167th

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Glass slide from the Osler Library archives shows Osler as a young medical student at McGill University, 1871.

Today marks the 167th birthday of Sir William Osler. In celebration this year, we thought we would highlight several invaluable resources and digital collections that McGill University Library – with the help of generous donors – has made accessible for researchers around the world.

McGill Library William Osler Letter Index — This on-going project at Osler Library provides a wealth of information for researchers to access an index of thousands of letters to and from Sir William Osler. It also provides biographical materials gathered by Dr. Harvey Cushing for his 1925 Pulitzer Prize winning biography The Life of William Osler.

William Osler Photo Collection — Browse the photographic collection, read the accompanying biographical notes, and get a sense of the visual history of William Osler and those who were close to him throughout his life.

Osler Library Archives — Retrieval number P100 will direct you to the William Osler fonds. If you prefer to browse, the subject “Osler, Sir William, Sir, 1849-1919” will provide the many fonds collections containing archival material associated with Osler – fonds that include some of William Osler’s friends, relatives and colleagues throughout his life in Canada, USA, and United Kingdom.

Enjoy your Osler celebrations today from all of us here at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine!

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).

Garrison-Morton 5th ed. now freely available as database

A very important resource for the history of medicine, Morton’s Medical Bibliography (also known as “Garrison-Morton”), is now available as a database at historyofmedicine.com. Garrison-Morton is a standard reference work for the history of medicine, biology, and dentistry, originally composed of a bibliography of classic works of medicine by the American historian and librarian of medicine Fielding H. Garrison (1870-1935) in 1933. Continue reading

Medieval medical manuscript available digitally

The Osler Library’s copy of a medieval medical text written by Johannes de Sancto Paulo (John of Saint Paul) is one of our manuscripts that are available digitally. Bibliotheca Osleriana 7627 is a small early 13th century Latin manuscript containing the Breviarium medicine (“Breviary of medicine”) written by Johannes de Sancto Paulo (fl. 1180), as well as an excerpt from the Liber Pantegni compiled and translated from Arabic into Latin by Constantine the African (1020?-1098/99?). It was rebound probably in the late 19th century in vellum over boards with beautiful marbled pastedowns. The volume belongs to William Osler‘s original donation to the library and is catalogued in his Bibliotheca Osleriana (1). Osler acquired the manuscript from the rare books dealer Luigi Lubrano of Naples in October of 1915.

First leaf of the Breviary, with the incipit, an opening line written in red announcing the title of the text (referred to in this copy as the "Breviary of Hippocrates"). BO 7627.

First leaf of the Breviary, with the incipit, an opening line written in red announcing the title of the text (referred to in this copy as the “Breviary of Hippocrates”) and table of contents. BO 7627.

Johannes de Sancto Paulo was a physician active in Southern Italy during the late 12th and early 13th century. He is thought to be among the masters of the Salerno school of medicine, a center for medical teaching and knowledge production well-known for bringing the work of Arabic medical writers into Europe through Latin translation. The breviary, one of four known works by Johannes de Sancto Paolo, is a general guide to practical medicine written probably around the third quarter of the 12th century.

The text is divided into five books. The first book discusses some practical issues about diagnosing and understanding disease, for example, recognizing signs of illness. It also discusses diseases that affect the entire body, like leprosy and skin conditions such as erysipelas. The second book contains conditions relating to the head and upper body, including the respiratory system. In this book are descriptions of and treatments for “psychological” conditions like mania and lethargy, head pain, eye pain, impaired vision, coughs, and asthma.

Chapter on leprosy, De Lepra from BO 7627. A popular topic, one early reader has added a lot of notes in the margin.

Chapter on leprosy, De Lepra from BO 7627. A popular topic, one early reader has added a lot of notes in the margin.

Book 3 concentrates on the digestive system with entries on vomiting, stomach pain, diabetes, and more. Book 4 is on the reproductive system and women’s issues like retention of menses and womb suffocation (two worrisome conditions for medieval doctors). Book 5 is on different types of fevers, which medieval people identified as a disease in itself rather than a symptom of illness, as we understand it today.

The second text bound in the manuscript appears to have been written somewhat later than the first. It was often a common practice to bind single texts together in the same binding.

A short extract from the Pantegni section on medical theory, theorica, likely transcribed by a medieval medical student. BO 7627.

A short extract from the Pantegni section on medical theory, theorica, likely transcribed by a medieval medical student. BO 7627.

