How to Sell a Dissertation, Or: The Hand as a Proxy for the Brain

Guest post by Tabea Cornel, recipient of the 2017 Mary Louise Nickerson Award in Neuro History. Tabea Cornel is a PhD student in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation focuses on handedness research within the brain and mind sciences in Europe and North America, particularly theories of the origin, prevalence, and pathological nature of left-handedness.

When asked about my dissertation topic as an early ABD (“all but dissertation”), I used to tell people that I work on the history of handedness research. A very common response was: “Handedness in what sense? Does it have something to do with molecules?” I usually explained that I’m researching manual preference, and that my project has nothing to do with chirality or any other fancy physical phenomenon.

After half a year of explaining what I mean by “handedness,” I came up with a more efficient strategy for answering the dissertation question. I started waving my hands in the air whenever I said “handedness.” This was somewhat effective. My conversation partners usually understood that I write a history of left- and right-handedness, but this also made them give me a look that said: “Oh my, what a boring thing to do.”

Having learned my lesson from these encounters, I now introduce the underlying argument of my research before I mention the actual topic. The extended version of my elevator pitch goes somewhat like this: My project investigates scientific classifications of human subpopulations. I particularly attend to the ways in which traditions, stereotypes, and social inequities inform research in the human sciences and the extent to which these conceptions produce “scientific” explanations for alleged human hierarchies.

Enter handedness: The lens through which I look at the phenomenon of hierarchical classifications is manual preference. This may seem an unexpected route to take, but research on handedness is a very fruitful avenue for tracing continuities within the human sciences in the past 150 years. More precisely, the project paints a picture of the longue durée of the mind, brain, and neuro-sciences. Since French anatomist and anthropologist P. Paul Broca (1824–1880) declared in 1865 that humans are right-handed because they are left-brained, researchers have used handedness as a proxy for the brain, mind, and character. On both sides of the Atlantic, scientists have linked anatomical, genetic, or hormonal explanations of the causes of handedness with age-old racist, sexist, and able-ist ideas of what makes one group of humans different from another one.

This framing gets many of my conversation partners (almost) as excited about my work as I am.

Several items at the Osler Library illustrate the distinct status of the hand even before 1865, when Broca advanced his theories about the connection between brain asymmetry and manual laterality. Scottish anatomist and neurologist Charles Bell’s (1774–1842) The Hand, for instance, provided a vivid portrait of the hand as an exclusively human organ. He wrote:

We ought to define the hand as belonging exclusively to man—corresponding in sensibility and motion with that ingenuity which converts the being who is the weakest in natural defence [sic], to the ruler over animate and inanimate nature.[1]

Bell was very clear about this instance of human exceptionality in the quoted edition from 1833. But for the 1865 edition, the publisher added a drawing on the page following this paragraph. It shows a monkey that is reaching for something outside of the image, probably a branch of a tree or a piece of fruit. Only in case it had not become entirely clear in the text, this drawing empowered the reader to visually grasp the difference between their own hand and the allegedly primitive paws of an ape.[2]

After having explained the system of bones, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels in intricate detail, Bell concluded that the hand, or the human body more generally, could not have developed accidentally. Bell clearly believed in a hierarchical divine creation, a “Great Chain of Being,” with white male humans all the way at the top.[3]

Bell’s faith in a purposeful design of the human species also underlay his argument that the superiority of the human hand derived not from its anatomical condition, but from its close association with the human intellect:

In discussing this subject of the progressive improvement of organized beings, it is affirmed that the last created of all, man, is not superior in organization to the others, and that if deprived of intellectual power he is inferior to the brutes. … Man is superior in organization to the brutes,—superior in strength—in that constitutional property which enables him to fulfil his destinies by extending his race in every climate, and living on every variety of nutriment. Gather together the most powerful brutes, from the artic [sic] circle or torrid zone, to some central point—they will die, diseases will be generated, and will destroy them. With respect to the superiority of man being in his mind, and not merely in the provisions of his body, it is no doubt true;—but as we proceed, we shall find how the Hand supplies all instruments, and by its correspondence with the intellect gives him universal dominion.[4]

