Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wellcome Library Insights - September and October


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.

The next series of Insights begins this Thursday afternoon (2nd September) at 3pm, with a session exploring the manuscripts and early printed books once owned by William Morris that are now part of the Wellcome Library's 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 other Insights sessions for September and October are:

The Quest for Perfect Skin - Thursday 9th September, 3-4pm

Mind and Body, Heart and Soul – Thursday 23rd September, 6-7pm

London Faces - Saturday 2nd October, 2.30-3.30pm

Anatomies of London - Thursday 7th October, 6-7pm and Saturday 9th October, 2.30-3.30pm

Henry Wellcome: His Life and Work - 21st October, 3-4pm

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

For a preview of other Wellcome Collection events over the next few months, have a look at this post on the Wellcome Collection Blog.

Image: Liber chronicarum, previously owned by William Morris.

Van Gogh visits Haarlem

‘Schizophrenic genius’, manic depressive, or a sufferer of psychoses that drove him to paint at lightning speed? These are some of the diagnoses that the exhibition 'Dossier Van Gogh: Gek of Geniaal?' ('Mad or Genius?') at the Het Dolhuys Museum of psychiatry in Haarlem, the Netherlands sets out to explore. The Wellcome Library, as part of its ongoing programme of loans to temporary exhibitions both in the UK and abroad, has lent four items from its collections to the exhibition and I was recently lucky enough to travel to Haarlem to install them.

Going on display from the Library were an etching by Van Gogh of his physician Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, Gachet’s business card and a label from an antiseptic medicine he invented, and Etude sur la melancolie a book written by him.

We don’t always send a courier to install items we loan to borrowing institutions - we treat each loan on a case by case basis - but because we had never lent to the Dolhuys before, and because of the value of the Van Gogh etching, we decided that on this occasion someone should go to check the environmental and security conditions. And so it was that I made the short flight over to Holland on a Sunday afternoon, in order to be able to begin the installation first thing the next morning.

The staff at the museum couldn’t have been more welcoming or accommodating – they had gone out of their way to provide our items with their own brand new case, with environmental controls built into it to ensure a stable temperature and relative humidity is maintained at all times, and had positioned security cameras onto the case so that it is monitored around the clock.

During the installation, the museum’s communications advisor asked if they could take a photograph of me holding the Van Gogh etching to be used for publicity purposes – still somewhat windswept from the gale that was blowing outside when I arrived, I was a little hesitant at first, but quickly gave in to the temptation of having my 5 minutes of fame (if you can call it that!).

I was very impressed by what I saw of the museum. Its displays are modern and innovative with an emphasis on involving the visitor as much as possible, and I would highly recommend anyone with an interest in the history and treatment of mental health to pay it a visit. Haarlem itself is a very attractive small town, only a 15 minute train journey from Amsterdam, with many interesting buildings, bars, restaurants and shops.

All in all, this was a great loan to be involved with, and a wonderful opportunity to discover a fascinating museum that deals with a sometimes difficult and uncomfortable subject.

Dossier Van Gogh (The Van Gogh Files), Het Dolhuys, nationaal museum van de psychiatrie, 24 August 2010 - 27 February 2011

Author: Rowan De Saulles

Friday, August 27, 2010

Guest post: Elena Pierazzo on the Arabic ENRICH schema

Elena Pierazzo, from the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s College London describes a new metadata schema for Arabic manuscript cataloguing. The Wellcome Arabic Manuscript Cataloguing Partnership, as previously announced, is working toward providing greater access to the Arabic manuscripts held in the Wellcome Library. One of the goals was to employ a metadata schema appropriate to the rich descriptions that can be captured for this type of material. Elena Pierazzo developed this schema.

The task of creating a cataloguing model for the Wellcome Library has represented for me an exciting opportunity to learn a lot about Arabic manuscripts. My experience so far, although extensive, had only concerned Western manuscripts and I was curious to see where the differences, if any, were to be found. Needless to say, the challenge has proved to be invigorating and rewarding at the same time.

