Medicine in World War I Online Exhibit

In commemoration of the centennial of America’s entry into World War I in April 1917 through to the Armistice in November 1918, partner institutions contributing to the Medical Heritage Library have developed this collaborative online exhibit on medicine, surgery, and nursing in the war, with texts and images drawn from the digital corpus of the MHL. A significant amount of professional medical and surgical literature was produced even as the conflict continued to rage, and many personal narratives of physicians and nurses and histories of hospitals and army medical units were also published in the years immediately after the war.  A selection of this material is incorporated into the exhibit.

Medicine in World War I is divided into several broad categories: common diseases of the battlefield and camps; injuries and prosthetic devices; shell-shock and stress; military nursing; and the Spanish influenza epidemic.   There are also sections of bibliographic references with links to items in the Medical Heritage Library and a short list of other exhibits devoted to World War I and medicine.

Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Fellowship Lecture: Gender and Risk Perception in the Development of Oral Contraceptives, 1940-1968

Thursday, June 15, 2017 – 5:30pm

Kate Grauvogel is the  2016-2017 Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Fellow, Doctoral student in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine Department at Indiana University-Bloomington.

This lecture is sponsored by The Archives for Women in Medicine and the Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation.

Kate Grauvogel is an advanced doctoral student in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine Department at Indiana University-Bloomington. Broadly, her research interests include the history of women’s health, especially pathology and psychiatry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her current research focuses on women and experimentation in medicine, particularly the history of blood clotting disorders in reproductive-age women, and how physicians perceived the whole constellation of gender, reproduction, secretions, clots, and associated diseases.

Grauvogel’s dissertation is entitled “A gendered history of pathology: blood clots, women, and hormones in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.” It argues that the bodies of women—whether as obstetric patients, cadavers, or sufferers of side-effects from birth-control pills—shaped pathological theory as well as understandings of the role of secretions (later identifiable as estrogens) in health and disease. It also explores the medical and cultural functions of the Pill in the twentieth century and its impact on women and their lives. In it, she hopes to show how nineteenth-century pathologists and twentieth-century physicians observed pregnant women and women on the birth control pill and gleaned important information from them, such as the idea that fluctuations in estrogens could lead to the formation of dangerous blood clots.

The project as a whole uses primary sources from France, England, and Germany. At the Countway, Grauvogel will add an American perspective from the Boston Hospital for Women Records, 1926–1983, The Free Hospital for Women Records, 1875–1975, the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, The Leona Baumgartner Papers, 1830-1979, the Janet Ward McArthur Papers, 1939-2005, and other collections. She will be looking for cases of lying-in illnesses, including blood clotting, which will shed light on how pathologists thought about dangerous blood clots in women as the result of either pregnancy or the Pill. She hopes to emerge with a better grasp of the ailments doctors observed in women, as well as and how they described and thought about such ailments.

Waterhouse Room
Gordon Hall
Harvard Medical School
25 Shattuck Street, Boston MA

Reception begins at 5:00pm.

Free and open to the public. Registration is required. Register online now through Eventbrite or email us at ContactChom@hms.harvard.edu.

“Spare Parts – Hope, Drama and Dispute: Heart Transplantation and Total Artificial Heart Implant Cases in the 1960s”

Please join us for the 13th J. Worth Estes, M.D. History of Medicine Lecture sponsored by the Boston Medical Library on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 – 5:30pm. To register, contact the Boston Medical Library at BostonMedLibr@gmail.com or 617-432-5169.

With the upcoming 50th anniversary of the first heart transplant operation, performed by South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard in December 1967, Prof. Shelley McKellar examines cardiac transplantation alongside the development of artificial hearts as replacement therapies for heart failure patients during the 1960s. Not long after Barnard, American surgeons Adrian Kantrowitz and Norman Shumway performed heart transplant operations in New York and California respectively. Within weeks, more cardiac surgeons jumped on the transplant ‘bandwagon.’

In the year 1968, more than 100 heart transplant operations were done worldwide, with Denton Cooley, Norman Shumway and Michael DeBakey performing the greatest number of cases. But patient mortality rates were appalling high due to organ rejection and infection. Still dying heart failure patients camped outside the offices of heart transplant surgeons, hoping for a life-saving procedure.

In 1969, Cooley implanted an artificial heart in a Houston man as a desperate measure to provide this. The device kept the patient alive for 64 hours until he received a donor heart, but this only sustained him for another 32 hours before the patient succumbed to pneumonia and kidney failure. The artificial heart implant case fueled the debate concerning the best cardiac replacement therapy—human or mechanical parts—to offer heart failure patients; neither produced satisfactory outcomes and many in the medical community questioned the continued pursuit of these treatments. (The 1969 implant case also severed the professional relationship of DeBakey and Cooley due to allegations of device theft and lack of authorization to perform the implant procedure.)

McKellar explores how the challenges and uncertainties experienced in heart transplant surgery augmented the standing and perceived value of artificial heart implantation as a complementary, not competing, cardiac replacement treatment in a period of ‘spare parts’ optimism in American medicine and society.