A further drawing was added to the 1865 edition in the interest of enforcing said hierarchies amongst different human groups even more. The reader looks at a scantily dressed dark-skinned male with a dagger hanging from his neck. This person is crawling on the floor under a white male’s bed and reaches for valuables on the night stand.[5]

The fact that the aforementioned monkey and the apparent thief reach for something with their left hands implicitly reiterates the inferiority of these two creatures. Other illustrations in the 1865 volume present right-handed actions, no matter if they display the function of bones and muscles or more complete (parts of) light-skinned humans.

Because of the presumed close association between the hand and the mind, the moral valency of actions of the hand implied a hierarchy of individual beings and groups of beings. The idea of the “Great Chain of Being” is mirrored in the grasping of the left monkey paw, the attempted theft of the black left hand, and all other ostensibly decent and accomplished uses of white right hands shown in further illustrations in the volume.

The English physiologist and anatomist George M. Humphry (1820–1896) echoed the close association between the mind and the hand in his treatise on The Human Foot and the Human Hand. He insisted that “The Hand [Is] the Organ of the Will” and that “the hand becomes an organ of expression and an index of character” because the mind works through the hand.[6]

Other sources at the Osler Library bear witness of much more heterodox approaches to the mind as a window into human character. Take the 78-page monograph The Hand Phrenologically Considered. The anonymous author provided a manual for how to perform a phrenological reading of a person’s hands to determine their character, abilities, and experiences. (The traditional phrenological approach would have been to palpate an individual’s skull.)

In line with my argument that practitioners used the hand to advance theories about the character, mind, and brain of human subpopulations, the author of The Hand Phrenologically Considered suggested that the “Form of Extremities Differs in Individuals of the Same Species” by age, sex, race, class, and ethnicity.[7]

In a similar vein, the Carter Medicine Company employed the promise of phrenological assessments of the hand in the interest of financial gain. In a little pamphlet, Mysteries of Our Hands and Faces, Carter Medicine provided instructions for the phrenological reading of hands as well as parts of the face (forehead, eyes, nose, etc.). The Company offered these instructions in conjunction with directions for how to use their liver pills most effectively.

Even more eclectic is a little hand-shaped advertisement for the Worcester Salt Company. Under the slogan “Your fortune is in your own hands,” the pamphlet offered a short introduction into palmistry to all potential buyers of Worcester Salt.[8] The advertisement makes intelligible the wide-spread fascination for heterodox sciences that connected the mind and the hand in the late 19th century, decades after Broca had advanced his anatomical theory.

Other examples of holdings at the Osler Library that put the hand into the focus of human classification practices abound. The French poet Joseph L.J. Leclercq (1865–1901), for instance, published a historically-oriented work about palmistry. Concretely, he provided examples for and distinguished between “[c]hirologie, chirographie[,] chirognonomie,” “chiroscopie, chirosophie, palmisophie, [and] chiropsie.”[9] Who knew that there were so many different approaches to turning the hand into a proxy for the mind?

Last but not least, I want to mention Hungarian writer Pál Tábori’s (1908–1974) much more recent monograph The Book of the Hand. Tábori, who had a deep interest in psychical phenomena, connected in his work palmistry with idioms and superstitions about the hand, as well as with considerations of manual gestures, the sense of touch, dactyloscopy (the reading of fingerprints), handwriting and graphology, and the condition of having lost a hand and/or using an artificial hand.[10]

Tábori’s work intrigues by its sheer breadth of hand-related phenomena, some of which we would consider apt research topics for establishment science, and others that are clearly heterodox. As I learned during my four weeks at the Osler Library, the desire to access the hidden brain through the manifest hand brought these approaches together.


[1] Charles Bell, The Hand: Its Mechanism and Vital Endowments, as Evincing Design, Bridgewater Treatises on the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God as Manifested in the Creation 4 (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1833), 26.

