, Professor of Radiation Oncology, Pediatrics, and History, at New York Medical College and Provost for Biomedical Affairs at Touro College and University.

A Humble Petition from 1864

Greeting from 1864 Petition to Jefferson Davis from the Citizens of Cripple Creek, VA

Working on the History of Medicine (HOM) Trent Manuscripts Grant Project has revealed quite a few items of interest—but most recently, I discovered something that fits rather well into the Memories of the Civil War exhibit currently on display in the Perkins Exhibit Gallery.

Signatures to the 1864 Petition from the Citizens of Cripple Creek.
Signatures to the 1864 Petition from the Citizens of Cripple Creek. From the Trent Manuscripts Collection.

You may have seen the grisly amputation kit from the HOM collection, which might be the kind of war-related artifact that you would expect out of a collection on the history of medicine.  But here, instead, is not an example of progressive advances in medicine, nor a relic of past practice: instead, a simple plea for a family doctor to remain in service to his community by being excused for service in the Confederate Army:

“We the undersigned Citizens of Cripple Creek, Wythe County, VA earnestly petition that our family physician, Dr. C. C. Campbell, who is a conscript under the late act of Congress and whose services are indispensable to this portion of the county, be exempt, or detailed, and left with us.”

This singular petition to the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, dated February 15, 1864, was accompanied by two pages of signatures by the residents of Cripple Creek.  Did it ever reach its destination?  Do any historians or local residents know the fate of Dr. C. C. Campbell and his patients in Cripple Creek, Virginia?  If so, we’d love to hear from you!

Jacqueline Chapman, a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, was History of Medicine Intern at the Rubenstein Library from September 2011 to January 2012.

Another March Madness: The American Civil War at 150

Date: Friday, March 16, 2012
Time: 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Location: Gothic Reading Room
Contact information: Dr. Shauna Devine, shauna.devine[at]

Prominent historians from Duke University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and Ohio State University will gather at Duke for a one-day symposium marking the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. It will feature talks and presentations on a wide range of topics related to the war and its ongoing impact a century and a half later.  This event is free and open to the public.  See the symposium’s website for additional information.

The symposium coincides with the Rubenstein Library’s acclaimed exhibit, “I Recall the Experience Sweet and Sad: Memories of the Civil War,” on display through March 30.  Additional materials focused on Civil War medicine from the Rubenstein Library’s History of Medicine Collections will also be displayed in the Gothic Reading Room on the day of the exhibit.

Representing Bodies: Ivory Manikins

In researching changes in the representation of female bodies in Northern Europe, I noticed that ivory manikins (meaning “little men,” though usually female) portray  a changing trend away from the easily available prints of the female anatomy in the  sixteenth century toward more formal depictions, displayed only for demonstration. Little is known about the manikins themselves in terms of their origins, but stylistic and material differences may provide much needed information in terms of who made these models and the ways in which they were used by others.

In my travels, I found that the History of Medicine Trent Collection’s set of anatomical ivories is one of Duke’s—and America’s—great treasures. Normally they are stored in a glass viewing case in the Trent Room, but looking closely at them, they hold much more than one might expect.

An ivory anatomical model carved into the lid of a hinged box
An ivory anatomical model carved into the lid of a hinged box

One object in particular caught me by surprise. It is a manikin carved meticulously into the lid of an ivory box. It is not a unique example, as it is quite similar to other objects—one in the Trent Collection and the other in Dusseldorf. Opening the box is precarious because, as with the other manikins, the torso is easily removed (though, luckily, the individually carved organs have been glued down).

The model open, showing individually carved ivory pieces inside.
The model open, showing individually carved ivory pieces inside.

The manikin itself, however, is only one of the object’s curious features. When the lid is lifted, an exquisitely small painting is revealed on its underside.

The underside of the box’s lid, showing an image. The paint is chipped in the corner and around two wooden pieces that act as sockets for the ivory pegs securing the torso.

