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.

Yale Medicine Goes to War

Melissa Grafe, current co-chair of the MHL Governance Committee and John R. Bumstead Librarian for Medical History at the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, participated in two video presentations for the Yale Office of Public Affairs and Communications to commemorate the WWI centennial and the Medical Library’s exhibits on the war.

Yale Goes to War – Profiles in Medicine

Yale Goes to War – Mobile Hospital No. 39

Check out more MHL resources on World War I here.

Upcoming WWI Exhibit Opening at the UCSF Library

Recruitment poster.

Recruitment poster.

~This post courtesy Polina Ilieva, Head of Archives and Special Collections, University of California, San Francisco.

Save the date for the upcoming UCSF Archives exhibit: a Centennial Commemoration of WWI featuring UCSF’s role in the Great War, April 12, 2017 – April 2018 on the main floor of the UCSF Library at Parnassus. Continue reading

From Library War Service to Science: Bibliotherapy in World War I

This Friday, we’d like to point you towards an online exhibit on bibliotherapy as used during World War I. This exhibit was created and curated by Mary Mahoney, a Ph.D. Candidate in History at the University of Connecticut. She is currently completing a dissertation on the history of bibliotherapy, or the use of books as medicine.

Most readers can think of a novel that offered some comfort, a poem that presented direction, or even a biography that provided inspiration. The notion that books can heal is as old as reading itself but, during World War I, doctors and librarians joined together to apply reading as a form of therapy.


Yale Medicine Goes to War, 1917

A new exhibition from Medical Heritage Library partner Yale University entitled “Yale Medicine Goes to War, 1917″ commemorates America’s entry into the war at the local level. From mobilizing a “first of its kind” Mobile Hospital Unit, No. 39, to research on the effects of chemical warfare, this exhibition explores the many ways that Yale Medical School faculty, researchers, and students contributed to the war effort at home and abroad. The war diaries of Harvey Cushing, a pioneering neurosurgeon and Sterling Professor of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine (1932–1939), are also on view, documenting the trials and trauma of war, particularly brain damage arising from shell fragments, shrapnel, and gunshot wounds. Continue reading

Digital Highlights: American Surgeons in Paris

Inscription by Dr. Elliott C. Cutler to President Emeritus Eliot on flyleaf of journal.

In spring 1915, a deputation of surgeons and nurses from the Harvard Medical School travelled to Paris to join the service at the American Ambulance Hospital, giving medical aid to injured soldiers from battles taking place across Europe. The unit had been invited by Dr. Joseph Blake, one of the surgeons already working in Paris.

One of the surgeons who came from Harvard was Dr. Elliott Carr Cutler. In 1916, he put together a journal of the expedition, publishing it as A Journal of the Harvard Medical School Unit to The American Ambulance Hospital in Paris. The unit totalled 17, including surgeons, medical staff, and four nurses to work at the Hospital at Neuilly.

The Journal starts with the departure of the unit from Boston in March 1915 and concludes with an epilogue written in Canada in July of the same year, after the unit had taken over the hospital service for the intervening three months.

Cutler describes the trip, the difficulties the unit had even in getting into France through Spain (customs officers insisted on opening some boxes of chocolates that had been given as gifts and the Harvard unit only retained them with difficulty), and the final arrival and work at the Hospital. The unit took over all aspects of the Hospital work, including devising a filing system to record and store patient information. Some of the doctors took opportunity of their time in France to make tours, some to historical sites, including Versailles, but often visiting other hospitals and medical services, some very close to the front, or the front itself, under appropriate supervision from armed services.

The day-to-day medical services given to wounded soldiers receive attention, too. Cutler is dispassionate in recording what cases are brought in and what can be done for them, even saying once when discussing some discharged soldiers who were returning for further work on old wounds, “It was a considerable blow to our hopes for more cranial work, though to be sure they were wounded in the head.” (32) Despite this early breeziness, as time goes by Cutler is clearly affected by what he is seeing. As the major “season” for battles over the spring and summer advances as the weather improves, Cutler notes that the wounds become worse and the number of patients higher. Long days in the surgery are mentioned and Cutler sometimes waxes philosophical about what the overall “point” of the war might be, when the major outcome seems to be shattered bodies.

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