[2] Charles Bell, The Hand: Its Mechanism and Vital Endowments, as Evincing Design, 7th ed., Bridgewater Treatises on the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God as Manifested in the Creation 4 (London: Bell & Daldy, 1865), 13.

[3] Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2009).

[4] Bell, The Hand, 39–40.

[5] Bell, The Hand, 29.

[6] George Murray Humphry, The Human Foot and the Human Hand (Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1861), 156–61.

[7] N.N., The Hand Phrenologically Considered: Being a Glimpse at the Relation of the Mind with the Organisation of the Body (London: Chapman and Hall, 1848), 51–57.

[8] Worcester Salt Company, “How to Read the Lines of the Hand” (New York, 1894).

[9] Joseph Louis Julien Leclercq, Le caractère et la main: Histoire et documents (Paris: F. Juven, [1900]), 1–2.

[10] Pál Tábori, The Book of the Hand: A Compendium of Fact and Legend Since the Dawn of History (Philadelphia: Chilton Company, 1962).

Exhibition Vernissage │ Materia Medica

Wednesday, December 13, 2017, 17:30-19:30. Please come to a vernissage at the Osler Library to celebrate the opening of our newest exhibit.

RSVP required. To RSVP please click here.

McIntyre Medical Building Osler Library of the History of Medicine, 3rd floor, 3655 promenade Sir William Osler, Montreal, QC, H3G 1Y6, CA

Trace, late 14th century, “to make a plan or diagram”, from Old French, 12th century, trasser “delineate, score, trace, follow, pursue”.

Materia Medica is an exhibition of recent work by Montreal artist Loren Williams. Invited by the Osler Library of the History of Medicine to create a body of work on the theme of Montreal’s medical history, and recipient of the Michele Larose – Osler Library Artist-in-Residence Programme for 2017, the artist combines artifacts from the Osler collection with collected and created traces of Montreal’s medical past.

The work in this exhibition draws inspiration from books and artifacts in the Osler Library as well as a wide variety of other sources. In particular, early maps of the city offer a form of time travel, indicating the location of the first hospitals and their large gardens used for food and medicinal plants. Three hundred year old streets such as rue de l’Hopital and rue des Soeurs Grises still exist in Montreal today, drawing direct lines to Montreal’s medical history, as do streets named Jeanne Mance, Marguerite d’Youville and Penfield.

Interested in these traces that reference Montreal’s medical heritage, Loren Williams has created a body of images that form a shadow archive. Images of medicinal plants used by the First Peoples and early settlers in Montreal were created using a 19th century camera-less photographic process called Cyanotype. The blue coloured images reveal the shadowy forms and details of the plants. They are like paper X-rays, made from a simple photographic process that uses UV rays, ie. sunlight, to expose the image, and water to develop it, sun and water­­ being the same basic ingredients required by plants.

Over the course of a year, the artist followed charted streets and routes that link Montreal’s past and present. Using epidemiological maps, she explored the sites and neighbourhoods of the city’s devastating outbreaks of Typhus, Cholera, Small Pox and Tuberculosis. Other plans of the city led her to sites of hospitals, asylums and the longest duel in Canadian history over the building of a new hospital.

Like the collected plants that echo an early botanical pharmacy, Loren Williams also collected and created other traces of medical history. X-rays and teeth molds reveal the body’s structures, fractures and medical interventions. First aid kits and their compartments double as garden plans for medicinal plants, while hospital architecture is represented in the form of postcards the shape of library index cards.

These works, presented with artifacts from the Osler Library collection, bring together images and objects from the realm of science, art and everyday life, offering an eclectic, less rational, interconnected perspective of Montreal’s medical history.

—–

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.


Loren Williams is a visual artist working predominantly in photography. The passage of time, natural history, museums and obsolete photographic technologies are the inspiration and vocabulary of her practice. Frequently there is a connection between the artwork and the site where it is presented.

Originally from the Kootenays in British Columbia, Loren Williams moved to Montreal in 1993 and received her BFA honours in photography at Concordia University. She has received awards and grants from the federal and provincial art councils and has exhibited her work nationally.

