Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New archive sources for the study of tuberculosis

Two new sources for the study of tuberculosis are now available in the Library's Archives and Manuscripts department.

The Library has recently acquired the records of the British Thoracic Society: they have now been catalogued and made available for research (SA/BRT). The Society was founded in 1982 as an amalgamation of the British Thoracic Association and the Thoracic Society but it can trace its family tree back to 1910. The Society’s archive thus contains records of predecessor organisations dating back to the 1920s including the Society of Superintendents of Tuberculosis Institutions (f.1920); The Tuberculosis Association (f.1928 and later known as the British Tuberculosis Association, the British Thoracic and Tuberculosis Association and the British Thoracic Association); the Joint Tuberculosis Council (f.1924) and the Thoracic Society (f.1944).

Over the years, and in its various incarnations, the Society has brought together respiratory physicians, surgeons, anaesthetists, radiologists, pathologists and others working in the field. Its records provide a wide-ranging professional perspective on tuberculosis and lung disease which complements the story told in other collections already held by the Library, such as the records of the lay body the National Association for the Prevention of Consumption and other forms of Tuberculosis (SA/NPT).

In addition to the shifts and changes within thoracic medicine during the 20th century, other themes emerge in the records. Those researching women in medicine, for example, may be interested in Dr. Jane Walker’s involvement as a founder member and first President of the Society of Superintendents, and the career paths for women doctors in tuberculosis work more generally. For nursing historians there is material on the organisation's interest in nurse training, which dates back to 1924 when it first issued certificates in tuberculosis nursing. It made repeated, but unsuccessful, attempts to secure recognition of the qualification by the General Nursing Council, and also took an interest in related issues such as the recruitment, health and welfare of nurses, and the needs of those who developed tuberculosis during nurse-training.

Alongside the British Thoracic Society archive, the catalogue of a small set of related personal papers is also being launched. Alexander Stephenson Hall (1904-1995) was a Tuberculosis Officer in Middlesex in the 1930s and from 1947-1969 he was a consultant chest physician for a group of hospitals in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Hall was heavily involved in the activities of the British Tuberculosis Association, serving as both Honorary Secretary and Vice-President. During the 1940s he was also Editor of the Association's journal Tubercle. In the 1950s Hall gathered material for a history of the Association, but this was never published. His papers (PP/HAL) include lectures and unpublished writings by on the social impact of tuberculosis and material on the foundation and development of the British Tuberculosis Association which complements the official archive.

Author: Jennifer Haynes

William Hogarth's 'Cunicularii'. Wellcome Library Item of the month, April 2010

Cunicularii or the wise men of Godliman in consultation.
Etching by William Hogarth, 1726.
Wellcome Library no. 17342i
The story of Mary Toft (also called Tofts) has been told many times, but it is worth revisiting as it has many aspects, some of which tend to be neglected. For those new to it, here is a much simplified version. Mary Toft lived in Godalming in the Surrey countryside in the early 18th century, and was briefly a national celebrity for allegedly giving birth to rabbits. She was visited in Surrey by a number of people, some of whom tried to explain the event as it was alleged, while others disputed the claim itself, and others again were non-committal. She was brought to London for exhibition and interrogation, and confessed under pressure to have been complicit in a fraud suggested and activated by another woman, for which Mary was punished. The event was the media sensation of 1726-1727: like other short-lived events such as the Cock Lane Ghost in 1762, it was the subject of conversation, pamphlets and caricatures.

In her article on the event, Lisa Forman Cody discusses in detail the degree to which believers in the rabbit-births justified their position in identical terms to those used by their opponents: they used accredited standards of evidence, proof and deduction -– or what would later be thrown together as "science". [1] When non-existent events are "explained" by exactly the same criteria as are used by experts, how is the public expected to distinguish between, on the one hand, the real scholars and, on the other, those who mimic them accurately but without having robust and relevant evidence in support? One might be reminded of the role of academics at the University of East Anglia in recent discussions about changes in the atmosphere and the real or imagined causes of those real or imagined changes.

Among the public comments on the Toft event, two caricatures featuring Mary were produced by William Hogarth (1697-1764): one of them is Cunicularii, dated 22 December 1726, and the other was at first called "Enthusiasm delineated" but later renamed Credulity, superstition and fanaticism. However, they deal with much larger matters than Mary Toft: she appears in them, but neither of the two prints is really about her. The prints need to be seen in their broader historical context, not merely as related to the Toft escapade, amusing though that is.

In Cunicularii, shown above and in details below, each of the characters is marked with a letter and described in the lettering along the bottom of the print. Some of them also have speech-bubbles. Mary Toft is marked F and described in the lettering as "The lady in the straw". On the left we see a man and a woman: the man is Mary's husband Joshua Toft, marked E and described in the lettering as "The rabbet getter", while the woman, described in the lettering as "The nurse or rabbet dresser" is identified as Margaret, Joshua's sister and his partner in the hoax.

Lettering of the Cunicularii (click on image to enlarge)
At the door on the far right, marked D and described in the lettering as "The Guildford rabbet man midwife", is another local: a surgeon and man-midwife from nearby Guildford, John Howard. He is rejecting the offer of a rabbit from a conspiratorial villager and saying "It's too big", implying complicity with the wily countrymen.

Detail of the Cunicularii (click on image to enlarge)
In the middle are three visitors from London, all marvelling at the prodigy. Nearest to Mary, a man-midwife is feeling under her garment and saying "It pouts it swells it spreads it comes". Right of him is a man throwing up his hands in wonder and saying "A Sooterkin" (the "sooterkin" was a kind of animated afterbirth described in Netherlandish folkore). Further to right, the third visitor gestures towards the scene and exclaims joyfully "A great birth".