In this strange scene a nude woman and a well-clothed gentleman dine unabashedly before an open plaza where others go about their normal errands. The presumed courtesan shares many similarities with her counterpart on the box, who is likewise unclothed and recumbent, clutching a sheet with her left hand. Figures of this kind are often seen in artisanal ivory works, but this particular object invokes intriguing questions as to how the fine arts relate to the anatomical sciences and historical representations of women.

Post contributed by Cali Buckley, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Art History, Penn State University

P. Preston Reynolds on Integrating Hospitals

P. Preston Reynolds
P. Preston Reynolds will speak on racially integrating hospitals, 1963-1967.

Date: Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Time: Light buffet supper at 5:30 PM; lecture begins at 6:00 PM
Location: Biddle Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Rachel Ingold, 919-684-8549 or rachel.ingold(at)

Please join the Trent History of Medicine Society/Bullitt History of Medicine Club for its next speaker series event on Tuesday, February 14, 2012.  P. Preston Reynolds, MD, PhD, FACP, will be discussing “The Federal Government’s Efforts to Racially Integrate Hospitals Under Medicare, 1963-1967.” Dr. Reynolds is Professor of Medicine in the General Medicine, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care Division and a faculty member for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

For more than 30 years, Dr. Reynolds’ research has focused on the history of race discrimination in healthcare and medical education.  She has published and lectured on the subject, received major funding from the NIH and national foundations, and won awards for her scholarship. She currently is writing a book on the history of Durham’s black hospital, Lincoln Hospital, and healthcare for blacks in the Carolinas, and revising a comprehensive guide to resources on the history and contributions of African Americans to the health professions.


A Dear Friend of the Rubenstein Library

We note with sadness the passing of Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans. Mrs. Semans was the great-granddaughter of Washington Duke, and the granddaughter of Benjamin Duke.  She came to Duke University as a 15 year-old freshman in 1935, and was an alumna of the class of 1939 of the Woman’s College. She remained a tireless advocate for Duke University throughout her life, serving as a longtime trustee and supporter of numerous projects on campus. These include the Mary Duke Biddle Rare Book Room, named for Mrs. Semans’ mother.

In 1938, Mrs. Semans married Josiah Charles Trent, a Duke alumnus and later the first Division Chief of Thoracic Surgery. The couple collected rare books related to the history of medicine, and Walt Whitman materials. Dr. Trent died of lymphoma in 1948. In 1953, Dr. James Semans and Mrs. Semans were married. They were known on campus, in Durham, and throughout North Carolina as supporters of the arts, higher education, civic projects, and other charitable endeavors.  Mrs. Semans was a longtime trustee of the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation (named for her mother), which has supported projects in the library, among many other grant recipients.

Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans with Curator of Rare Books Thomas M. Simkins.
Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans with Curator of Rare Books Thomas M. Simkins. The materials pictured are now part of the History of Medicine Collections in the Rubenstein Library. Photo from the University Archives Photograph Collection.

The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana and Trent Collection of history of medicine materials, along with Semans Family Papers, are significant parts of the Rubenstein Library today. We are grateful to the generosity of Mrs. Semans over the years, and the way she continued the legacy of philanthropy begun by her relatives. Mrs. Semans never stopped supporting the institution that her family transformed. Her contributions to the library, the institution, and our community will not be forgotten.

Post contributed by Valerie Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.

New Year, New Acquisitions

What better way to ring in the new year (okay, we’re a couple of weeks late) than with a roundup of exciting new acquisitions from the second half of 2011?   All of these amazing resources will be available for researchers in the Rubenstein Library in 2012 and for years to come!

  • Stereograph of John Wesley Powell with a Native American. From the Powell Expedition Photograph Album.

