Wilder Penfield Digital Collection

penfield_public_screenWe are pleased to announce this week that the Wilder Penfield Digital Collection is now available to access online! The new website includes Wilder Graves Penfield (1891-1976) biographical information, as well as meters and meters worth of digitized archival images, letters, and other materials from the Osler Library’s extensive Penfield fonds.

Students and researchers are encouraged to explore this website for information ranging from Penfield’s childhood, education and medical training, to his widely influential research. As founder and head of the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) from 1933-1960, Penfield was Canada’s foremost neurosurgeon at the time and his career continues to influence generations of neurologists around the world.

The digitization of this collection was made possible thanks to a generous grant from the R. Howard Webster Foundation, obtained by the late Dr. William Feindel (1918-2014).

Bookside Manner

Do you ever highlight, underline, or add your own notes and musings into the margins of your own books? Do you dog-ear your pages? Upon discovering this 1963 Gazette editorial in the archives, we felt inspired to put the following question out there to all book lovers and bibliophiles: How is your “bookside” manner?

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“Cruelty To Books.” Author unknown. The Gazette, April 20, 1963. Part of the Osler Library’s Kelen Family fonds, it is from a 1960s scrapbook arranged in memory of Osler Librarian, W. W. Francis (1878-1959).

For those inspired by this topic, we suggest taking a look at writer and physician Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1883 posthumous “lost” novel The Narrative of John Smith, wherein the altruistic protagonist Smith lobbies for a bill to be passed by the House of Commons concerning better care and preservation of books:

“Since we have societies for the prevention of various kinds of cruelty, why do we not have a society for the prevention of cruelty to books?”

With Wit and Whimsy

We recently came across some amusing caricatures while processing new additions to the Cecil Percy Martin fonds and the Kelen Family collection in the Osler archives. It’s no surprise that university lecturers make ideal subjects for this kind of expression!

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Caricature of Cecil Percy Martin, St. Patrick’s Day, 1941.

Dr. Cecil Percy Martin (1892-1977) was a popular Professor of Anatomy at McGill, well-known for his compelling speaking ability, and his Irish wit. This caricature is part of Martin’s personal scrapbooks that were recently donated to the archives. Alongside clippings of medical articles, postcards, and family photographs, he included this caricature that was left on his desk by a student on St. Patrick’s Day, 1941.

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Dr. Robert Knox caricature, ca. 1825. Artist unknown.

Dr. Robert Knox (1792-1862) was a nineteenth century Scottish (Edinburgh) anatomist known for his lectures and dissections that were usually open to public viewing with the purchase of a ticket. Knox was not known for his sense of humour. He had a particularly dark reputation for side-stepping the law, using undeniably questionable means in order to attain his ‘fresh’ cadavers.

This depiction of Dr. Knox posing with a skeleton hand is thought to have been drawn by one of his students circa 1825. Several copies of the caricature are in existence. This particular one was given to Dr. W. W. Francis (1878-1959), the first Osler librarian, in 1925 while Francis was in Oxford cataloguing the Bibliotheca Osleriana. It is now part of the Kelen Family fonds, donated to the Osler Library by Francis’ granddaughter.

Another caricature included in the Kelen Family fonds is one sketched by W. W. Francis himself. The image exaggerates and pokes fun at his weight gain following his recovery from pulmonary tuberculosis in 1911. “Mount Vernon” was the name of the boarding house that Francis occupied at St. Agathe Sanatorium, The Laurentian Society for the Treatment and Control of Tuberculosis. A “glove stretcher” was a wooden peg, shaped more-or-less like a pair of scissors, used by nineteenth century ladies who struggled to put on their leather gloves that had shrunk in the wash water.

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W. W. Francis’ self-drawn caricature upon leaving St. Agathe Sanatorium, 1911.

The ability to laugh at oneself is an important component of a person’s mental health and well-being. As the Irish proverb goes: A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything!

Mortality of Montreal

This historical snapshot of Montreal mortality statistics from the first month of 1878 was recently acquired by the Osler archives, as part of the John Bell fonds. At the time, McGill graduate John Bell had his own medical practice on Beaver Hill Hall and was also Physician to Montreal’s Protestant Infants’ Home. As a local physician, Bell would have received these bulletins on a monthly basis from the Department of Health. The distributed information contained in these bulletins was largely based on mortuary statistics acquired from the Catholic and Protestant Cemeteries.

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John Bell’s copy of “Mortality of Montreal”, January 1878.

Montreal in the 1870s was the most industrialized and populous city in Canada – with more factories, elevators, warehouses, mills and refineries than anywhere else. Unfortunately, the city’s growing population during the nineteenth century registered some of the highest mortality rates in North America – largely due to rapid settlement, poor unsanitary living conditions, and disease.

In particular, the infant mortality rate in Montreal was notoriously high, with statistics reaching upwards to a quarter of all newborn children dying within the first twelve months. Unsafe water and a limited use of vaccines against diseases such as smallpox and diphtheria contributed to these numbers.