Who are these visitors? They are identified in a brilliant article published by Dennis Todd in 1982. [2] Starting on the right, the lettering below the image describes this man as "The danceing master or præternatural anatomist". This identifies him with Nathanael St André, a Swiss dilettante, dancing-master, amateur anatomist, and German-speaking courtier of George I: he was the chief believer in the genuineness of the rabbit-births. Moving leftwards, the man in the middle is described as "The sooterkin doctor astonish'd": he is John Maubray, author of popular treatises on childbirth, and one of four doctors who attended Mary in London on 4 December 1726. The leftmost man of the three, the man-midwife, is saying "It pouts it swells it spreads it comes"; in the lettering, he is described as "An occult philosopher searching into the depth of things". Todd identifies this figure as a hybrid of two people. The speech-bubble saying "It pouts it swells it spreads it comes", identifies him as Sir Richard Manningham FRS, the man-midwife who suspected fraud but was misinterpreted at one point as suggesting that Toft was about to give birth to a rabbit. However the lettering "An occult philosopher searching into the depth of things" identifies him as another person who played a part in the episode: Samuel Molyneux FRS (1689-1728), an astronomer who was one of the courtiers sent by King George I to Surrey to examine Mary. Molyneux was a "virtuoso" (practitioner of arts and sciences) and another believer in the rabbit-births.

Hogarth draws a contrast between the rustic figures on the periphery who are perpetrating the fraud, and the three Londoners in the middle who are marvelling at it. The casual observer might get the impression that distinguished doctors travelled out to Godalming where they were all fooled by the locals. However, as Todd showed, this interpretion is mistaken. Firstly, of the people visiting, only one of the believers was a doctor (Maubray), and he had a vested interest in the idea of the sooterkin, because he had published his belief in such "molar conceptions" in his recent book The female physician (1724, pp. 364-366). The other doctor present, Manningham, was the arch-sceptic who forced Mary to confess, and there were other sceptical doctors whom Hogarth has chosen not to include in the print, such as George I's surgeon Cyriacus Ahlers, who told the King it was a hoax; and James Douglas, a colleague of Manningham's and describer of the Pouch of Douglas (an anatomical structure in women between the rectum and the uterus).

The adoration of the Magi. Detail of engraving after Nicolas Poussin.
Wellcome Library no. 24020i
Second, the reason why there are three visitors is to compare them with the three Magi attending the birth of Christ. In Hogarth's print the visitors are shown marvelling at the miraculous birth not because they actually did so but in order to put them into the familiar composition of the Adoration of the Magi. The phrase "the wise men of Godliman" (i.e. Godalming) also suggests a comparison with the proverbial "Wise men of Gotham" (who were not wise but simpletons or feigned simpletons).

Hogarth's ulterior purpose in telling the story of the rabbit-births in terms of Christ's Nativity is to take the opportunity to satirise "Enthusiasm", the religious fundamentalism of the time. Enthusiasm in this sense has been defined as "a state of (claimed) divine inspiration. The claimed inspiration is almost always seen by those who employ the term as delusory, and enthusiasm is almost always seen as bad, akin to fanaticism, irrationality, and madness". [3] Though Quakers were often cited as typical Enthusiasts, another group tarred with that brush, strange though it may seem, was star-gazers: "the virtuoso astronomer by that time had become the stock representative of the Enthusiast" (Todd p. 43), a fact which explains why Hogarth gave the print its epigraph, consisting of a slightly altered quotation from Samuel Butler's Hudibras describing the astrologer Sidrophel: "He held his talent most adroyt / For any mystical exploit". Molyneux was an astronomer who accepted the rabbit-births.

So the real subject of Cunicularii is deluded Enthusiasm, which is ridiculed by being compared with the marvelling attitude of those who were deceived by the fraudulent prodigy reported at Godalming. (Let us recall that the other Hogarth print featuring Mary Toft was at first called "Enthusiasm delineated".) The rabbit-woman case is simply a topical framing story used to introduce ridicule of Enthusiasts, or (in Alfred Hitchcock's phrase) a "MacGuffin".

Using medical lore and publicity as a metaphor for religious practice, Hogarth's Cunicularii would be an ideal subject for a students' seminar project in the field of media studies, science studies, gender studies, or history of medicine and science, as well as in more obvious fields such as English and art history. But to understand it in full requires input from all of these fields: to concentrate on one of them introduces an element of distortion. What might seem at first glance like a simple fraud turns out to have links with almost every discipline of the time and of today.

[1] Lisa Forman Cody, '"The doctor's in labour; or a new whim wham from Guildford"', Gender & history, 1992, 4: 175-196

[2] Dennis Todd, 'Three characters in Hogarth's Cunicularii -- and some implications', Eighteenth-century studies, 1982, 16: 26-46

[3] Robert Shaver, 'Enthusiasm', in E. Craig (ed.), Routledge encyclopedia of philosophy, London: Routledge, 1998 available online in the Wellcome Library here

Announcement of Wellcome Book Prize Judges

Announced today is the new panel of judges for the 2010 Wellcome Trust Book Prize.

Chaired by Clive Anderson, former barrister, comedy writer and presenter, the panel includes writer and former Man Booker judge Maggie Gee; writer, professor and former Man Booker judge AC Grayling; University College based medical historian Michael Neve; and anatomist, anthropologist, presenter and author Alice Roberts.