    Powell Expedition Photograph Album: A remarkable album of 539 photographs taken during John Wesley Powell’s Second Expedition along the Colorado River in 1871-75 by John K. Hillers, E. O. Beaman, and James Fennemore.  The photographs include landscapes of the Western states and documentary photographs of Native Americans, especially the Paiute tribe.  Part of the Archive of Documentary Arts.  Look for more information on this album in the Biblio-file column in the January-February 2012 Duke Magazine.

  • Case book of Dr. Philip Turner. From the Philip Turner Papers.

    Philip Turner Papers: Documents from the life and career of Dr. Philip Turner (1740-1815), Surgeon General for the Eastern Department of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.  The manuscript collection contains correspondence, medical returns, printed materials, records from northeastern field and city hospitals, and ledgers documenting Turner’s career as a surgeon in private practice, in the Continental Army, and in the United States Army. Part of the History of Medicine Collections.  More information about this important collection of early American medical history is coming soon!

  • The Door in the Wall, And Other Stories, by H. G. Wells: This 1911 limited edition of Wells’s science fiction and fantasy stories features stunning photogravure illustrations by the vorticist photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn.




Instruction Round-Up!

Dr. Ara Tourian and students
Dr. Ara Tourian presenting at Anatomy Day

This was another busy semester for Rubenstein librarians, who taught or co-taught more than 70 classes between September and early December! The classes ranged widely in subject, from feminist comics to medical history.

One exciting event, nicknamed “Anatomy Day,” brought 100 medical students to the Gothic Reading Room to investigate historical anatomical atlases and other books and manuscripts from the History of Medicine Collections. Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections, led a team of Rubenstein librarians in presenting these treasures to the students.

Rachel Ingold and students
Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections

A few of the Duke classes that met in the Rubenstein Library this past semester are:

  • Beyond Wonder Women: Comic and Graphic Novel Feminisms
  • History of Photography, 1839 to the Present
  • Documentary Photography and the Southern Culture Landscape
  • Early Soviet Culture 1917-1934
  • American Slavery/Emancipation
  • Accelerated Intermediate Italian
  • On the Boundaries of Medicine
  • The Physician in History
  • Hidden Children
  • Dante and the Afterlife of the Book

We also hosted classes from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

The Rubenstein staff offers a vast array of class instruction and support options. Please contact us to learn more about what the Rubenstein staff can do for your class!

Neelon to Speak on Parry’s Disease

Dr. Frances A. Neelon
Dr. Frances A. Neelon will speak on Caleb Parry and Parry's Disease

Please join us on Tuesday, December 6, 2011, in Room 102 of the Duke Medical Center Library for the next lecture of the Trent History of Medicine Society Speaker Series. Dr. Francis A. Neelon, Medical Director of the Rice Diet Program and Associate Professor, Emeritus will be discussing Dr. Caleb Parry and the brief life of Parry’s disease.

Caleb Hillier Parry was a polymathic physician and natural scientist of late 18th-century and early 19th-century England. A graduate of the medical school at Edinburgh, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society, not for his doctoring but for his work on breeding Merino sheep.

Parry made a number of important observations on the nature of angina and recognized that it reflected an inability of the heart to respond to physiological demand. He was the first to record an accurate description of exophthalmic goiter, and recognized the connection between thyroid gland enlargement and cardiac abnormalities (although he did not realize which was cart and which horse). His plans to include his case notes in a magnum opus on disease went awry when he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1816, but his physician-son, Charles, published his unfinished works in 1925.

Parry’s observations clearly antedated the descriptions of toxic goiter by Graves and Basedow, but their names remain associated with this disorder to the present (which you choose depends on where you live) while Parry’s does not. William Osler briefly championed Parry’s case, but eventually abandoned his attempts to immortalize the “fine old Bath physician.” Dr. Neelon will try again to rescue Parry’s name from obscurity.

There will be a light buffet supper at 5:30 pm, and the lecture will begin at 6 pm. The event is open to the public. Please contact Rachel Ingold at (919)684-8549 or for more information.