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.

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.

Robert Palmer Howard (1912-1990) fonds

The library is in the process of adding a new Robert Palmer Howard (1912-1990) fonds to the archives.  This will mark the most recent update to our Howard family collection, which already includes archival materials on Howard’s grandfather and namesake, Robert Palmer Howard (1823-1889), as well as his father, Campbell Palmer Howard (1877-1936).

Max Brödel, "The Saint", 1896

Max Brödel, “The Saint”, 1896. Artwork depicts William Osler’s head on an angel’s body over John Hopkin’s Hospital.

The new fonds consists of materials acquired and accumulated by Robert Palmer Howard including written correspondences between his father and close family friends such as Sir William Osler, Lady Grace Osler, and the Wright family.  Also included are Osler family portraits, photographs of Osler at work, as well as a few drawings and sketches by Edward Revere (Osler’s son) and Max Brödel (the prominent medical illustrator who worked at John Hopkins School of Medicine).

After receiving his medical degree from McGill University in 1932, R. P. Howard spent most of his career as a physician and researcher at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, affiliated with the University of Oklahoma.  He maintained a particular interest in the history of medicine throughout his career and later became the director of University of Oklahoma’s History of Medicine Program.  Upon retirement, he moved to Iowa City, IA to become Director of the History of Medicine Society at the University of Iowa.

As a medical historian and Oslerian, R. P. Howard held on to booklets, case studies, and pages of handwritten medical notes belonging to Sir William Osler, some of which are included in the new fonds.

"Microscopial Examination", William Osler medical notes, 1875-1878

A page from William Osler’s medical notes, “Microscopical Examination”,  1875.

R. P. Howard was also the author of The Chief: Doctor William Osler published by Science History Publications in 1983.  The bibliographical work provides a detailed account of the close relationships and correspondences between the Osler and Howard families.  Visit the catalogue for more information on this regular loan item.

A special thank you to Caroline Howard Mast, daughter of Robert Palmer Howard, for generously donating the contents of this fonds to the Osler Library.

New archival resources: D. Sclater Lewis and the history of the RVH

The library has recently finished describing a number of new accruals to the D. Sclater Lewis archival fonds (P105). Dr. Lewis was a medical graduate of McGill (MDCM 1912) and later Acting Physician-in-Chief at the Royal Victoria Hospital. The new archival documents include a draft manuscript of his 1969 Royal Victoria Hospital, 1887-1947, and substantial correspondence.

 

 

History of biology in the Osler Library

The history of natural history and biology is heavily represented in the collection of the Osler Library, not just because of their important place in the history of medicine, but also in the life story of the library’s founder.

Coloured sketches by W. A. Johnson. William Arthur Johnson Fonds, P139, Osler Library

Coloured sketches by W. A. Johnson.
William Arthur Johnson Fonds, P139, Osler Library

William Osler (1849-1919) grew up in Bond Head, Ontario, surrounded by books. His father’s theological library had around 1,500 items. The young Osler had his first glimpse of a scientific library when he left home to attend Trinity College School (located today in Port Hope, Ontario). The Warden of the school, Reverend W.A. Johnson (1816-1889), according to Osler, “a good friend, botanist, a practical palaeontologist, an ardent microscopist,” inspired Osler with a passion for natural history.

While studying Anglican divinity at Trinity College, Toronto, Osler spent two years living with James Bovell, the Chair of Natural Theology at Trinity College and a member of the Toronto School of Medicine faculty, assisting him in his work. He would often go out to collect various samples of algae and other specimens to fix onto slides for Bovell. His first publication, “Christmas and the Microscope” (1869) demonstrated his love for and proficiency at microscopy. Osler transferred from Trinity College to the Toronto School of Medicine, and then ultimately to the Medical Faculty at McGill University to pursue the greater clinical opportunities available to medical students in Montreal.