Launched in 2009, the Wellcome Trust Book Prize is open to outstanding works of fiction and non-fiction on the theme of health, illness and medicine. Last year's winner was Keeper by Andrea Gillies.

The shortlist for the 2010 Prize prize will be announced at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in October, with the winner announced at a ceremony in Wellcome Collection in November.

And just as with last year's inaugural prize, the Wellcome Library will have all the shortlisted books available on our shelves.

More details on the 2010 Wellcome Book Prize are available in a Wellcome Trust press release, and on the Prize's own website.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Travel Writing Sources Guide

Given the restrictions on air travel of late, it is perhaps timely to flag up a new guide to unpublished Travel Writing in the Wellcome Library’s collections.

Arranged by geographic region, the guide gives an overview of relevant manuscript material in our collections. It’s one of a series of thematic sources guides designed to assist users of our archives and manuscript collections to identify material of particular relevance to their research.

The Travel Writing sources guide covers records of travel dating from the 18th–20th centuries, generally in diary or journal form which contain descriptions of journeys, places and experiences.

These records were kept by all manner of practitioners of medicine and the travels described are equally wide ranging, including journeys of exploration, touring holidays and the experiences of naval surgeons. Most corners of the globe are covered: from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica and from the East to West Indies.

As well illustrating the breadth of our collections, the sources guide acts as a first step in carrying out research into our archives. For more detailed subject searching, you can run keyword or subject searches in the Archives and Manuscripts on–line catalogue, from which material can be ordered for consultation in the Rare Materials Room.

And if your horizons stretch further than our travel writing guide, a full list of our other archives and manuscripts sources guides is available from the Wellcome Library website.

Image above is an illustration of Ascension Island, from the travel journals of Naval surgeon Fleetwood Buckle (MSS.1395-1404).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wellcome Library Insight - Anatomies of London

This Thursday evening (29th April) offers another chance to discover some fascinating tales of London life, through our free Anatomies of London 'Insight' session.

One of our most popular 'Insights', previous versions of Anatomies of London have been recommended by Time Out, and inspired the Patterson Challenge.

Our Insight sessions give visitors to the Wellcome Library an opportunity to explore the variety of our holdings. Sessions are thematic in style, last around an hour and offer a chance to learn about our collections from a member of Library staff.

This Thursday's session starts at 6.30pm, and tickets are available from the Wellcome Collection Information Desk from 4.30pm onwards. The event will also be British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted. For more details, see the Wellcome Collection website.

Wellcome Library Workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

Pubmed and Pubmed Central: an introduction
Take a closer look at PubMed, one of the leading databases for locating research articles in the fields of health, medicine and dentistry. It contains over 15 million references back to the 1950s and is freely available to anyone with access to the internet. It is linked to PubMed Central, a free archive of life sciences journals.
Tuesday 27th April, 2-3pm

Science in the news: keeping track of stories in the media
For anyone interested in science in the news and media, this workshop will introduce you to science news sources in the library and on the internet, and to tools such as RSS feeds, for keeping track of the news.
Thursday 29th April, 2-3.15pm

Our programme of free workshops offer short practical sessions to help you discover and make use of the wealth of information available at the Wellcome Library. Book a place from the library website.

Author: Lalita Kaplish

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Edward Jenner and his moving statue

Broadcast tonight in the UK on BBC1, will be the latest episode of Doctor Who, in which the time traveller with the medical title meets again with the 'Weeping Angels', creatures with the appearance of statues but who can move in the blink of an eye. Timely, given a less frightening example of a moving statue (or really, a statue whose position has changed) has caught our attention in recent weeks.

Here's the statue in question: it's of Edward Jenner (1749-1823), the pioneering vaccinationist. This photograph was taken between the wars in Kensington Gardens in London and in 2010 it's where you'll still find the statue.

However, when it was erected by its sculptor William Calder Marshall in 1858, the statue stood a couple of miles or so east in Trafalgar Square. And as discussed in a recent edition of the British Medical Journal, a campaign has begun to return the statue to the Square.

A detailed account of the movement of Jenner's statue, is given in an article written by John Empson for the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1996 (and now freely available through PubMedcentral). The article illustrates where in Trafalgar Square the statue stood, and that Prince Albert (a keen supporter of vaccination) presided over the inauguration of the statute on the site in 1858. It also states how opinion soon turned against Jenner's statue and how this medical figure appeared not to be in keeping with the militaristic nature of the Square's other statues.

Perhaps in relation to Prince Albert's death in 1861, Jenner's statue - now lacking its most prominent supporter - was moved in 1862 to Kensington Gardens. But as Empson's article states, Kensington Gardens does have some ties to smallpox: the development of the Gardens arose from William III building Kensington Palace, and it was from smallpox which William's mother, father and wife all died.

Related to this question of the proper site to memorialise Jenner is an item from the Wellcome Library's collections, which discusses the matter in verse. Written in the nineteenth century by Edward Jenner's great nephew Stephen, this poem is illustrated with a sketch of Calder Marshall's Jenner statue. Should the statue be in Trafalgar Square with military heroes or perhaps:

a farmer's yard should be thy place
among the milkmaids and the cow herds race
And if not there I'll fix another site
And send thee off to Cowes the Isle of Wight

After cow-based puns (based upon, of course, Jenner first vaccinating using lymph from a cowpox pustule), we'll conclude with the poet's final words on Jenner's fame:

Then fame where art thou? - where's thy honour'd boon?
All that is precious ripens in the Tomb
From dust supremely, glory must arise
To join the bliss eternal in the skies

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Richard Dadd in France – and in New York

