Founding Gallaudet: Origins and Activism

~This post courtesy of Katie Healey and Caroline Lieffers, doctoral students in Yale’s Program for the History of Science and Medicine, with additions by Melissa Grafe, John R. Bumstead Librarian for Medical History, Head of the Medical Historical Library.

Title page of An Address in Behalf of the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind by Edward M. Gallaudet, 1858.

Title page of An Address in Behalf of the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind by Edward M. Gallaudet, 1858.

In 1856, Amos Kendall, former postmaster general of the United States, became guardian to several deaf children. Concerned by their limited educational prospects, he donated two acres of his estate in the capital to establish the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind, to be run by Edward Miner Gallaudet. The blind students were soon moved to a separate school in Baltimore. Not satisfied with just secondary education, Kendall convinced Congress to grant the school the authority to award college degrees. In 1864, President Lincoln signed the college’s charter and President Grant signed the diplomas of its first graduates, establishing a tradition of presidential signatures that continues on its diplomas today. The college was renamed Gallaudet College in 1894, in honor of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, and became Gallaudet University in 1986. Continue reading

Tuberculosis, Public Health, and Big Data

In case you missed it, last week we were proud to host five posts from Tom Ewing’s Data in Social Context class at Virginia Tech. Each post was written by a group of students who selected and researched a topic centered on tuberculosis and public health data in the United States around the beginning of the twentieth century. The data they used came from the Medical Heritage Library collections and we were privileged to talk to the students via Skype and be able to work with them on their drafts.

The posts are collected here for ease of reference — we highly recommend all of them! Continue reading

Guest Post: The Impact of Tuberculosis on Adults as Measured by Philadelphia’s Vital Statistics

Today we are pleased to feature five guest posts from Tom Ewing’s Virginia Tech Introduction to Data in Social Context class! This final post is from E. Thomas Ewing and Nicholas Bolin.

The social impact of tuberculosis in the late nineteenth century was distinguished by the relatively high mortality rate among adult populations. This social impact can be graphically illustrated in a chart showing the relative number of deaths over a six year period in the city of Philadelphia due to the ten most common causes for the adult population, aged 20-50 years. Of these causes, tuberculosis accounts for nearly half — or the same number of the other nine causes combined. Of the approximately 33,000 adult deaths from all causes in this six year period, tuberculosis accounted for more than one-third (35.8%), more than three times as many deaths as other leading causes (typhoid fever, pneumonia, and accidents and injuries). As this graph suggests, the vital statistics collected and analyzed by government agencies, preserved by medical libraries in published form, and now widely accessible through the Medical Heritage Library in digital form are both an excellent source of data for analysis with modern tools and a basis for thinking about the ways that public officials used statistical analysis to identify health concerns and recommend appropriate policies. Continue reading

Guest Post: Tuberculosis in California: A Statistical Analysis From 1880-1910

Today we are pleased to feature five guest posts from students in Tom Ewing’s Virginia Tech Introduction to Data in Social Context class! This post is from Jack Fleisher, Jae Ha, Joey Hammel.

We chose to explore tuberculosis in California because of a few interesting characteristics. One of these characteristics was the phenomenon of California being seen as a beacon of health and longevity in the late 1800s, and as a result, attracting many individuals sick with tuberculosis thinking that moving there was their best hope to recover and alleviate their disease.  We suspected that this would drive up the tuberculosis rates as the increase in the population of those previously diagnosed would raise the death rate above where it would be for the Californian-born population.   Continue reading

Guest Post: Tuberculosis in Boston: The Impact of Socioeconomic Factors

Today we are pleased to feature five guest posts from students in Tom Ewing’s Virginia Tech Introduction to Data in Social Context class! This post is from Brian Yuhas, Claire Ko, Emma Rhodes.

The discussion of socioeconomic factors and their impact on tuberculosis came about as a result of our inadequate knowledge of the disease and our wish to delve deeper into how this disease influenced everyday life in the 1890s. Our research focused on whether economic status had an apparent effect on the deaths that occurred in Boston due to tuberculosis in the late nineteenth century. Did similar population densities have the same tuberculosis rates among different classes? Did wards with higher tax revenue experience higher or lower tuberculosis death rates? Through the 1890s Vital Statistics report for Boston, we were able to come to some conclusions about the correlation between wealth and likelihood of death due to tuberculosis in the city. Continue reading

Guest Post: The Experiments of Dr. Robert Koch: A Reconsideration of the Scientific Method for Evaluating Treatments for Tuberculosis

Today we are pleased to feature five guest posts from students in Tom Ewing’s Virginia Tech Introduction to Data in Social Context class! This post is from Christian Averill, Robbie D’Amato, Nathan Gibson, and Jonathan Silbaugh.

During the nineteenth century, a widespread desire for a cure for tuberculosis prompted intense interest in any claims of a medical breakthrough in diagnosing and treating this disease. When German physician Robert Koch announced in 1882 that he had discovered that the cause of the disease was a bacillus known as M. Tuberculosis, his discovery was widely celebrated as a major medical breakthrough. Eight years later, however, his claims to have discovered a cure for tuberculosis aroused more substantive questions about the veracity of his claims as well as the methods, findings, and analysis advanced to support these claims. This post examines some of the evidence involved in this discussion with the goal of evaluating Koch’s claims relative to standard procedures used now to discover, test, and approve cures. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Phthisiophobia”: The Tuberculosis Clinic in New York City and Popular Anxieties about Public Health Dangers

Today we are pleased to feature five guest posts from students in Tom Ewing’s Virginia Tech Introduction to Data in Social Context class! The first is from Allyson Manhart, Andrew Pregnall, and Harshitha Narayanan.


TB_Infirmary_OpenToPatientsAt the beginning of the twentieth century the Treasury Department of the United States classified pulmonary tuberculosis as a “dangerously contagious disease” which meant that any immigrant found to have tuberculosis coming to the United States would be denied entrance. The ban led to a swift reaction from the physicians of the New York Academy of Medicine, many of whom argued that the ban created unnecessary fear of those with tuberculosis.
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Johns Hopkins’ Legacy for Nursing Education

~This post courtesy of Phoebe Evans Letocha, Collections Management Archivist, Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

As 2016 comes to a close, we gather to honor the life and legacy of Mr. Johns Hopkins on this 143rd anniversary of his death. Let us pay special attention to his legacy for nursing education.

1873, the year of Mr. Hopkins’ death, was also a momentous year for the birth of professional nursing in America.

On March 10, 1873, Johns Hopkins instructed his trustees, “I desire you to establish, in connection with the hospital, a training school for female nurses. This provision will secure the services of women competent to care for the sick in the hospital wards, and will enable you to benefit the whole community by supplying it with a class of trained and experienced nurses.” Continue reading

Searching Tobacco Archives: Sports and Chewing Tobacco

~This post courtesy Allen Smoot, UCSF Archives Intern.

Image from “The case against smokeless tobacco: five facts for the health professional to consider,” September 1980, page 4.

Image from “The case against smokeless tobacco: five facts for the health professional to consider,” September 1980, page 4.

As an intern for the UCSF Archives, I’ve been working on digitized state medical society journals and tobacco control collections. At UCSF, the Archives and the Industry Documents Library both house immense collections of tobacco-related material. In the Industry Documents Library there are millions of documents from tobacco companies about their manufacturing, marketing, and scientific research.  I narrowed in on chewing tobacco and how it became popular in the sporting world. Continue reading