The title of the manuscript’s second text, the Pantegni, comes from the Greek words pan and techne, meaning “all the art,” referring to the art of medicine, and was a large compendium of both practical medical treatments and medical theory. These pages are possibly the work of a student copying an extract of this well-known medical textbook for his own reference purposes. In the margin above where the writing begins, the scribe has scrawled in a short plea–sancti spiritus assit nobis gratia. Que cordi nostra sibi faciat, the opening (although slightly garbled) lines of a sequence hymn for the Christian holiday of Pentecost: “May the holy spirit be with us now. May he fashion to him our hearts.”

 

Further reading:

See a digitized copy of the oldest manuscript of the Pantegni (probably written under the supervision of Constantine himself) from the Dutch National Library here.

To find out more about medieval medicine in general, take a look at Nancy Siraisi, Medieval & early Renaissance medicine: an introduction to knowledge and practice (Chicago, 1990) or Faith Wallis, Medieval medicine: a reader (Toronto, 2010).

A great (and entertaining) resource on medieval manuscripts is the blog Medieval Fragments. A good intro to understanding and researching manuscripts is Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham, An introduction to manuscript studies (Ithaca, NY, 2007).

 

References

(1) Sir William Osler, Bibliotheca Osleriana: a catalogue of books illustrating the history of medicine and science (Montreal, 1969).

(2) Monica H. Green, “Johannes de Sancto Paulo,” in Medieval science, technology, and medicine: an encyclopedia, ed. Thomas Glick, Steven J. Livesey, and Faith Wallis (New York, 2005).

Profiles of Science and “Great Man” Dr. Osler

The National Library of Medicine has just launched the section on William Osler on its Profiles in Science project, working in collaboration with the Osler Library and the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives at Johns Hopkins. Profiles in Science is designed to make digitized documents and photographs of leading medical researchers available online.

And have a look at this excellent entry on the NLM’s blog Circulating Now on the inclusion of William Osler, and one historian’s newfound appreciation for the man behind the myth:

He was legendary during his lifetime, and for nearly a century, he’s been practically a deity in some medical circles. Often called the “father of modern medicine,” and the “greatest physician of all time,” his name is still spoken and his words quoted in reverent tones.

 

Digital exhibition sneak preview, part 3

Missed our 2011 exhibition “Our Friend, the Sun: Images of Light Therapeutics, 1901-1944”? Here’s a sneak preview of the digital exhibition currently under construction. You can find the full exhibition catalogue by curator Dr. Tania Anne Woloshyn here. And stay tuned for more!

John Harvey Kellogg. Light therapeutics: a practical manual of phototherapy for the student and the practitioner. 2nd ed. Battle Creek, Mich. : Modern Medicine Pub. Co., 1927.

John Harvey Kellogg. Light therapeutics: a practical manual of phototherapy for the student and the practitioner. 2nd ed. Battle Creek, Mich. : Modern Medicine Pub. Co., 1927.

Remember our long-suffering patient from last week? Contrast that with this week’s gleeful recipient of light therapy. By the 1920s, physicians began incorporating advertising imagery into their textbooks. In this photomontage, we are presented with a fresh-faced, smiling model, coiffed in the latest 1920s crop. The impression is that this phototherapeutic treatment is neither uncomfortable nor distressing, but in fact an enjoyable process. The ambiguity of her surroundings, reminiscent of a photographer’s studio, is heightened by the impossibilities of the scene: the rays of the lamp (which itself appears hand drawn) shine on her chest and yet continue undisturbed beyond her.

 

Further reading

Simon Carter. Rise and Shine: Sunlight, Technology, and Health. New York: Berg, 2007.

Tania Anne Woloshyn, “‘Kissed by the Sun’: Tanning the Skin of the Sick with Light Therapeutics, c.1890–1930,” in Kevin Siena and Jonathan Reinarz, eds. A Medical History of Skin: Scratching the Surface (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2013), chap. 12.

 

 

Digital exhibition sneak preview, part 2

Missed our 2011 exhibition “Our Friend, the Sun: Images of Light Therapeutics, 1901-1944”? Here’s a sneak preview of the digital exhibition currently under construction. You can find the full exhibition catalogue by curator Dr. Tania Anne Woloshyn here. And stay tuned for more!

Röntgen rays and electro-therapeutics: with chapters on radium and phototherapy / by Mihran Krikor Kassabian. Philadelphia ; London: J. B. Lippincott, 1907.

Röntgen rays and electro-therapeutics: with chapters on radium and phototherapy / by Mihran Krikor Kassabian. Philadelphia ; London: J. B. Lippincott, 1907.

This photograph depicts a patient receiving phototherapy treatment via an arc light developed by Niels Ryberg Finsen, the Danish physician who pioneered the treatment of disease (notably lupus vulgaris) through exposure to specific wavelengths of light.