"Sketch of the murder of Henry the Sixth in the Tower by Richard Duke of Gloucester, afterwards King Richard the Third ... by Richard Dadd, Bethlem Hospital, 1853." Wellcome Library no. 570213i
On 28 August 1843 the painter Richard Dadd, who had previously shown signs of insanity, stabbed his father to death in Cobham Park in Kent, believing him to be the devil in disguise. He then escaped to France, where his attempted murder of a fellow traveller in a carriage led to his arrest, imprisonment in a series of French asylums, extradition back to England, trial, and admission to a secure ward in a lunatic asylum for life. After twenty years in Bethlem (1844-1864) he was moved to Broadmoor secure hospital where he died in 1886. As an artist he is best known for two extraordinary paintings: The fairy-feller's master-stroke, in Tate Britain (presented by Siegfried Sassoon in 1963; not always on display) and Contradiction: Oberon and Titania, which currently belongs to Andrew Lloyd Webber. [1]

Dadd's flight to France after the murder was natural enough, for he had only recently arrived back in England from France after a foreign trip to Turkey, Syria, the Holy Land and Egypt in the retinue of Sir Thomas Phillips (1801-1867: not the manuscripts-collector Sir Thomas Phillipps, as erroneously stated in the original version of this posting, but a former mayor of Newport in Wales). Dadd's episodes of madness in France will have left some evidence there, but none has hitherto been cited. Now references to him in medical literature have been traced by Hélène Klemenz who has published a note on them in the current issue of the The Burlington magazine. [2].

After being shunted through five other asylums, Dadd was admitted to the psychiatric hospital at Clermont de l'Oise, about 35 miles north of Paris, where he was a patient for ten months of the physician Eugène-Joseph Woillez (1811-1882). Woillez discussed Dadd in a monograph that he published in 1849 "on the improvement of the lot of the insane person considered as a social individual". [3] Historians may be forgiven for overlooking this work: the union catalogue OCLC records no copy of it in the UK or USA and only three copies in France (Paris 2-Bordeaux 1). Fortunately a digital copy of the printed text is available on the Gallica website of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

Woillez's earlier publications were on antiquarian subjects: the British Library has under his name a work on "Archéologie des monumens religieux de l’ancien Beauvoisis, pendant la métamorphose Romane", Paris 1839-1849 and an article on the iconography of lilies in mediaeval heraldry (the fleur de lis figures on the Clermont coat of arms). [4] His later published works are mostly on respiratory medicine. In the middle comes the rare monograph on the improvement of the life of the insane dating from his time as director of the asylum at Clermont, when he, like Philippe Pinel in Paris, had occasion to ponder on how the lives of asylum inmates could be improved.

A rough translation of the passage about Richard Dadd follows:

"The newspapers of 1845 reported the parricide committed in England by a distinguished painter named Dadd, who fled knowingly after the perpetration of that act in order to escape the punishment of the law, and who was nothing but a poor lunatic. He was arrested in France when he tried to cut the throat of a traveller who was unknown to him and who happened to be next to him in a carriage. Dadd's mental disorder was then obvious: he was directed to the Clermont asylum where I had him under my eyes over ten months.

"This young man was a monomaniac exalted by hallucinations and illusions of the most dangerous type. All those who surrounded him were black devils who had to be put to death. His unfortunate father, like the traveller in the carriage, was also a devil whom he had to kill, as he told me several times. I myself was Jesus Christ to him, not that he respected me any the more for it.

"His illusions took on an extraordinary degree of activity when he had spent several hours in a sort of ecstasy, staring directly at the sun, which happened to him frequently. The act of parricide in this case was not at all one of those spontaneous, instinctive and irresistible bouts of monomania which one is compelled to admit in certain cases, but the consequence of reason perverted by the most manifest type of raving imagination, depriving Dadd of all moral freedom."

For the context in which this description occurs, see the book. Among other subjects, Woillez also discusses the possible prevention of aggressive behaviour by the insane, and what right the state has to prevent it by pre-emptive incarceration before any criminal act has been committed—a question still being wrestled with today. Klemenz states that Woillez's case notes on Dadd are in the archives of the Hospital of Clermont de l'Oise, and refers to some of them: specifically, that Dadd was staring at the sun because he regarded it as an incarnation of Osiris, a deity he had become involved with while attending Phillipps in Egypt. He still believed that he was subject to the arbitrary whim of Osiris thirty years later in Broadmoor.

The watercolour by Dadd reproduced above shows Richard Duke of Gloucester, subsequently King Richard III, after killing Henry VI in the Tower of London in May 1471. It is one in a series of watercolours of the passions, this one being Hatred. The duke gloats over the red gouttes of Lancastrian blood that dribble down his sword and splash on to the ground. Another version of the same subject (in Bethlem Hospital) is called by Allderidge "one of Dadd's most frightening pictures". If it is just a strange coincidence that a man called Dadd should have killed his father, what must have been going through that man's mind when, being called Richard and having committed murder by stabbing with a knife, he painted another man also called Richard holding a sword dripping with blood?

Another fine watercolour by Dadd in the same series was bought in 2007 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and is reproduced here from the museum's online catalogue. The watercolour was discovered by Andrew Sim of Sim Fine Art in a provincial auction in the UK: although recorded, it had been lost after it was auctioned at Christie's in 1870, and no illustration of it existed. Annotated by Dadd "Sketch to illustrate the passions. Senility or peevishness", it shows a suspicious old man selling something from a barrow to two ruffians outside an inn, watched by the inn-keeper holding a pipe. Now New Yorkers do not need to travel to London to enjoy a frisson at Richard Dadd's menacing sense of humour.

