Tag Archives: history of medicine

May 23rd: The Menopause Monologues

Color illustration of the anatomy of the uterus and ovaries. From The Viavi Gynecological Plates: Designed to Educate Mothers and Daughters Concerning Diseases of the Uterine Organs by Hartland Law. The Viavi Press, 1891.
Plate II, “Structure of Womb and Ovaries” from The Viavi Gynecological Plates: Designed to Educate Mothers and Daughters Concerning Diseases of the Uterine Organs by Hartland Law. The Viavi Press, 1891.

Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Time: 3:00pm to 4:30pm
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library 153
Contact: Rachel Ingold, rachel.ingold@duke.edu,
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You are cordially invited to a dramatic reading of excerpts from pertinent texts that will bring to life the voices of women and men, past and present, whose perspectives on menopause range from “the historical to the hysterical.” In addition to the readings, individuals are also encouraged to share their own stories and experiences of “the change.”

The reading complements an exhibit, The Change of Life: Menopause and Our Changing Perspectives, on display through July 14 in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room.

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

April 30: Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series: Contraception Crossroads

Date: Monday, April 30, 2018
Time: Noon (12 p.m.)
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Room 153, Rubenstein Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold, rachel.ingold@duke.edu, (919)684-8549

Photo of Dr. Raul Necochea in his office, with bookshelves behind him.Please join us Monday, April 30th at noon for our next Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series. Raul Necochea, Ph.D., will present Contraception Crossroads: Health Workers Encounter Family Planning in Mid-20th Century Latin America.

 Between the 1930s and the 1970s, health workers of different types began to embrace, slowly and selectively, the value of smaller families for all people in the region as well as to become used to new types of contraceptive technologies. What were the circumstances under which physicians, nurses, midwives, and social workers first encountered the use of birth control in Latin America? What they did do to advance and limit the use of contraception? How did they interact with birth control users? The answers to these questions help us better understand the context and the mindsets of people on the forefront of a momentous development: the normalization of family planning in the so-called Third World.

Dr. Nechochea is Associate Professor in the Department of Social Medicine & Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of History at the University North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

All are welcome to attend. Light lunch will be served.

Sponsored by the History of Medicine Collections in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

(CANCELLED) Trent Lecture Series, 2/21: Dr. Gerrit Bos on Moses Maimonides

Please note: this event has been cancelled due to illness. We hope to reschedule at a later date and will post updated event information on The Devil’s Tale.

Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Room 153, Rubenstein Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold, rachel.ingold@duke.edu, (919)684-8549

Illustration of Moses Maimonides. From Medicine: An Illustrated History (New York: Abradale Press/Abrams, 1987).
Illustration of Moses Maimonides. From Medicine: An Illustrated History (New York: Abradale Press/Abrams, 1987).

Please join the History of Medicine Collections for our next Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series event. Gerrit Bos, Ph.D., will present
“Moses Maimonides, medical doctor and author: Aspects of his work, medical training, theory, and practice.”

Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, most commonly known as Maimonides, was a 12th century philosopher and physician. Maimonides authored numerous philosophical and medical treatises. In his talk, Professor Bos will cover a short survey of Maimonides’ medical works, his training as a doctor, and some central aspects of his medical theory and practice such as proper regimen, including the sex res non-naturales (six things non-natural), the role of one’s nature, and his wariness to apply bloodletting.

Dr. Bos is Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Martin Buber Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Cologne. His main fields of research are medieval Jewish-Islamic science, especially medicine, medieval Hebrew, and Judeo-Arabic studies.

The event is free and open to the public.

Oct. 25th: Race, Medicine, Authorship and the “Discovery” of Sickle Cell Disease in 1910-1911

Date: Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Time: 5:00 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, 153 Rubenstein Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold, rachel.ingold@duke.edu, (919) 684-8549

Photo of Todd SavittPlease join the History of Medicine Collections for our next Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series event. Todd Savitt, Ph.D. will present Race, Medicine, Authorship and the ‘Discovery’ of Sickle Cell Disease in 1910-1911.

The first two case histories of sickle cell disease (SCD) appeared in the medical literature within three months of each other in 1910 and 1911.  The very divergent stories of the first two sickle-cell patients and their physicians are told against the backdrop of a racially divided America and of a highly competitive scientific community. Dr. Savitt’s talk will discuss how race and class affected the discovery of SCD and how credit for the two discoveries were apportioned. Dr. Savitt will also talk about his own “adventures” in tracking down the identities and backgrounds of these first two SCD patients.