Coloured sketches by W. A. Johnson. William Arthur Johnson Fonds, P139, Osler Library

Coloured sketches by W. A. Johnson.
William Arthur Johnson Fonds, P139, Osler Library

Osler’s affinity for natural history flourished during his stay at McGill. Through another mentor, Dr. Palmer Howard, Dean of the McGill Faculty of Medicine, Sir William was introduced to some of the foundational works in the field of life sciences, including those of Laennec, Stokes, and Graves. Osler’s thesis was based on the preparation of gross and microscopic slides from twenty autopsies. After graduation, he considered the India Medical Service, but opted to remain in Montreal, so as to pursue his work in microscopy. He was offered the Chair of Botany at McGill because of this expertise, but turned the position down in favour of a lectureship in Physiology. He became Chair of Clinical Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in 1884, where he was a member of the Biology Club. His bibliophilia was inspired by places such as the College of Physicians in Philadelphia. Osler moved to the Johns Hopkins University in 1889, where in 1893 he played an instrumental role in the creation of the Johns Hopkins Medical School and teaching hospital.  He was appointed Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University in 1905. At Oxford he served equally as a curator of the Bodleian Library and was heavily involved in the work of the Bibliographical Society of London. In Oxford, he had the leisure time to devote himself to his passion for book collecting, designing a library that would contain the most significant works produced in the history of medicine and science.

Come see a selection of works of natural history and biology in a special exhibition up now in the Osler Room of the Osler Library.

 

Archives of Dr. Charles Scriver now open

Photo from McGill’s Alumni Online Community.

An important new collection for contemporary history of medicine is now open for consultation in the McGill University Archives. The papers of Montreal pediatrician and geneticist Dr. Charles R. Scriver were donated to the Archives in 2013 and serve as a record of his 50-year career in biogenetics. His over 600 publications extend from the metabolic aspects of genetic disease in infants to bioinformatics and population genetics. Dr. Scriver’s research in the scientific community is thus situated at the nexus of genetics and pediatrics.

Dr. Scriver received his primary education at the Lower College of Canada, earned his Bachelor of Arts cum laude (1951) and M.D.C.M. (1955) at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine, and underwent clinical training at McGill and Harvard University (1955-58). From 1961 to 1966, Scriver was an appointed Markle Scholar within the Department of Pediatrics, a position which poised him to accept a full professorship of Pediatrics beginning in 1969. During this time, Dr. Scriver helped found the DeBelle Laboratory, a biochemical genetics lab under the Montreal Children’s Hospital Research Institute. Scriver’s work on vitamin D’s impact on newborn metabolic disorders (particularly rickets) during this period led to more stringent screening processes for phenylketonuria (PKU) and hypothyroidism in infants, and to the breakthrough introduction of vitamin D in Quebec grocery store milk. He is currently the Alva Professor Emeritus of Human Genetics in the McGill Faculty of Medicine and is honored in the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.

Please contact the McGill University Archives for more information or to consult the archives.

Further reading:

Christopher Canning, George Weisz, Andrea Tone, and Alberto Cambrosio, “Medical Genetics at McGill: The History of a Pioneering Research Group,” Canadian Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 30, no. 1 (2013): 31-54.

George Fedak and Nam-Soo Kim. “Canadian Pioneers. Dr. Charles Robert Scriver“. Genome 51, no. 5 (May 2008): iii–iv.

 

Directions for Preserving Health in St. Louis, 1874

"Dr. C. H. Sanborn's Directions for Preserving Health in St. Louis, 1874." Osler Library Archives, P192

“Dr. C. H. Sanborn’s Directions for Preserving Health in St. Louis, 1874.” Osler Library Archives, P192

The Osler Library recently acquired a short manuscript booklet containing one doctor’s medical advice for patients moving out of town. Labelled “Dr. C. H. Sanborn’s directions for preserving health in St. Louis, 1874,” this tiny treatise provides advice and recipes for treating day-to-day complaints and guidelines for stocking the family medicine cabinet with the essentials.