[1] Patricia Allderidge, The late Richard Dadd, London: Tate Gallery Publications, 1974
[2] Hélène Klemenz, 'Richard Dadd and his demons in France', The Burlington magazine, 2010, 152: 227
[3] Eugène-Joseph Woillez, De l'amélioration du sort de l'homme aliéné considéré comme une individualité sociale, Paris: V. Masson, 1849, pp. 48-50
[4] Eugène-Joseph Woillez, 'Iconographie des plantes aroides figureées au moyen age en Picardie, et considerées comme origine de la fleur de lis en France', Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de Picardie, 1848.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

John Symons

Many readers of this blog will have met or corresponded with John Symons, who was a librarian at the Wellcome Library for many years and the Library's specialist on early printed books. As reported here at the time, John died in 2009 and an obituary of him has now been published in Medical History. [1]

In addition to publication on paper, the obituary, like the rest of the journal, is available online via PubMedCentral, as pdf or as text.

[1] William Schupbach, 'Obituary: John Symons 1943-2009', Medical History, 2010 April; 54(2): 255–257

Monday, April 19, 2010

Iceland and 'Eyafialla Iokul'

Whilst the world waits, literally and metaphorically, for the dust to settle from the recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland, we thought we would pass on this representation of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier 300 years ago, during rather calmer times.

It's a coloured aquatint, based on a plate from a work by Sir George Steuart Mackenzie (1780-1848), Travels in the island of Iceland (1811). The Wellcome Library holds a copy of this work, along with a number of other aquatints and engravings based on some of the book's plates.

Mackenzie was a chemist, geologist, and antiquary, whose landed seat was in the Highlands of Scotland (albeit the relatively low-lying eastern parts of Ross-Shire). Known as an agricultural improver, Mackenzie has been one of the Highland ancestral land owners indicted as part of the 'Highland Clearances' (which adds another shade to his thoughts on the relatively unpopulated countryside of Iceland).

Steered towards Geology whilst studying Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, Mackenzie also developed an interest in Iceland, and in 1810 journeyed there. His published account of his travels described the natural history of the island, along with Iceland's history and literature.

The work also described the diseases of the inhabitants. No surprise, given that Mackenzie was joined on his journey by the physicians Henry Holland (1788–1873) and Richard Bright (1789–1858). Bright and Holland made significant contributions to the publication, and it's from a sketch by Holland that the plate of 'Eyafialla Iokul' is derived from.

During the travels of Mackenzie, Bright and Holland, Eyjafjallajökull lay dormant. Mackenzie though, finishes his account with words that certainly chime in April 2010:

"If the details I have given shall have afforded any amusement to geologists; and if they shall induce them to pay more accurate attention to volcanic countries than has hitherto been bestowed upon them, I shall recollect only with pleasure, the difficulties and dangers to which I subjected myself, in exploring a country, which everywhere presents objects to fill the scientific mind with astonishment and delight".

Iceland may have filled the scientific mind of Mackenzie in 1810 with "astonishment and delight" but for travelllers stranded by flight restrictions caused by the Icelandic eruptions in 2010, those probably are not the emotions that the geology of the island inspires.

Wellcome Library Workshop

Our Summer programme of free workshops begins this week with:

Wellcome Images
Do you need a picture? Find what you need from the Wellcome Images catalogue: search 160 000 pictures online, covering the history of medicine and the history of human culture from the earliest periods of civilisation to the present day.
Thursday 22nd April, 2-3pm

Our programme of free workshops offer short practical sessions to help you discover and make use of the wealth of information available at the Wellcome Library. Book a place from the library website.

Author: Lalita Kaplish

Wellcome Library Insight - Caricatures and Cartoons

This week's free Wellcome Library Insight session - on Thursday 22nd April - explores how caricatures and cartoons have evolved by looking at drawings, paintings and prints from the Wellcome Library.

Our Insight sessions give visitors to the Wellcome Library an opportunity to explore the variety of our holdings. Sessions are thematic in style, last around an hour and offer a chance to learn about our collections from a member of Library staff.

This Thursday's session starts at 3.00pm, and tickets are available from the Wellcome Collection Information Desk from 1.30pm onwards. For more details, see the Wellcome Collection website.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sir Hans Sloane

Sir Hans Sloane was born 350 years ago today, on 16th April 1660, in Killyleagh, County Down, Ireland. He studied medicine in London and Montpellier, and then spent two years in Jamaica as personal physician to the island's governor, Christopher Monck, second duke of Abermarle, and where he begun to collect natural specimens.

On Sloane's return to London in 1689, he married a wealthy heiress and established an immensely successful medical practice (later becoming physician to Queen Anne and then George I and II). Besides this, Sloane also made a considerable amount of money promoting the medicinal attributes of Peruvian (or Jesuit’s) bark and milk chocolate. He also became a key figure in the Royal Society: being elected as a Fellow in 1685, and later being elected Secretary in 1693 and succeeding Isaac Newton as President in 1727.

Sloane was fascinated with the world in which he lived and was able to put together a most comprehensive collections of specimens – plants, animals, insects, minerals and other rarities. These were to become the foundation collections for the British Museum after Sloane's death in 1753.

As for the books he collected, The Sloane Printed Books Project, funded by the Wellcome Trust in collaboration with the British Library, is working to identify Sloane’s library of about 45,000 books which are now dispersed amongst the British Library, British Museum and Natural History Museum.