“Finsen’s method consists in concentrating actinic light, through rock-crystal lenses, on any desired part, rendered as exsanguine as possible by means of pressure, because the presence of blood acts as a barrier to the passage of the chemical rays to the tissues.” (Kassabian, 515)

 

Further reading

Simon Carter. Rise and Shine: Sunlight, Technology, and Health. New York: Berg, 2007.

Tania Anne Woloshyn, “‘Kissed by the Sun’: Tanning the Skin of the Sick with Light Therapeutics, c.1890–1930,” in Kevin Siena and Jonathan Reinarz, eds. A Medical History of Skin: Scratching the Surface (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2013), chap. 12.

 

New database available from the Osler Library

LetterIndexheader

Our newest database is now live! The William Osler Letter Index provides a way of locating information about the letters and other material that Dr. Harvey Cushing (1869-1939) gathered for his Pulitzer-winning biography The Life of William Osler (1925)Cushing collected thousands of letters to and from Osler, having them copied and returning the originals, and made many notes throughout his research. A guide to these was previously available only to on-site users. The online index contains descriptions of these letters, Cushing’s notes and manuscript excerpts, and further Osler material from other archival collections and fonds, including the Sir William Osler Collection (P100), the Malloch Family Fonds (P107), and the Maude Abbott Collection (P111). Each description provides information on the sender, the recipient, the place and year of writing, and a brief abstract of the letter’s contents. Please visit and let us know if you have any feedback!

 

Digital exhibition sneak preview

Missed our 2011 exhibition “Our Friend, the Sun: Images of Light Therapeutics, 1901-1944”? Here’s a sneak preview of the digital exhibition currently under construction. You can listen to the original exhibit talk by curator Dr. Tania Anne Woloshyn here. And stay tuned for more!

S. I. Rainforth. The stereoscopic skin clinic; an atlas of diseases of the skin, consisting of colored stereoscopic illustrations and a text in the form of clinical lectures, designed for the use of practitioners and students of medicine. New York: Medical Art Pub. Co., 1914.

S. I. Rainforth. The stereoscopic skin clinic; an atlas of diseases of the skin, consisting of colored stereoscopic illustrations and a text in the form of clinical lectures, designed for the use of practitioners and students of medicine. New York: Medical Art Pub. Co., 1914.

These images are designed for an early twentieth-century viewing device called a stereoscope, originally intended less for medical purposes than for entertainment. The image shows a disfiguring case of lupus vulgaris, tuberculosis of the skin, on the face of a male patient. The two photos are each shot from a slightly different angle so that when viewed together through the stereoscope they form an optical illusion in 3D.

Dr. Selden Irwin Rainforth (1879-1960) was a young physician from New York when he compiled The stereoscopic skin clinic. The work consisted of over 130 stereoscopic plates with a viewing device and was published in multiple editions. Detailed descriptions of the diseases on the back of each photo card provided useful information about skin conditions at a time when dermatologists were still rare.

 

Further reading

John Thorne Crissey, Lawrence Charles Parish, and K. Holubar. Historical Atlas of Dermatology and Dermatologists. Boca Raton, FL: Parthenon, 2002.

Robert Jackson. “Historical outline of attempts to classify skin diseases.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 116, no. 10 (May  1977): 1165–8. PMCID 1879511. [McGill users]

Helmut Gernsheim and Alison Gernsheim. The History of Photography: From the Earliest Use of the Camera Obscura in the Eleventh Century up to 1914. London: Oxford University Press, 1955.

 

Spotlight on: Medical History of British India

In this series, I’ll be highlighting a digital resource or collection of primary resource materials in the history of medicine. You can find a lengthy list of these at our history of medicine subject guide and feel free to share any resources you’ve found useful!

Medical History of British India is a fascinating digital collection from the National Library of Scotland. The materials digitized for this collection consist mostly of documents from the India Papers Collection. The India Papers Collection is made up of central British Imperial and British Indian government publications from the mid-19th century until the first decades of the 20th century. The Medical History of British India project has digitized and made available online the many volumes of reports relating to public health, disease, and medical research. It even includes 146 volumes (40,000 pages!) on veterinary medicine. The online collection is divided into 6 primary subject areas: disease, institutions, drugs, veterinary, mental health, and vaccination. You can browse by these sub-collections, or browse by other criteria such as form and genre (includes images, maps, and texts), place, subject, person and organization, and time period. All of the digitized volumes are also fully text searchable, a great research benefit. Another interesting feature is that you can download up to 30 images to create a custom PDF, which brings together only the pages you need.  The About the collection page gives a great introduction to all of the major subjects covered—click on the link to Institutions and you will get lots of good background information about the organization of medical research, hospitals, and healthcare services in British India.