Dr Charles H. Sanborn was a physician practicing in New Hampshire. Born in Hampton Falls in 1822, he graduated with an MD from Harvard Medical School in 1856 (1). He practiced medicine for over forty years in his hometown, where he also served as a Justice of the Peace and in local government (2). This autograph booklet appears to have been written by him for a family of three moving from New Hampshire to St. Louis, Missouri.

"The Pictorial Guide to St. Louis," 1877. From the .

“The Pictorial Guide to St. Louis,” 1877. From the Internet Archive.

During the second half of the 19th century, St. Louis was undergoing a population explosion that would make it the fourth largest city in the U.S. after New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Expanding sectors, such as the cotton industry, and new railroad connections attracted an influx of new residents, perhaps including Dr. Sanborn’s patients. The city was prone to cholera and had lived through an epidemic that killed more than 3,500 residents in 1866, just eight years prior to the writing of Dr. Sanborn’s pamphlet. (3)

Fittingly, Dr. Sanborn’s medical advice concentrates heavily on cholera and other, less acute gastro-intestinal complaints associated with moving to new climes. The first page of medical instructions deals with how to treat “Diarrhea, Dysentery or Cholera Morbus” in the youngest member of the family. Remedies include starch, castor oil, bismuth, and, in the case of feverishness, veratrum viride, a highly toxic plant sometimes used during the 19th century in the treatment of typhoid fever and yellow fever.

Up until the late 19th and early 20th century, the majority of medical treatment took place at home. Popular printed medical manuals would have been readily available for purchase and families would have expected to care for their sick themselves:

The skills, knowledge, and responsibilities of laypersons and physicians overlapped; trained physicians were in a functional sense always consultants–with the primary caregiver a family member, neighbor, or midwife.(4)

In the case of Dr. Sanborn’s patients, the father was perhaps the one responsible for making medical decisions and treating his family. Advice for particular ailments is oftentimes labelled “Baby” or “Self & Wife,” and includes detailed instructions for treating croup, “lung fever,” measles, the “Shakes,” “weakness sinking etc. etc.,” sore throat, painful menstruation, inflamed eyes, burns, and bug bites. A list in the back of the book ennumerates the items that should be kept on hand for medical usage.

SanbornBromoOne of the chemicals on this list attests to the persistence of the miasma theory of disease into the second half of the 19th century, even as germ theory was beginning to emerge in scientific circles around the same time. Disease, it was thought, was transmittable by poisoned air, marked by a bad smell. Dr. Sanborn suggests the use of bromo-chloralum, a harsh disinfectant, to “destroy most every poison in the atmosphere.” He urges it to be used liberally in the baby’s room and all around the house: “Don’t fail to use a pound of two in the first month or two.”

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This pamphlet is now available for consultation in our archives. You can find it listed on the Osler Library Archives database. For more information, please contact the library.

Further reading:

W. F. Bynum, Science and the Practice of Medicine in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

William G. Rothstein, American Physicians in the Nineteenth Century: From Sects to Science. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972.

Charles E. Rosenberg. Our Present Complaint: American Medicine, Then and Now. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

Charles E. Rosenberg, ed. Right Living: An Anglo-American Tradition of Self-Help Medicine and Hygiene. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

 

References

(1) Harvard University. Quinquennial catalogue of the officers and graduates, 1636-1930. (Cambridge, MA, 1930).

(2) Warren Brown, History of the Town of Hampton Falls, New Hampshire from the Time of the First Settlement within its Borders, vol. 1 (Manchester, NH, 1900.); The New Hampshire Register, Farmer’s Almanac, and Business Registry for 1871 (Claremont, NH, 1871).

(3) History of St. Louis, (1866-1904) http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=History_of_St._Louis_(1866%E2%80%931904)&oldid=638231408

(4) Charles Rosenberg, ed. Right Living: An Anglo-American Tradition of Self-Help Medicine and Hygiene. (Cambridge, 1992), 4.