Loren Williams extends much gratitude to Michele Larose, the Osler Library for the History of Medicine, and the Canada Council for the Arts for their generous contribution to this residency and exhibition project.

Medical Students Essay Awards 2017

Congratulations to this year’s Pam and Rolando Del Maestro William Osler Medical Students’ Essay Award winners! The essays are now available on our website.

Osler Library Board of Curators’ medal

This year saw a tie for first place: Clare Forgarty for the essay “Sanitation, Sanity, and (Moral) Suitability: The History of the Medical Inadmissibility of Immigrants into Canada (1840s-1950s)” and André Lametti for the essay “Ars uero longa: Teaching Hippocrates in Medieval Italy”. They were presented with their Osler Library Board of Curators’ medals during the Osler Banquet hosted by the McGill Osler Society on November 1st. Second place was awarded to Philippe-Antoine Bilodeau for the essay “A Tale of Two Brains: Cortical Localization and the Neuron Doctrine in the 19th and 20th Century”. Philippe-Antoine presented his paper via Skype while doing his rural family medicine rotation in South Africa.

Thank you so much to all the students, mentors, judges, and sponsors who supported the contest. We look forward to next year’s presentations.

Osler Day 2017

Please join the library on this year’s Osler Day, Wednesday, November 1st, for a presentation of essays by the three finalists chosen as part of the Pam and Rolando Del Maestro William Osler Medical Students Essay Awards. The presentations will be held at 11:30 a.m in the Wellcome Camera of the Osler Library, McIntyre Medical Building3rd Floor. The winner will be announced at the Osler Banquet.

William Osler at His Desk at 1 West Franklin Street, Baltimore (Osler Library, Cushing Collection, CUS_046-025_P)

The following students will be presenting their research:

Philippe-Antoine Bilodeau – “A Tale of Two Brains: Cortical Localization and the Neuron Doctrine in the 19th and 20th Century” (Mentor: Professor Thomas Schlich)

Clare Fogarty – “Sanitation, Sanity, and (Moral) Suitability: The History of the Medical Inadmissibility of Immigrants into Canada (1840s-1950s)” (Mentor: Professor David Wright)

André Lametti – “Ars uero longa: Teaching Hippocrates in Medieval Italy” (Mentor: Professor Faith Wallis)

Faculty, students, and friends are all welcome to attend and show their support for this year’s finalists. Our special thanks to Pam and Rolando Del Maestro, the Medical Students’ Osler Society, and the Board of Curators of the Osler Library.

Vernissage for a new exhibition by 2016 Larose-Osler-Artist-in-Residence Dr. Lucy Lyons, Impossible Pathologies: Re-fragmenting the Archive

Thursday, October 12, 2017, 17:30-19:00. Please come to a vernissage at the Osler Library to celebrate the opening of our newest exhibit.

RSVP osler.library@mcgill.ca

During the 2016-2017 academic year, Dr. Lucy Lyons spent time in the Osler Library archives studying the illustrations made by the English physician and medical writer, Robert Hooper. Inspired by Hooper’s method of cutting out parts of his drawings like the analogue version of Photoshop, Lyons created her own fantastic collaged composites. This composite method was then transferred into studies of the collections in the Maude Abbott Medical Museum to create new, impossible pathologies. This exhibition is an exploration of the beauty of the fragment which is synonymous with pathology. If pathology is the fractured, broken, diseased, deformed fragment of the human body, this work explores the further fracturing, breaking and then re-assembling of parts.

Dr. Lucy Lyons received her PhD from Sheffield Hallam University. Her practice focuses on drawing within medical museums and working collaboratively to explore the beauty of collections. She is especially interested in the hidden, the overlooked, insignificant or in-between. This residency will allow her to push and explore her own practice and develop work in new ways whilst bringing new audiences to the collections.

The Michele Larose – Osler Library Artist-in-Residence award, is given annually to one or more deserving candidates with a degree in Studio Arts or a related field and/or a history of exhibiting artistic work in professional venues.