A substantial number of Sloane’s books left the British Museum in duplicate sales held between 1769 and 1832. Many of these are now to be found in other libraries, both in the UK and elsewhere. There are over 100 books from Sloane’s library in the Wellcome Library. Most of these are now identified in the library catalogue and we hope to have completed this work by the end of the year. The example shown has Sloane’s catalogue number ‘a.742’ at the bottom of the title page. It's an edition of Benacio Lisset's L'ordre et regime qu'on doit garder et tenir en la cure des fièvres, and was previously owned by Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683), finance minister to Louis XIV.

Understandably, there are a large number of events being held this year to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Sloane’s birth (many of them highlighted in a post on the Birkbeck Early Modern Society's Blog), including an international conference at the British Library on 7-8th June entitled 'From Books to Bezoars'.

Author: Julianne Simpson

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Summer programme

The new Summer programme of free Wellcome Library workshops begins on 20th April. Further details can be found on the Library website at:
The workshops provide training on research and resources in the Library, and are aimed at the general public.

The programme includes:
- thematic workshops such as Science in the News, Medicine and Literature and the History of medicine;
- training on specific resources such as PubMed Central, and Web of Science;
- and introductions to the Wellcome Archives, Wellcome Images and genealogical research resources at the library.
All workshops are free and available to library members (library membership is free and open to all).
To book a place, please use the online booking facility on the library website:

Behind the Scenes: Moving Image and Sound Collection

April finds us in the Moving Image and Sound Collection (MISC) department - the team behind the cataloguing, curation and public services related to the Wellcome Library's collection of historic and modern audio-visual material. The department is headed by Angela Saward who is supported by Ruth Blue, assistant curator. Covering both analogue and digital material, the collection includes audio-visual material from the late 19th century to the present day. This includes both archival collections (unique, historical titles) as well as contemporary content, to cater for all the needs of the history of medicine researcher.

The work the team does revolves around two main aspects: providing access to the resource for researchers, and curating the collection. Providing access can be done in a variety of ways, including the creation of catalogue records so researchers can find items; providing a viewing space so researchers can come to the Library and watch or listen to content; mounting digital content online for remote usage; and carrying out collections research on the behalf of users where necessary. Usage of the material ranges from scholarly researchers to content researchers for broadcast programs; people with a general interest in certain health topics to artists looking for content they can draw inspiration from, or include in their works.

Some of the most popular titles in the collection are the film titles War Neuroses (see the embedded clip above), Heredity in Man, and Conditioned reflexes and behavior. People may ask for information on or access to specific titles within the collection, or they may ask for titles related to subjects. For example, recently users have asked for films illustrating historical practices in psychoanalysis and sex education up to the 1940s.

The MISC team also maintain the collection, describe, assess, and add to it ("curating"). Up-to-date titles to purchase related to the history of medicine are gleaned from sources like the Radio Times and TRILT, (The Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching, the best source of UK television and radio broadcast data available on the web - available to FE/HE). Archival items are sought out from a range of potential sources, or accessioned as part of larger archival collections newly acquired by or newly catalogued by the Archives and Manuscripts department. One of the big challenges to curating the project, according to Angela, is "the wide range of legacy formats and players for the video content. Unlike film, video formats proliferated between the 1960s and 1980s, many of which are now obsolete." These have to be conserved and, where possible, migrated to current formats. Migration of such formats is prioritised according to how accessible (from a copyright point of view) the material is to the Library's users.

MISC's outlook as a department is largely externally-facing, and Angela supports the industry by sitting on the JISC Film and Sound Think Tank and on the panel for the Wellcome Trust Small Arts and People Award. Internally, MISC has strong connections to the Cataloguing Department and Digital Services. There is also a certain amount of cross-over with Wellcome Collection, who have highlighted a number of Wellcome Film videos on the newly revamped Wellcome Collection website.

Following the success of the Wellcome Film project (in particular the YouTube channel), MISC is now embarking on integrating new digital collections. Digitisation of 30 audio titles is currently in progress, and these will be made freely online as MP3s via the Library Catalogue. Titles include Man versus Virus, Heart Sounds and Murmurs (a 9 reel series), and Lumps in the Skin.

The other digital project is the large audio collection from One & Other - or the Fourth Plinth Project - which ran from July to October 2009 in Trafalgar Square. These are 15-30 minute recordings of interviews from all the participants, obtained by the Wellcome Library in the new year. 2,400 people participated, and each had a different reason for doing so. MISC's big challenge is to capture the essense of these "plinthers" in the catalogue records. A couple examples are now online.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Siamese twins, real and metaphorical

The latest attempt to separate conjoined twins is going on in London. In this case the twins are Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf from East Cork, and the operation is proceeding at Great Ormond Street Hospital. [1]

From about 1830 conjoined twins were called "Siamese twins", "jumeaux siamois", etc., so named after the twins Chang and Eng. [2]

Lithograph, ca. 1830. Wellcome Library no. 679471i
Their visit from Siam (Thailand) to Europe and their exhibition in the 1830s set off a wave of "Siamese twin" mania. A painting of them by Edouard-Henri-Théophile Pingret on their visit to Paris in 1836 is in the Wellcome Library, as are many other depictions. The lithograph above is unusual in referring to their Thai origins through the temples in the landscape shown in the background. Characteristic Thai temples can now be seen in the west (in the Parc Denantou in Lausanne, for example), but in 1830 they were much less familiar in Europe.

Coloured etching by Sharpshooter, 1829. Wellcome Library no. 12225i
The use of Chang and Eng as a metaphor for political alliance quickly followed. On 9 December 1829, soon after their arrival, the satirist who called himself Sharpshooter was quick off the mark in showing the Irish political leader Daniel O'Connell as conjoined with the devil in "Catholic Union" (above).