Dr. Savitt is a medical historian and professor in the Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

All are welcome to attend.

Global Health Humement Project & World AIDS Day Event

When: Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Time: 3:00 – 5:00 p.m., reception to follow
Where: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room (room 153) of the Rubenstein Library

This semester, Global Health Professor Kearsley Stewart’s HIV/AIDS Narratives class is tackling a new project using Rubenstein Library collections. Working with poet and writer Kelley Swain, students are exploring the Maria de Bruyn Papers, a rich collection of global health materials related to de Bruyn’s work as a medical anthropologist globally addressing HIV/AIDS.

Students in Stewart’s HIV/AIDS Narratives explore the de Bruyn papers.
Students in Stewart’s HIV/AIDS Narratives explore the de Bruyn papers.

Students are delving into the de Bruyn papers as they work with Kelley Swain and learn more about the Humement project, based on the work of artist Tom Phillips, and apply this to their class. You can find details about their work in a recent DGHI newsletter. (A very important note: Original materials were not altered. Students spent an afternoon selecting original documents to scan and reproduce for their projects.)

In conjunction with the work of Professor Stewart’s class, the History of Medicine Collections is co-sponsoring an event with the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Health Humanities Lab, and the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & the History of Medicine to recognize World AIDS Day. The event will be held on Wednesday, November 30, from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. with a reception to follow, held in Room 153, the Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room of the Rubenstein Library. The event is free and open to the public.

Speakers will include Maria de Bruyn, Alicia Diggs of North Carolina AIDS Action Network (NCAAN), poet and writer Kelley Swain, and students from Professor Stewart’s HIV/AIDS Narratives class.

An exhibit in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room will highlight a small sample of what can be found in the Maria de Bruyn papers. In addition, students in Professor Stewart’s class will be showcasing their work on the Student Wall in Perkins Library in December and January.

The Apothecary Ledger of Hugh Mercer

Post contributed by Thomas Gillan, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern.

Apothecary Shop: Engraving by Clemens Kohl featuring the interior of an apothecary shop. History of Medicine Picture File, History of Medicine Collections.
Engraving by Clemens Kohl featuring the interior of an apothecary shop. History of Medicine Picture File, 1523-2002, History of Medicine Collections.

Among the 20,000 books and 4,000 manuscripts that together comprise the History of Medicine Collections at Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library—not to mention the collection’s hundreds of medical instruments and artifacts—is a large, leather-bound account ledger in folio kept by Hugh Mercer, an apothecary in Fredericksburg, Virginia, from 1771 to 1775.

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1725, Mercer went on to study medicine at Marischal College, graduating in 1744 before taking up a post as an assistant surgeon in the army of Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

With the Scots’ defeat at Culloden in 1746, Mercer fled to America, arriving in Philadelphia in 1747. Mercer settled in what is now Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, where he practiced medicine for eight years. During the Seven Years’ War, Mercer served in the British army, where he met and befriended Colonel George Washington. Following his service, Mercer resettled in Fredericksburg, Virginia, a decision no doubt influenced by Washington.

It was in Fredericksburg that Mercer, along with his business partner and fellow physician Ewen Clements, opened his apothecary shop. On May 28, 1771, in the Virginia Gazette, Mercer and Clements, “partners in the practice of physic and surgery,” announced that they had “opened a shop on the main street, opposite to Mr. Henry Mitchell’s store, furnished with a large assortment of drugs and medicines of the best quality, just imported from London; where Gentlemen of the profession and others may be supplied at easy rates, for ready money.” Together, Mercer and Clements compounded and dispensed medicines, diagnosed patients’ disorders, and prescribed and administered treatments.

The ledger kept by Mercer, which documents the history of his practice from 1771 to 1775, is a microcosm of the social and intellectual worlds of eighteenth-century Virginia. It contains entries for more than three hundred different accounts. Below each entry, Mercer meticulously documented his visits with patients, the medicines he dispensed, the treatments he prescribed, as well as the fees he charged.

An entry in Mercer’s ledger for the account of Colonel Fielding Lewis, a Fredericksburg merchant and George Washington’s brother-in-law.
An entry in Mercer’s ledger for the account of Colonel Fielding Lewis, a Fredericksburg merchant and George Washington’s brother-in-law. Click image to enlarge.