Two main design principles were established from the very beginning:

1. The model should provide a flexible, extendable framework able to accommodate sophisticated data relating to the structure of the physical object (the manuscript) as well as its cultural content. In a manuscript the text cannot be separated from its container without loss of information, the two representing the yin and the yang, body and soul of the same entity.

2. The model should be compliant to the main international standards for cataloguing and classification.

A model based on the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) seemed to be then the best choice. The TEI Guidelines provide a very flexible but rigorous framework for encoding humanities data of a heterogeneous nature. TEI uses XML as a base technology, meaning that the records expressed in TEI are software and platform independent and can be easily used on the web. Furthermore the TEI Guidelines provide scholarly support for every sector of the humanities. In particular, TEI has proved extremely successful for cataloguing manuscripts, having been chosen as the basis of a very important European cataloguing project called ENRICH which had the aim to provide a framework for the cataloguing of European manuscripts across different countries and libraries.

For us, the possibility of adopting the same format used by the ENRICH project was very appealing, as it would allow us to share and interchange data with other libraries and scholars in Europe and beyond. On the other hand, this model had been designed to describe and catalogue western manuscripts; therefore we soon found that some adjustments were necessary. We had, for instance, to increase the number of possible calendars to cover a wider variety of dates and to substitute entirely the list of the types of script used by the scribes. The project in the end, required extensive customization of the schema in order to ensure compliance with established standards (such as those of the Library of Congress) as well as emerging ones (the Ligatus project), while at the same time trying to maintain compliance with ENRICH.

While we were developing the model for the Wellcome Library, another important initiative for cataloguing Arabic manuscripts was coming to the same conclusions; this was the joint JISC project undertaken by the Bodleian Library in Oxford and Cambridge University Library. The model produced for the Wellcome Library was evaluated positively by the Oxbridge project team, and they decided to adapt it for their own catalogues. This makes our model the main format for cataloguing Arabic manuscripts in the UK.

We think that what we have called the Arabic ENRICH schema could also be used by other libraries and projects, and for this reason we decided to make it available for everybody. A annotated template of a typical record and the ODD file that is used for generating a TEI schema are available via the Wellcome Library’s project website. (If you don’t know what an ODD file is or you are not familiar with the TEI Guidelines, you can find more information from the TEI website).

Dr Elena Pierazzo
Centre for Computing in the Humanities
King’s College London

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Great Moon Hoax

As announcements go, the following - made in the New York Sun newspaper, on this day in 1835 - is a tantalising one:

GREAT ASTRONOMICAL DISCOVERIES
LATELY MADE
BY SIR JOHN HERSCHEL, L.L.D. F.R.S. &c.
At the Cape of Good Hope
[From Supplement to the Edinburgh Journal of Science]



What was it that one of the most acclaimed astronomers of his day had observed? Must have been something of great scientific importance to have made the pages of the respected Edinburgh Journal of Science first...

The author of the report - serialised in six extracts - was given as Dr. Andrew Grant, who described himself in the New York Sun as a colleague and travelling companion of Herschel's.
As for what Herschel (pictured left) had seen through his telescope, Grant's claims were extraordinary: no less than evidence of life forms on the moon. And what life forms they were: unicorns, two-legged beavers and furry, winged humanoids resembling bats... Aside from the animal life on the moon, the articles also offered detailed accounts of the moon's landscape (which included trees, beaches and rivers).

Although extraordinary, the style of Grant's accounts fitted with the Sun's emphasis on clear narratives, indicative of the paper's status as one of the new "penny press" papers.

Oh, and there was one small issue about Grant's accounts - they were entirely made up.

Whilst Herschel was of course an astronomer - and had recently travelled to the South of Africa - Grant was not a colleague of Herschel's but a fictional character. And the Edinburgh Journal of Science - as the Wellcome Library's holdings for the title indicates - had stopped publishing a few years before.