Exhibition | The Gendered Cultures of Beer and Cheese: the Regulation of Human and Microbial Bodies on the Home and Industrial Scales, 1616–2017

McIntyre Medical Building Osler Library of the History of Medicine, 3rd floor, 3655 promenade Sir William Osler, Montreal, QC, H3G 1Y6, CA

Illustration showing what healthy and worn-out yeast cells look like when viewed through a microscope. Illustration from Pasteur’s Études sur la Bière (Studies on Beer), 1876.

Vernissage: Friday, September 29, 6–8 pm at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine.

Welcome to “The Gendered Cultures of Beer and Cheese: the Regulation of Human and Microbial Bodies on the Home and Industrial Scales.” This exhibition, comprised of medical texts, cookbooks, training manuals, and industry documents, showcases the ways in which advice about best fermentation practices has changed over time. As you visit the exhibition, we hope you will consider the following questions: How is the language employed around ideas of public health, food, and alcohol production gendered and classed? Are ideas about “what is safe” and “what is dangerous” regarding fermentation practices restricted to scientific understanding? To what degree are these ideas socially embedded concepts?

The materials for this exhibit come from McGill University’s Osler Library of the History of Medicine; Rare Books and Special Collections; the Schulich Library of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Engineering; the MacDonald Campus Library; the Blackader-Lauterman Collection of Architecture and Art; and the private collection of Alex Ketchum.

This exhibit has been made possible by the generous support of McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine; the Institute of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies; the Department of History and Classical Studies; the Department of English; and the Office of the Vice Principal’s Research and Innovation Grant.

We are pleased to offer this exhibit as part of this fall’s conference, “Leavening the Conversation: Food, Feminism, and Fermentation.” The event will be taking place on McGill’s campus from September 29 to October 1st. In addition to the above sponsors, the larger event is also sponsored by Le Réseau québécois en études féministes of L’Université du Québec à Montréal, Concordia University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University’s Centre for Sensory Studies, and the University of Alabama’s Department of Gender and Race Studies.

For more information, please visit: foodfeminismfermentation.com

Curated by Alex Ketchum, PhD candidate, Department of History and Classical Studies

For Osler Library of the History of Medicine’s opening hours, please click here.

Montreal and the History of Vaccination Debates at the Osler Library

La version française suit

“The recent smallpox epidemic in Montreal – vaccinating American-bound passengers on a train of the Grand Trunk Railway,” by Marvin James, photo-mechanical reproduction of a wood engraving (1885). Osler Library Prints Collection, OPF000001.

Montreal 375 gives us the opportunity to reflect on the parcours of our city, to explore its past, and to bring this history into dialogue with our present. Our current exhibit at the Osler Library not only highlights the richness of our collections, but also brings them into contemporary conversations in a very Oslerian way. Sir William Osler collected his monumental library of the history of medicine not simply for the intellectual content or the beauty of the books and objects, but because he believed that we live with the past everyday: “the past,” Osler writes in his famous speech, Aequanimitas, “is always with us; never to be escaped; it alone is enduring.”

Our newest exhibition, “Vaccination: Fame, Fear and Controversy, 1798-1998,” engages with local examples of historical vaccine controversies in an attempt to understand the enduring fear and hesitancy surrounding vaccination. Curators Dr. Rob Boddice of the Freie Universitat Berlin and Cynthia Tang, PhD candidate in the Department of Social Studies of Medicine/Department of History and Classical Studies, showcase the arguments made by pro- and anti-vaccinationists during the 200 years following Edward Jenner’s invention of vaccination.

Stipple engraving of Edward Jenner by Mackenzie (London: T. Hurst, 1802). Osler Library Prints Collection, OP000643.

In 1798, Jenner, an English country physician, published the results of his experimental use of matter from cowpox pustules to inoculate patients against smallpox, which has long been endemic to industrialized cities like Montreal. This procedure, which Jenner named vaccination, was swiftly implemented as a standard public health measure and vials of vaccine were shipped and carried worldwide. However, vaccination’s benefits and promises were attended by controversy from its earliest days. Already at the beginning of the 19th century, popular pamphlets and images stoked public anxieties about the introduction of animal material and disease agents into the body. Even after the World Health Organization proclaimed smallpox eradicated in 1980, the debates surrounding vaccination that began in the 19th century have persisted in our public discourse.