Among Mercer’s many patients were Mary Ball Washington, George Washington’s mother; Betty Washington Lewis, George Washington’s sister, and her husband Colonel Fielding Lewis; Thomas Ludwell Lee; John, Henry, and William Fitzhugh; and Mann Page. Mercer often noted the occupations of his patients, who ranged from merchants, planters, and gentlemen to tradesmen, schoolmasters, undertakers, and stage players. A number of women, many of them widows, kept their own accounts with Mercer. Also among Mercer’s patients were the enslaved men, women, and children whose visits were charged to their masters’ accounts.

Mercer kept a running index in the back of the ledger for each of his accounts.
Mercer kept a running index in the back of the ledger for each of his accounts. Click image to enlarge.

Mercer offered a range of treatments and services to his patients, from bleeding, purging, and pulling teeth to blistering, vomiting, and setting broken bones. He likewise dispensed a variety of compounds and medicines. These included saline mixtures, purging pills, febrifuge drops, liquid laudanum, balsam honey, magnesia, glauber salts, and stomach elixirs. In keeping with the medical science of his day, Mercer’s treatments were aimed at restoring the delicate balance of his patients’ four humors—black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood—and ensuring equilibrium among the body’s solids and fluids.

In all, Hugh Mercer’s ledger offers a unique window into the prevailing medical beliefs and practices of eighteenth-century Virginia society and represents only a sample of the Rubenstein Library’s rich collection in the history of medicine.

Lecture: The History and Legacy of Ivory Anatomical Manikins

Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Location: Rubenstein Library Room 153 (Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room)

Cali Buckley
Cali Buckley

Join the Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series for our next lecture by Cali Buckley on “The History and Legacy of Ivory Anatomical Manikins.” Ivory anatomical models comprise a little-known set of objects that were popular with male doctors of the late 17th- and 18th-centuries. Their narrative is currently being revised in light of a history of questionable assumptions. Though small and largely inaccurate, the story of anatomical manikins reveals how the politics of medicine impresses meaning on medical objects – often transcending the needs of the scientific community. Ms. Buckley will present on her current hypotheses as well as the process by which medical objects can be examined according to social history, connoisseurship, and material culture.

Cali Buckley is a Ph.D. candidate in art history at Penn State University. She received a Fulbright U.S. Student Award that allowed her to spend the 2015–16 academic year in Germany working on her dissertation, “Early Modern Anatomical Models and the Control of Women’s Medicine.”

The talk will be held in the Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Room 153, of the Rubenstein Library at Duke University. All are welcome to attend.  Sponsored by the History of Medicine Collections.

Measuring the Children of the Corn

“The babies are entered like any other exhibit at an agricultural fair. . . . They are examined by judges, just as live stock [sic], grain or apples are examined. . . . The result is bound to be – not prettier babies, – but better babies at each year’s fair, – a stronger, healthier race of people on the farms, in small towns and in the state.”

This excerpt from a Better Babies Bureau circular, from the papers of Victor Bassett, contains several templates for Better Baby Contest advertisements. Popular at local fairs in the early 20th century, Better Baby Contests presented a lighthearted way to challenge infant mortality and promote fitter populations. However, they also reveal governmental eugenic efforts to objectively quantify and thus improve American health.

Announcement for Better Babies Contest.
Announcement for Better Babies Contest.

Examiners judged children under five years old on their measurements and proportions, mental and developmental states, vision and hearing, and physical development. These tests set government-determined averages as the standard by encouraging families to “produce” children who met or exceeded these ideals. Additionally, they served to cement the public health as existing in the realm of scientific medicine and the government, rather than in the home. These kinds of contests illustrate the complex relationship between eugenics, popular movements, and public health.

Thanks to a generous History of Medicine travel grant, my visit to the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library allowed me to conduct research to support my dissertation, “Measuring Health: The United States Sanitary Commission, Statistics, and American Public Health in the Nineteenth Century.” I examine the statistical work of the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC).

During the American Civil War, the USSC attempted to improve the health of the Union Army. The leaders of this organization understood their work as forwarding ideas about preventative medicine and improving sanitation. Yet with the entirety of the Union army at their disposal, the USSC also inspected and measured over one million soldiers and sailors. These records include tabulations not simply of height and weight, but also the distance between a man’s eyes, the size of his head, and angles of his face. The statisticians presented their findings in groups divided by race and education level, and, while they provided limited interpretation of these numbers, they were made available to the broader scientific and anthropologic communities. It was in their hands that these numbers defined medical standards for Americans and shaped the nature of American public health.

My project explores why these statistics were collected and how they were used, and, more broadly, the Commission’s public health legacy. By using these statistics as a starting point, I explore the ties between the USSC and changes in public health, and how research from a 19th century organization continues to impact later public health issues. These Better Baby Contests represent the Commission’s legacy of measuring the quality and usefulness of a human being and of using governmental authority to establish scientific authority.