The smallpox epidemic of 1885-86 that completely ravaged Montreal’s population and spread across Quebec occurred approximately seven years after this bulletin was published. The Health Department’s warnings and recommendations attached here cast a foreboding light on a serious growing concern for the spread of disease, calling for an increase in district vaccinations.

“I still strongly recommend the continuation of the appointment of the public vaccinators; and as most of the cases of smallpox are without medical attendance…I would suggest that the public vaccinators be appointed as district physicians – in order that every case of smallpox…may be as much as possible under the control of the district physicians” – Medical Health Officer, A. B. Laroque, 1878.

For researchers who are interested in the history of Montreal health and mortality statistics, this “Mortality of Montreal” document could serve as an ideal starting off point, or addition to one’s research. The Osler Library also houses numerous decades worth of nineteenth century provincial and municipal health records, reports, and journals such as the annually published Report of the Board of Health of the Province of Quebec and Report of the Sanitary State of the City of Montreal. All are available to view by consultation at the Osler Library.

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“Mortality of Montreal”, January 1878.

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The Health Department’s overview and recommendations by A. B. Laroque, M.D., January 1878.

In addition, local newspaper articles related to this topic can be found on microfiche and online, such as Montreal Herald articles from the 1860s to 1880s – some of which have been digitized by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at McGill. The articles linked below discuss the concern over Montreal’s mortality rates at the time, and they also show the adversarial dialogue surrounding the statistics.

“The Mortality of Montreal.” The Montreal Herald, January 20, 1870.

“Vital Statistics.” The Montreal Herald, October 28, 1869.

“Montreal Mortality.” The Montreal Herald, November 30, 1869.

Epistolary Etiquette

Crafting a quality handwritten letter is an art form – especially nowadays when we so rarely take the time to put ink to paper, attach a stamp, and send our social messages by post. This week in the archives we came across some excellent examples of nineteenth century ‘crossed’ letters, in among new additions to the John Bell fonds.

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Crossed letter, 1876.

The technique of crossing perpendicular lines (also referred to as cross-hatched) was a popular method to save on paper and postage costs back in the day.

Michèle LaRose – Osler Library Artist-in-Residence Programme

We are now accepting submissions for the Michèle LaRose – Osler Library                  Artist-in-Residence Programme!  Application details found here.

Value: $6000

Application deadline: June 1, 2016

Colour mezzotint illustration from Exposition anatomique de la structure du corps humain, by Gautier Dagoty, 1759

Colour mezzotint illustration from Exposition anatomique de la structure du corps humain, Jacques Fabien Gautier d’Agoty, 1759

 

Saskatchewan doctors’ strike, 1962

This piece of Canadian Medicare history was recently added to the Osler Library Archive Collections as part of our Joseph Stratford fonds. At the time, Joseph Stratford was Professor of Surgery and Director of Neurosurgery at the University Hospital of Saskatoon.

Window sign from the Saskatchewan doctors' strike, 1962.

Window sign from the Saskatchewan doctors’ strike, 1962.

In the summer of 1962, Saskatchewan medical doctors exercised labour action in an attempt to thwart the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation’s plans to implement the province’s universal medical insurance program. The strike began on July 1, 1962, day one of the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act, and ended twenty-three days later on July 23, 1962.

Though the strike was a failure, it did significantly test the strength of the new program. Over the next ten years, the program’s ensuing popularity allowed the Saskatchewan Medicare model to be adopted by every province in Canada.

Bodi-Tone: The road to excellent health?

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Bodi-Tone promotional pamphlet, 1912.

Original marketing materials from the “cure-all” Bodi-Tone Company are now available to view upon request in the Osler archives. This mail-order medicine was available in the USA and Canada during the early twentieth century. It promised restorative health and well-being to anyone – men, women, and children of all ages – suffering from minor ailments to serious diseases.

If the testimonials are to be believed, Bodi-Tone had the power to cure fatigue of the elderly, pain and inflammation of Rheumatism, liver complications, and Malaria to name but a few!

A box of Bodi-Tone tablets would set you back $1.00 in 1912 (or five boxes for $4.00). Read what “cured” customers had to say about the product by clicking on the images to enlarge.

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Bodi-Tone promotional pamphlet, 1912.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Bodi-Tone was also advertised as a preventative treatment.

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Bodi-Tone Company letterhead, 1912.

Osler Society Medical Students’ Essay Contest Open!

Osler Library Board of Curators' medal

Osler Library Board of Curators’ medal

Medical students at McGill are invited to explore the historical, social, ethical, and humanistic side of their field thanks to an essay contest established by the Medical Students’ Osler Society and the Board of Curators of the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, and endowed through a generous gift by Pam and Rolando Del Maestro.

The essay contest gives undergraduate medical students the opportunity to explore any theme of interest to them in the history, social studies, sociology, ethics, and humanities of the health sciences. It also provides them with the chance to be mentored by an expert in their topic drawn from the Library’s Board of Curators or elsewhere to complete their project, and to use the rich resources of the Osler Library and other libraries at McGill.

Medical students have found that the contest has allowed them to broaden their understanding of medicine in ways that go far beyond the curriculum.

Initial proposals are due May 2nd! For more information see https://www.mcgill.ca/library/branches/osler/essay-contest.