Glass capillary tube containing smallpox vaccine (Toronto, ca. 1939). Canada Science and Technology Museum, Medical Technology, art. no. 2002.0101.

A public panel presentation connected to the exhibition invited McGill and Montreal community members to think about how we understand such past examples of vaccine hesitancy and connect them to modern concerns and mythologies around vaccination. The two co-curators were joined by scholars Professor Andrea Kitta (East Carolina University), a folklorist specializing in medicine, belief and the supernatural, with a particular focus on vaccination, and late Dr. Mark Wainberg (McGill University), director of the McGill University AIDS Centre at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital, and outspoken critic of anti-vaccination rhetoric. The evening’s panel providing a wide-ranging and multidisciplinary perspective. More evidence as to the cross-institutional partnerships developed for this exhibition and the event is the blog post, “Hope and Fear in a Glass Capillary: Connecting over the History of Medicine with the Osler Library,” written by curator Cynthia Tang for the Canada Science and Technology Museum blog. In it, she explores a single artifact: a glass capillary tube containing smallpox vaccine manufactured Toronto circa 1939, and all of the hopes and fears contained within.

We are pleased to announce that this exhibition’s run has been extended through the summer! All are welcome to come view the exhibition during library opening hours (Monday through Friday, 9:00-5:00) in the Osler Library, 3rd floor, McIntyre Medical Building, 3655 Promenade Sir-William-Osler.


Montréal et l’histoire des débats sur la vaccination à la bibliothèque Osler

« L’épidémie récente de variole à Montréal — la vaccination des passagers américains dans un train du Grand Trunk Railway », par Marvin James, reproduction photomécanique d’une gravure sur bois (1885). Collection d’images de la bibliothèque Osler, OPF000001.

Le 375e anniversaire de Montréal nous donne l’occasion de nous replonger dans le parcours de notre ville, d’explorer son passé et d’en discuter dans le contexte actuel. En plus de mettre en évidence la richesse de nos collections, la nouvelle exposition présentée à la bibliothèque Osler permet d’engager des conversations les concernant à la manière d’Osler lui-même. Sir William Osler a construit cette riche bibliothèque sur l’histoire de la médecine, non seulement pour l’héritage intellectuel ou la beauté des livres et des objets qui s’y trouvent, mais aussi parce qu’il croyait que le passé fait partie de notre vie de tous les jours. « [traduction] Le passé, écrivait Osler dans son célèbre discours, Aequanimitas, fait toujours partie de nous et nous ne pouvons y échapper; c’est le seul qui résiste à l’épreuve du temps. »

Notre nouvelle exposition, « Vaccination : Fame, Fear and Controversy, 1798-1998 », offre des exemples de controverses autour de la vaccination, qui faisaient rage dans la région à l’époque, en vue de permettre aux visiteurs de comprendre la peur et l’hésitation qui régnaient à son égard. Les conservateurs Rob Boddice de la Freie Universitat de Berlin et Cynthia Tang, candidate au doctorat au département des Sciences sociales en médecine et au département de l’Histoire et études classiques, présentent le raisonnement des personnes qui étaient en faveur de la vaccination et de celles qui s’y opposaient au cours des 200 ans qui ont suivi la découverte de la vaccination par Edward Jenner.

Portrait d’Edward Jenner par gravure au pointillé réalisé par Mackenzie (Londres : T. Hurst, 1802). Collection d’images de la bibliothèque Osler, OP000643.