So - a 'silly season' splash by the New York Sun? Well, something a bit more intriguing than that. Evidence suggests the stories originated from the pen of Richard Adams Locke, a Sun reporter educated at Cambridge University who had an important point to make: that being to satirise speculation on extraterrestrial life, which was popular at the time. Such writers as the Reverend Thomas Dick (pictured left), who made the case for a universe teeming with life forms in his work The Christian Philosopher and who claimed that the moon alone had over 4.2 billion inhabitants.

Were readers really taken in by the New York Sun's story? It's said that the duped included a delegation of scientists from Yale University, who even travelled to New York in search of the Edinburgh Journal articles. The staff of the Sun then proceeded to send the scientists all round the offices of the newspaper in search of the bogus journals, before the delegation retreated back to Yale without realizing they had been tricked. It seems this story is also a fiction (after all, one would have expected the men from Yale to have checked with their own University's Library staff first...).

Despite other newspapers commenting upon the hoax, the Sun never broke cover and admitted it had duped its readers. It did publish a column on the 16th September in which it discussed the possibility that the story was a hoax, but it never actually confessed to anything, writing "Certain correspondents have been urging us to come out and confess the whole to be a hoax; but this we can by no means do, until we have the testimony of the English or Scotch papers to corroborate such a declaration."
For a more detailed account of this story, we refer readers to Matthew Goodman's The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York (2007), which you can find on our shelves. The Sun, continued to operate until 1950. It never did, however, produce a story as extraordinary as "The Great Moon Hoax" nor admit that this story was a hoax.
With thanks to History.com for alerting us to this anniversary.

Confrontation at Crystal Palace: The Adventure of the Bearded Colossus

One hundred and ten years ago, two doctors confronted one another in South London. One, in his fifties at the time, was the acknowledged leader in his field. The other, ten years younger, was a few years into a stellar career in a different area. In Upper Norwood’s Crystal Palace Park, a few yards from Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins’ dinosaur sculptures, in a bowl of land that now houses the famous Crystal Palace athletics track, the two men met head on…

Their meeting – as the mysterious opening paragraph probably indicates – was not to do with any medical issue, and although both are instantly recognisable to this day, in neither case is it for their medical career. The older man is William Gilbert (“W.G.”) Grace, the brilliant cricketer (and general practitioner). The younger is Arthur Conan Doyle, author, general practitioner and one-time eye specialist.

Born in 1848, Grace had starred for Gloucestershire since he was a teenager, chiefly as a batsman but also as a bowler (initially medium-paced, but growing slower as his waistline increased with the years). In 1895, well into his forties, he had had a great “Indian Summer” season, compiling statistics that ranked with any season of his career – for example, he became the first player to score 1000 runs in May, something only two other people have achieved subsequently. In 1899, however, he quarrelled with the authorities at Gloucestershire and became the lynchpin of a new London County Cricket Club, based at Crystal Palace Park. Although he never had another truly great season, even in the twilight of his career he was a feared player: Grace in decline was as good as many players at their best.

Arthur Conan Doyle, by contrast, loved cricket but performed at a much lower level. At this stage in his career, he had already achieved huge success as the creator of Sherlock Holmes. The great detective had made his debut in two novels in the late 1880s but it was when Doyle began to write a series of short stories featuring Holmes for the Strand magazine, the first appearing in summer 1891, that public enthusiasm really went through the roof. The Strand rapidly made the Sherlock Holmes story its lead item, and circulation doubled. Notoriously, Doyle felt Sherlock Holmes was crowding out all his other literary projects and in December 1893 sent him and his arch-rival Professor Moriarty tumbling, apparently to their deaths, into the Reichenbach Falls; the remainder of the 1890s were spent in a variety of literary endeavours, including other mystery stories, historical fiction and tales on medical themes. When the two men met in 1900, in South Africa the Boer War was under way - something to which Doyle gave enthusiastic support – and he had just revived his medical skills to serve as a volunteer doctor at the Longman Hospital in Bloemfontein. In the late summer, he was back in England and back in the area of South London where he had lived with his wife and daughter earlier in his career (there is a blue plaque on Conan Doyle’s old house in Tenison Road, South Norwood, a mile or so to the south of the Park), on a collision course with W.G. Grace.