Etching by William Heath, 1830. Wellcome Library no. 12230i
William Heath, in his publication The looking-glass on 1 January 1830, showed the leaders of the two wings of the Tory party, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, as comparable to Chang and Eng joined by "Place" (corrupt patronage), but by nothing else: at this time Wellington (Prime Minister) and Peel (Home Secretary) were scarcely on speaking terms. As Home Secretary, Peel was busy creating the police force (in this print he is wearing a policeman's uniform). Separation was not hinted at because separation of conjoined twins was not possible within the surgical techniques of the time.

Here are two later and more recherché examples.

"Doctors consultation. Separation decided upon. Professor Ripley to operate. Alfred's speech, on the Siamese twins, delivered at Knaresbro' Augt. 20th. 1868, before a large and crowded audience. ...
See Bradford Daily Telegraph Aug.t 21st".
Wellcome Library no. 678126i

The lettering mentions Chang and Eng, showing that they were still remembered from nearly forty years before, but for the first time in these satires the possibility of surgical separation of the twins is raised:

"Some of you will know that there exists such a curiosity as the Siamese twins. They were a number of years ago exhibited in England, and have latterly been in America. These two extraordinary beings are held together by an integument that it hitherto has been thought to be almost impossible to sever. The health of one of the twins is giving way, and the prospect before the man in health is terrible. He is carrying with him a diseased human being who in a short time may be a corpse. Can you imagine a human being placed in more distressing circumstances? In order to save the life of the sound individual the highest physicians have been consulted, and the twins are going to *Paris [footnote: "*Bradford"] in order that an operation may take place to separate the two men."

The protagonists seem to be well-known Bradford politicians. "Professor Ripley" may be Sir Henry William Ripley, 1st Baronet: he was elected Member of Parliament (Liberal) for Bradford in the general election of 17 November-7 December 1868, but his election was overturned on petition in 1869. He then changed allegiance and was finally elected as Member of Parliament (Conservative) for Bradford in 1874, and sat until 1880. "Alfred" may be Alfred Illingworth (1827-1907), who was elected Member of Parliament (Liberal) for Knaresborough in 1868-1874, and was re-elected as a Liberal for Bradford in 1880, defeating the Conservative, his former Liberal ally Henry William Ripley; Illingworth held his seat until 1895. The print therefore seems to describe the separation of the twin Liberals in 1869 when Ripley's election was overturned, rather than 1880 when he joined the Conservatives.

The description of Alfred Illingworth in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ("tall, spare, alert, ruddy-bearded, and hawk-visaged") fits the twin on the left of the present print, but "Alfred" is named as the commentator, not as the twin, which makes the print difficult to understand for anyone not familiar with Bradford politics of the time. This was the world repeatedly caricatured by the satirical genius Michael Wharton ("Peter Simple") as dominated by "Alderman Foodbotham, the 25-stone, crag-jawed, iron-watch-chained, grim-booted perpetual chairman of the Bradford City Tramways and Fine Arts Committee", whom neither of the conjoined twins resembles: so much for satire.

The Bradford print is an example of the impact of medicine on society, rather than, as usual, the other way round: a new surgical technique becoming the language of political comment. Separation of conjoined twins from Armenia after the death of one of them is recorded in Byzantium around the year 945: there is even a painting of the doctors carrying out the operation.[3] But that was an isolated example, and separation did not become feasible (supposing it were desired) until the introduction of total anaesthesia in the 1840s and '50s.

Finally, an even less lovely pair.

Line block, 1927. Wellcome Library no. 568901i
These two fellows shouting "Den Juden Tod!" ("Death to Jews!") were the leaders of the Vienna Nazis in 1927. Dr Anton Jerzabek (1867-1939) was a municipal physician in Vienna and leader of the Austrian Antisemitenbund. Dr Walter Riehl (1881-1955), a lawyer, was the antisemitic chairman of the Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei (DNSAP) in Austria. The print shows them so closely united in one body that, unlike Chang and Eng, they have only one pair of limbs between them.

That was then. What about now? It is possible that, as a result of the General Election in the United Kingdom on 6 May 2010, a coalition government may come to power. Should it do so, and should it (as coalitions tend to) later fall apart, how long will it be before satirists take up again the theme of the Siamese twins initiated by Chang and Eng back in 1830? It would be a triumph for surgical experimenters if the two leaders were to be shown walking away from each other with "Hassan" and "Hussein" written on their backs.

[1] 'Conjoined twins Hassan and Hussein separated in op', BBC news

[2] Nancy L. Segal, Entwined lives: twins and what they tell us about human behavior, New York: Plume, 2000, pp. 295-312

[3] G.E. Pentogalos and John G. Lascaratos, 'A surgical operation performed on Siamese twins during the tenth century in Byzantium', Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 1984, 58: 99-102

Archives & Manuscripts Cataloguing - March 2010

As we mentioned in early March, the blog will now feature monthly round-ups of archives and manuscripts material newly available to the public or newly visible on our online database.

The main newly available collection is that of the papers of Sir Harold Himsworth KCB FRS FRCP (1905-1993), medical scientist and administrator - mentioned briefly at the end of the February roundup, as it went live in the earliest days of March, between the end of February and the cataloguing roundup going onto the blog. Papers held are roughly split between Sir Harold Himsworth's scientific career, in particular relating to diabetes, and his subsequent role within the Medical Research Council. Also included are papers on medical education in wartime, an enquiry into the use of tear gas during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and writings on sociology and science. The collection has been described in more detail in a recent blog post by its cataloguer. (PP/HPH)

Just as Himsworth's catalogue was completed at the end of the month, so this month we are able to provide some advance notice of another newly completed collection: the papers of the International Epidemiological Association (IEA) have been catalogued over the past few months, the catalogue being completed as March ended, and will be made available very shortly as soon as the final packaging tasks are completed.