En 1798, Jenner, un médecin d’Angleterre qui pratiquait en région rurale, a publié les résultats de ses expériences sur l’utilisation de matières extraites de pustules contenant le virus de la vaccine pour inoculer les patients contre la variole, qui a longtemps été endémique dans les villes industrialisées comme Montréal. Cette méthode, que Jenner a nommée vaccination, a été rapidement adoptée et généralisée comme mesure de santé publique, et des fioles de vaccin antivariolique ont été expédiées et distribuées dans le monde entier. Toutefois, les avantages et les résultats prometteurs de la vaccination ont dès le début fait l’objet d’une controverse. Déjà, au début du 19e siècle, la publication de brochures et d’images suscitait dans la population des inquiétudes liées à l’introduction de matière animale et d’agents pathogènes dans le corps. Même après l’annonce de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé en 1980, selon laquelle la variole avait été éradiquée, les débats publics amorcés au 19e siècle autour de la vaccination se sont poursuivis.

Tube capillaire contenant le vaccin antivariolique (Toronto, vers 1939). Technologie médicale, Musée des sciences et de la technologie du Canada, nº d’artefact : 2002.0101.

Dans le cadre de l’exposition, une présentation publique a été dirigée par un groupe d’experts à laquelle ont été conviés les membres de la collectivité de McGill et de Montréal. Cette initiative a porté les participants à réfléchir sur ces exemples passés de l’hésitation autour de la vaccination et à faire le lien avec les préoccupations et mythes sur la vaccination qui perdurent encore aujourd’hui. Les deux conservateurs étaient accompagnés des chercheurs Andrea Kitta (East Carolina University), une folkloriste spécialiste de la médecine, des croyances et du surnaturel, qui s’intéresse particulièrement à la vaccination, et feu Mark Wainberg  (Université McGill), directeur du Centre universitaire sur le SIDA de l’Université McGill à l’Hôpital général juif de Montréal et critique de la rhétorique anti-vaccin. La présentation tenue en soirée a permis de dégager une perspective générale et multidisciplinaire. Le billet de blogue « Hope and Fear in a Glass Capillary: Connecting over the History of Medicine with the Osler Library » ([traduction] Espoir et peur dans une fiole de verre — Retracer l’histoire de la vaccination en compagnie de la Bibliothèque Osler), publié par la conservatrice Cynthia Tang pour le Musée des sciences et de la technologie du Canada, témoigne des partenariats interorganisationnels établis pour l’exposition et l’événement. Son bloque porte sur un seul objet : une fiole de verre contenant le vaccin contre la variole fabriqué à Toronto vers 1939, et tous les espoirs et les peurs qu’elle suscitait.

Nous sommes heureux d’annoncer que cette exposition se poursuivra durant l’été! Vous êtes tous invités à venir voir l’exposition durant les heures d’ouverture (du lundi au vendredi de 9 h à 17 h) à la bibliothèque Osler, 3e étage de l’édifice McIntyre Medical Sciences, 3655, promenade Sir-William-Osler.

 

Rare Books Restored In Honour of Christopher Lyons

Christoper Lyons (right) accepting two rare books restored in his honour from Board of Curators member and William Feindel Professor Emeritus, Dr. Rolando Del Maestro.

As a surprise precursor to Dr. Rolando Del Maestro’s neuro-oncology talk last week, Osler Librarian Christopher Lyons was presented with two rare books, recently restored in his honour, in recognition of his excellent stewardship of the Osler Library from 2012-2016.

 

The staff at the Osler Library, the Osler Board of Curators, and the McGill Osler Society, wish Chris the very best in his new appointment as Head of Rare Books & Special Collections at McGill – another unit of McGill ROAAr (Rare Books, Osler, Art, and Archives).

 

Congratulations, Chris!

 

Medical Anatomy : or, Illustrations of the Relative Position and Movements of the Internal Organs | Francis Sibson | London : John Churchill & Sons, 1869 | 4 leaves, 88 columns, XXI leaves of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 53cm

Ornate W.O. inscription to Christopher Lyons.

The restoration work was completed by Montreal conservator Terry Rutherford. In addition to work on the spines, leaves, and colour plates, both of these books are now housed in custom clamshell archival boxes, with an ornate ‘W.O.’ inscription to Christopher Lyons.