Post contributed by Sara Kern, a Ph.D. candidate in History & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University.

Photographic Research on Obstetric and Gynecological Instruments

Auvard Weighted Speculum from the L. M. Draper Collection..
Auvard Weighted Speculum from the L. M. Draper Collection.

With generous assistance from the History of Medicine travel grant, I traveled to Duke University to view and photograph historical obstetric and gynecological tools housed in Duke’s History of Medicine Collections at the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  There I viewed various artifact collections donated by practicing regional doctors, including the L. M. Draper Collection, the George D. & Evelyn Wilbanks Collection, and several anonymous collections.  I also viewed anatomical lift-the-flap guide books, lift-the-flap anatomical fugitive sheets and the Trent Collection of Ivory Anatomical Manikins, all of which were used to teach medical procedures, including delivery.

Having access to Duke’s collection was an incredible experience.  I treated it like a short artist residency.  I set up my lights, a pop-up tent, my camera and a tripod in a study room within the library.  Every morning, a cart was wheeled in with OB/GYN tools, anatomy text books and glass slides.  It was exciting (and a little nerve-wracking), opening up boxes and not knowing their contents.  For some items, I felt I was discovering the files for the first time.  In a way I was: besides the archivists who received and catalogued them, some of the items had never been requested.  I often felt as though I were in the medical field—donning nitrile gloves, carefully removing the items from their boxes, gently lying them down on the fabric of my pop-up lighting tent, careful not to harm them in any way.  I found myself photographing them as abstractions or as jewelry, a style of cataloguing unlike other projects I have photographed.

Smellie-Style Obstetrical Forceps from the George & Evelyn Wilbanks Collection.
Smellie-Style Obstetrical Forceps from the George & Evelyn Wilbanks Collection.

My work focuses on historical and contemporary women’s lives and I am particularly interested in the past’s technology and how it relates to today.  I have previously done photographic projects on antique vibrators, social media and the practice of keeping a commonplace book and with this project, the history of labor and delivery technology.  While the process of getting pregnant has changed with IVF and the location of delivery may have changed, the actual process of delivery has not changed.  Although American society emphasizes new products & experiences, and the medical world uses recent technology & procedures, women continue to deliver only one of two ways—vaginally or via Cesarean section.  Prior to my arrival at Duke, I assumed the tools used in labor and delivery were harmful to the infants and delivering women.  I also wondered how deadly labor actually was—in fictionalized accounts in both books and screen, no female who delivered a newborn ever lived, and seldom the child.  I expected antique tools to be brutal and different in appearance than today.  It surprised me that many of the tools I photographed resembled contemporary tools, only with time’s effect through rust or evident aging.

My research at Duke is the beginning of both my project and into further research on the history of the OB/GYN tools and their uses.  Although in its early stages, I plan to study these tools’ history, as well as their use & influence today.  The final images may be printed as slides, emulating turn of the twentieth century magic-lantern plates or late-twentieth century educational slide shows.  Whatever form these images take, I was particularly inspired by the anatomical lift-the flap books & broad sides and will create an artist book influenced by these interactive educational guides.  I look forward to sharing future developments of this project. Thank you to everyone at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library for their assistance during my stay.

Post contributed by History of Medicine Travel Grant recipient Lindsey Beal. Beal is a photo-based artist and professor in Providence, Rhode Island.  Her work and further information can be found at lindseybeal.com.

Trent Lecture on the Brooklyn Interns Hazing Episodes: March 7th

Date: Monday, March 7, 2016
Time: 5:30 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Room 153, Rubenstein Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold, rachel.ingold@duke.edu, (919) 684-8549

Dr. Ed Halperin, M.D., M.A.Please join the History of Medicine Collections for our next Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series event. Dr. Ed Halperin, M.D., M.A., will present “This is a Christian institution and we will tolerate no Jews here”:  The Brooklyn Interns Hazing Episodes.

Anti-semitism in U.S. medical education rarely flared into acts of violence, except in Brooklyn. Presenting the results of recently completed research, Dr. Halperin will describe the assaults on the Jewish interns of Kings County Hospital in 1916 and 1927 and the implications of these assaults for the contemporary debate on immigration and higher education.

Dr. Halperin is Chancellor  and Chief Executive Officer at New York Medical College and Professor of Radiation Oncology, Pediatrics, and History as well as Provost for Biomedical Affairs at Touro College.

This event is open to the public.

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