Dissection Room Records 1883-1908

Inscription on first page of Dissection Room Record 1883-1891 written by Dr. Richard Lea MacDonnell, Demonstrator of Anatomy, McGill University in April 1883.

We are pleased to have these historical records back at the Osler Library after receiving recent conservation treatment. These books contain records of all McGill Faculty of Medicine dissection cadavers in the Department of Anatomy from 1883-1891, and 1896-1908.

When the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada’s Anatomy Act of 1843 was amended in April 1883, Senior Demonstrator of Anatomy Dr. Richard Lea MacDonnell began keeping these detailed records at McGill. Prior to the Anatomy Act, body-snatching was a nefarious problem often associated with the study of anatomy. The 1843 and 1883 Acts allowed for more corpses to be made available to medical schools for the purpose of teaching and learning. The records preserved within these books provide details and evidence of the Department of Anatomy’s legally acquired cadavers at the time. Each entry includes details such as name, sex, age, cause of death, religion, date received, which hospital the cadaver was received from, and the date and location of burial.

Richard Lea MacDonnell (1856-1891) was the son of Dublin surgeon Dr. Robert Lea MacDonnell. A graduate of McGill in 1876, McDonnell went on to become a prominent figure within the Faculty of Medicine before his untimely death at the age of 35. William Osler paid tribute to his friend and colleague in the New York Medical Journal, writing: “Although only thirty-five years old, he [MacDonnell] had reached a position which gave scope to abilities of first-class order and afforded opportunities of impressing upon a large class of students those qualities of mind so essential in the teacher, so priceless to the taught – honesty, system, and painstaking care” (NYMJ, 54: 162, 1891).

Below is a composite portrait of McGill Faculty of Medicine in 1882 from our William Osler Photo Collection. William Osler is standing fourth from left, and Richard Lea MacDonnell stands on the far right. A new Richard L. MacDonnell Collection (P133) has been created in the Osler Library Archives, and these dissection books along with several fascinating scrapbooks put together by MacDonnell are now available to view upon request.

“McGill University Faculty of Medicine at its Semicentennial, 1882”, William Osler Photo Collection, Osler Library of the History of Medicine, CUS_033-011_P. Standing, from left to right, are Thomas G. Roddick, George Ross, William E. Scott, William Osler, Francis J. Shepherd, William Gardner, George W. Campbell, Gilbert Prout Girdwood, Frank Buller, and Richard L. MacDonell. Sitting, from left to right, are Robert Palmer Howard, William Wright, John William Dawson, Duncan C. MacCallum, Robert Craik, and George E. Fenwick.

Aequanimitas

Version 2Aequanimitas — a term that derives from late-15th century Latin — means imperturbability, or one who is incapable of being upset, or agitated; one who is calm, and not easily excited.

William Osler’s Valedictory address entitled Aequanimitas was first presented at the University of Pennsylvania, May 1st, 1889. In this short speech, Osler advised imperturbability as one of two essential qualities of the physician and of the surgeon. He defined this quality as a coolness and presence of mind under all circumstances, calmness amid storm, clearness of judgement in moments of peril, immobility, and impassiveness. The second quality he spoke of, equanimity, was described as being the mental and physical equivalent of the first.

It has been said that ‘in patience ye shall win your souls,’ and what is this patience but an equanimity which enables you to rise superior to the trials of life? Sowing as you shall do beside all waters, I can but wish that you may reap the promised blessings of quietness and of assurance forever, until

Within this life,

Though lifted o’er its strife;

you may, in the growing winters, glean a little of that wisdom which is pure, peaceable, gentle, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

For those interested in reading the full address and others made by Sir William Osler, we have several regular loan copies and various translations listed in the Classic Catalogue, in addition to rare and archived materials that are part of the Osler Library Archives collection.

New / Old

1907 was a fiery year in McGill’s history. On April 5th, the Macdonald Engineering building was completely gutted by fire, and less than a fortnight later on April 16th, the first Medical Faculty building (erected 1872) went up in flames, destroying the Medical Library (founded 1823) and the first Medical Museum curated by Maude Abbott.

The Strathcona Building – now known as Strathcona Anatomy & Dentistry – was built in its place, opening its doors in 1909. It became known as the New Medical Building and housed the Medical Museum, Osler Library (which opened in 1929), and the resurrected Maude Abbot Medical Museum.

The following photographs show different floors of the Strathcona Medical Library in beautiful black-and-white detail: the well-lit third floor Reading Room, the librarian’s Cataloguing Room, the book stacks, the Bindery, and the empty shelves of the original Osler Library awaiting the overseas arrival of Sir William’s collection.

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Reading Room, Medical Library, New Medical Building (Strathcona), 1927.

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Cataloguing Room, Medical Library, New Medical Building (Strathcona), 1927.

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Stacks, Medical Library, New Medical Building (Strathcona), 1927.

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Bindery Room, Medical Library, 1927.

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The original Osler Library, Medical Library (Strathcona New Medical Building), 1927.

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).

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.

 

 

Walter de Mouilpied Scriver Fonds

The library has a couple new archival materials of Walter de M. Scriver. Dr. Scriver was born in Hemmingford, Quebec, and received his B.A. from McGill University in 1915. He served overseas from 1915-1918, returning to Montreal to earn his medical degree from McGill in 1921. He was Professor Medicine at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine from 1952-1957 and physician-in-chief at the Royal Victoria Hospital. He specialized in the field of pharmacology and had a research interest in diabetes and kidney diseases. He was instrumental in founding the Quebec Division of the Canadian medical association and served as a member of its Executive Committee from 1947-1957.

The fonds includes a copy of No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill), 1914-1919 owned by Walter de M. Scriver and ephemera relating to Canadian General Hospital No. 3. It also contains a handwritten poem (in 4 cantos) entitled “Tune of T’anks,” composed by Scrivner for his family and dated France, 1915.

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For more information, please feel free to contact the library at osler.library@mcgill.ca. Find out about other WWI physicians linked to McGill through our archival database.