Prof. McKellar completed a PhD in the History of Medicine at the University of Toronto, under the supervision of Prof. Michael Bliss. She then worked at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC on a documentary history project before taking a tenure-track position in the Department of History at Western University, London, Canada in 2003. In 2012, she became the Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University. In teaching medical students, she aims to get them to appreciate the historical and cultural contingency of medical practice – that is – recognize that time and place matter regarding what we think we know and how we practice medicine.

Prof. McKellar’s research focuses on the history of surgery, predominantly cardiac surgery, medical technology, and the material culture of medicine. Her newest book, entitled Artificial Hearts: The Allure and Ambivalence of a Controversial Medical Technology is forthcoming – this fall 2017 – with Johns Hopkins University Press. This book traces the history of an imperfect technology, situating the more-well-known events of the Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley professional fall-out after the first artificial heart implant case in 1969 as well as the 1982-83 Jarvik-7 heart implant case of Barney Clark within a larger historical trajectory that also includes the development of atomic artificial hearts and ventricular assist devices (or ‘partial’ artificial hearts.) It can be seen as a case study that speaks to questions of ‘success,’ values, expectations, limitations, and uncertainty in a high-technology medical world that grapples with end-stage disease therapies.

McKellar has also written a biography of Toronto surgeon Gordon Murray who operated on the heart in the era of closed-intracardiac operations (before open-heart surgery), built the first Canadian artificial kidney machine, and pursued research on a controversial cancer serum and a spinal cord surgical procedure to restore function in paraplegics. McKellar also co-authored a book, entitled Medicine and Technology in Canada, 1900-1950, which was commissioned by the Canada Science and Technology Museum to assist in their mandate to collect and research medical technology.

As much as possible, McKellar incorporates medical objects into her teaching and research. As curator of the Medical Artifact Collection at Western, she conducts object research, mounts displays, and runs ‘hands-on’ student workshops to spotlight the often ‘hidden’ history of medical instruments and devices.

Cannon Room, Building C
Harvard Medical School
240 Longwood Avenue, Boston MA

To register, contact the Boston Medical Library at BostonMedLibr@gmail.com or 617-432-5169.

From Farmer’s Daughter to Physician: The Advocacy, Activism, and Legacy of Dr. Mary Bennett Ritter and her Contemporaries

Portrait photograph of Mary B. Ritter.

Mary Bennett Ritter.

~This post courtesy Andra Langoussis Pham, Records Management Assistant, Center for the History of Medicine at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

The Archives for Women in Medicine is pleased to present a talk by Dr. Gesa Kirsch who will discuss Dr. Mary Bennett Ritter, an early 20th-century woman physician, her cohort of Western women physicians, and the role of the Woman’s Medical Journal in creating and sustaining a large professional network of early women physicians. This lecture will speak directly to Dr. Ritter’s life and leadership and why this story is worthy of restoring to medical and women’s history. Continue reading

New Exhibit at the Countway Library Commemorates Harvard Medical School’s Relief Efforts during World War I

Soldiers Wounded at the Battle of the Somme Arriving at No. 22 General Hospital, 1916 [0004184]

Soldiers Wounded at the Battle of the Somme Arriving at No. 22 General Hospital, 1916 [0004184]

This post courtesy Jack Eckert, Public Services Librarian at the Center for the History of Medicine at the Francis A. Countway Library of Harvard Medical School.

Although the United States did not enter World War I until April 1917, American medical personnel were active in war relief efforts from nearly the beginning of the conflict. Harvard Medical School—its faculty and its graduates—played a key role in this relief work by providing staff for French and English hospitals and military units, and these early endeavors provided invaluable experience once America came into the war and the need to organize and staff base and mobile hospitals for the U.S. Army became critical to the war effort. Continue reading

New to the MHL!

Lots of state medical journals, that’s what’s new around here!

Check out:

And we also have a ton of new monographs:

And as always, check out our full collection for more!

Digital Highlights: Remedial Hypnotism

Now might be about the time in the fall semester when a little remedial something-or-other starts to sound like a pretty good idea — particularly remedial sleep.

Or perhaps you could just use the techniques in The remedial uses of hypnotism to convince yourself you have had more sleep and were ready to go all over again! (If you try that and it works, please do let me know.)

Page through below or follow this link to read Frederic Henry Gerrish’s 1892 The remedial uses of hypnotism.

Digital Highlights: “Letters From a Mourning City”

If you’re a fan of the personal narrative, as I am, then any new one you find is an immediate treasure be it a collection of letters, autobiography, diary, or whatever.

The 1887 Letters from a Mourning City, originally written in Swedish by the traveller Axel Munthe and translated into English by Maude V. White, is a fascinating travelogue of Munthe’s trip to Naples in 1884 during an outbreak of cholera in the city.

Flip through the pages below or follow this link to read Letters from a Mourning City (Naples. Autumn 1884).

As always, for more from the Medical Heritage Library, please visit our full collection!