Retroconversion, the process of turning our old word-processed catalogues into database entries, has also continued. The large catalogue describing the papers of the psychiatrists Rudolph Karl Freudenberg and Gerda Freudenberg (née Vorster) have now been retroconverted. These papers relate to psychiatric practice at Netherne Hospital, Freudenberg's involvement with various professional bodies, and his writings on psychiatry, 1930s-1970s. (PP/RKF).

In addition, further detail has been added to the catalogue description of our material relating to the Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895), whose novel Venus in Furs, exploring themes of sexual domination, led to his name being applied to the concept of Masochism. Detailed information about correspondents, previously only available in a hard-copy list in our Rare Materials Room, has been added to the catalogue record relating to Sacher-Masoch and his wife Aurora. (MS.6909)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wellcome Library Insights: April - May 2010

Our popular Insight sessions offer visitors to the Wellcome Library an opportunity to explore the variety of our holdings. These free sessions are thematic in style, last around an hour and offer a chance to learn about our collections from a member of Library staff.

The Spring 2010 series of Insights begins this Thursday afternoon (8th April) at 3pm, exploring how Native American cultures have been recorded, celebrated and misrepresented, using examples from the Library’s American collections. You can pick up your free ticket for this event from the Wellcome Collection Information Desk from 13.30 on the day. Tickets are issued on a first-come, first-served basis: for more details, see the Wellcome Collection website.

Our upcoming Insights sessions for April and May are:

Caricatures and Cartoons - 22nd April, 3-4pm

Anatomies of London – 29th April, 6-7pm

Fascinating Faces – 6th May, 3-4pm

The Occult - 13th May, 6-7pm

Madness - 20th May, 3-4pm

For more details on attending the sessions, please follow the links above to the appropriate pages on the Wellcome Collection website.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cataloguing the Himsworth collection

Newly available in the Archives and Manuscripts collection: the papers of Sir Harold Himsworth (1905-1993)

The personal papers of Sir Harold Himsworth reflect the great diversity of interests that the scientist had during his lifetime. Included within the collection are some of his first experimental notebooks on diabetes, annual reports and papers spanning his long secretarial reign at the Medical Research Council, and even the philosophy book Scientific Knowledge & Philosophic Thought published in the last decade of his life.

Sir Harold Himsworth was distinguished for his dual contribution to experimental medical research and as secretary to the MRC. Within the collection is some of his earliest research into diabetes, undertaken at University College Hospital. The experimental notebooks on animal and human subjects show his work in progress as he examined kidney function and the causes of diabetes. (Researchers should note that there are certain restrictions on access to notebooks containing medical data on human cases). A number of related files within the collection concern conditions such as fructosauria and Addison’s Disease. Later work incorporates Himsworth’s interest in liver function and disease and the collection will undoubtedly be useful for researchers examining the discovery of medical advances within these fields. In addition to Himsworth’s experimental notes and papers, there is also a series of his published articles.

A large portion of the collection illustrates Sir Harold’s second career as secretary to the Medical Research Council (1949-1968). Material includes the organisation’s annual reports written during this time along with memoranda, working papers and other reports. The most intriguing item is a notebook of Sir Harold's compiled during his tour of the African MRC stations, which illustrates his commitment to expanding the MRC to incorporate tropical medicine.

An early indicator of Himsworth's interest in training and research can be found in his active involvement in the movement to reform the training of medical practitioners during the early years of the Second World War. This series comprises Himsworth’s draft papers and correspondence with fellow like-minded physicians and also with institutions such as the Royal College of Physicians and the School of Tropical Medicine. It is worth noting that the documents contain some information on the working conditions of doctors at University College Hospital during the early years of the war. At the latter end of his career Himsworth was a pioneering force in creating the Social Science Research Council and included in the collection are his copies of the working papers of the organisation’s first conference at Warwick in 1968. His interest in the relationship of sociology and medicine is expanded upon during his retirement in the 1980s. The great labour and frustration that he endured during the publication of his article ‘Epidemiology, Genetics and Sociology’ can be seen by the countless re-drafts, correspondence with publishers and critical assessments from friends and former colleagues including Richard Doll.

Sir Harold’s retirement from the MRC did not lead to a sedentary lifestyle as can be seen by his work for the Home Office in the Northern Ireland Enquiry into the effects of CS gas, from 1968 to 1972. The material relating to Northern Ireland is fascinating for the range of documents available which include official minutes and correspondence during the enquiry. Within the reports are eyewitness accounts, results of animal experimentation on CS gas toxicity and related correspondence with scientists in the United States and France. This material is of particular interest due to the political implications of the enquiry and the relationship between science and politics.

The final section of the archive comprises addresses, articles and obituaries collected during Himsworth’s lifetime. The series of addresses are of interest as they document Himsworth’s speeches to a number of institutions from 1953 to 1975. Whilst, the final item of this section is the previously mentioned book Scientific Knowledge and Philosophic Thought (1986) which exemplifies the breadth of knowledge and curiosity of the man.

Author: Chris Olver

The catalogue of the Himsworth papers can be viewed in the online catalogue of Archives and Manuscripts using the reference PP/HPH.

The image shows a tear-gas cannister that has just hit the ground and exploded, reflecting Sir Harold's papers on the use of the gas in Northern Ireland.

Design by Free Wordpress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Templates