The Sibson atlas (above) has prize binding, with gilt lettering, from 1872 when it was awarded to McGill medical student Francis John Shepherd for the best primary examination for M.D.C.M. degree. Shepherd (1851-1929) is known as one of McGill’s ‘Medical Luminaries’, a highly-regarded anatomist, surgeon, dermatologist, and Dean of the McGill Medical Faculty from 1908-1914. Shepherd was also a prominent Canadian art historian and critic, who served as President of the Montreal Art Association (predecessor of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts).

This presentation copy of Sir William Osler’s The Principles and Practice of Medicine (below) once belonged to Dr. Thomas McCrae (1870-1935), brother of “In Flanders Fields” author John McCrae (1872-1918). Dr. T. McCrae was a close friend and colleague of William Osler at John Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore.

The Principles and Practice of Medicine: Designed for the Use of Practitioners and Students of Medicine | William Osler | New York : D. Appleton and Company, 1905 | xvii, [1], 1143, [1] pages : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm

Interested in rare book restoration and conservation in honour of someone you know? Want to learn more about the Osler Library’s “Adopt-a-Book” Programme? Email osler.library@mcgill.ca for more information.

ROAAr: Rare Books, Osler, Art, and Archives

 

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-3-05-51-pmMcGill’s new amalgam of Rare Books & Special Collections, Osler Library, Visual Art Collection, and the University Archives (collectively known as ROAAr) launched their first issue of a new newsletter series this December.

Published quarterly (Spring 2017 next), the ROAAr newsletter features four articles that showcase and discuss unique treasures of each rare unit.

Anyone who is interested in joining the ROAAr newsletter mailing list is encouraged to email info.library@mcgill.ca.

History is on every shelf at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine. Located on the third floor of McGill’s McIntyre Medical Building, the Osler houses Canada’s finest treasure trove of rare medical books, artifacts and archives. What began as a home for Sir William Osler’s personal library of 8,000 rare and historic works has grown to more than 100,000 titles that trace the beginnings of medicine in Canada and abroad to the present day.

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Snapshots of Osler at the bedside: Inspection, Palpation, Auscultation, Contemplation, c. 1895, Osler Library Photo Collection.

These rare collections have made the Osler a premier destination for students, researchers and bibliophiles from across Canada and around the world. This fall, the Osler played host to a visiting group from the Grolier Club – the oldest existing bibliophilic club in North America. Osler Librarian Chris Lyons led the distinguished guests on a tour through silent sanctuaries in the Wellcome Camera and the Osler Room, and gave them a hands-on look at many of the unique medical and historical gems within the Osler collection, such as a 1698 first edition of William Cowper’s Anatomy of Humane Bodies.

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The Grolier Club visits the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, 2016. Photo credit: Lauren Goldman

Capping off their trip, the eager Grolier Club members were treated to guided tours and presentations by the three other units under the McGill Library’s new ROAAr (Rare Books & Special Collections, Osler, Art, and Archives) umbrella.

To the delight of the guests, the Head of Rare Books Richard Virr showcased some of the Library’s oldest and most unique treasures, University Archivist Lori Podolsky helped them delve deep into McGill’s nearly 200-year history, and Coordinator Vanessa Di Francesco displayed many of the stunning works within the Visual Arts Collection. As they departed after their multi-day visit, the Grolier Club members were unanimous in their appreciation for their hosts, a testament to the treasures in the Osler collection and the combined and collaborative strength of ROAAr as a whole. The experience provided a fantastic model for hosting future visitors.

It was a busy autumn for Osler visits and curated exhibits – both within the library’s own gallery space and around Montreal. Our “pop-up” exhibitions this fall included 200 Years of the Stethoscope, celebrating two centuries of auscultation at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress (CCC), History of MS at the Montreal Neurological Institute’s annual MS Xchange, and in October, it was our pleasure to welcome two history classes from Marianopolis College (CEGEP) for a total of four visits – a powerful pedagogical experience for all.

For those discovering the Osler Library of the History of Medicine for the first time, we invite you to explore our online resources and website for more information. Contact or visit us anytime – there is much to be discovered!