Doyle was a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club, and on 23rd-25th August 1900 the MCC took on Grace’s London club in a three-day game at the Crystal Palace. It will not surprise anyone familiar with the English summer to learn that the match was affected by rain – there was no play at all on the first day - and that the two clubs needed to negotiate ways in which the fixture could be brought to a conclusion despite time lost to the weather. Grace agreed to a proposal to extend the final day’s play into the evening to get a result. On the 25th of August, the LCC – who had batted first - were into their second innings. Neither side had scored heavily in the first innings and each had been all out for a very similar figure, so this final day would decide the game. No London batsman was particularly impressive, with the exception of Grace: he scored a century, with his nearest colleague scoring only 36 and all the others struggling to break double figures. Getting Grace out would be crucial for the MCC.

Conan Doyle, a slow-to-medium paced bowler for the MCC, had had a quiet game: taking no wickets in the first innings, and scoring only 4. Now, on the final day, he found himself wheeled in to bowl again. The two main MCC bowlers, Thompson and Cranfield, had taken all the wickets so far. Doyle later recalled the occasion in a long poem, “A Reminiscence of Cricket”:

“Before me he stands like a vision,
Bearded and burly and brown,
A smile of good humoured derision
As he waits for the first to come down…

And I - I had tricks for the rabbits,
The feeble of mind or eye,
I could see all the duffer's bad habits
And where his ruin might lie.

The capture of such might elate one,
But it seemed like one horrible jest
That I should serve tosh to the great one,
Who had broken the hearts of the best.”


And yet: Doyle’s very lack of threat as a bowler, his sheer amateurishness, may have served him well in the end. As he tells it, he sent down two deliveries that Grace treated with perhaps more respect than they deserved, killing them with the bat but not attempting to hit them beyond the crease. Then, on Doyle’s third delivery, when Grace had finally decided that there was no secret weapon and that Doyle was every bit as unpolished as he looked, the great man uncoiled a ferocious shot, and…

Still when my dreams are night-marish,
I picture that terrible smite,
It was meant for a neighboring parish,
Or any place out of sight.

But - yes, there's a but to the story…


But indeed: Grace’s bat swung a fraction too low and the ball, instead of sailing over the trees and landing in Penge, rocketed up vertically and dropped… safely into the gloves of the wicket-keeper.

The London club promptly declared and sent the MCC in to bat for their second innings. As mentioned above, the day’s play was extended to ensure that a result could be reached and, ten minutes after the game had been scheduled to end, the MCC reached their target and secured the victory. Doyle batted in the second innings but was out for a duck; however, his work was done. It was to be the only first-class wicket he ever took, but after W.G. Grace – even in his twilight years – anyone else would have been an anti-climax.

We remember neither man for his medical career: although Grace put in many years of general practice and Poor Law work in working-class areas of Bristol, he was no high-flyer, and Sherlock Holmes claimed Doyle before his medical career really gained any momentum. It is clear that if he had stuck to cricket we would not remember Doyle for that either. But the beauty of a sport wedded to statistics is that his feat – which clearly gave him enormous pleasure – is part of the official records to this day. Cricket fans wanting to see the full scorecard can do so here. And the Wellcome Library recognises both medical high-flyers and those whose main interests lay elsewhere: biographies of both Grace and Doyle can be found in the book collection, whilst Wellcome Images provides several illustrations of both men; there are also small collections of papers relating to both in the Archives and Manuscripts holdings. The main focus of their lives does lie outside medicine, but nonetheless the medical world can claim each as one of ours.

Images, from the top (all from Wellcome Images):
1/ W.G. Grace in middle age.
2/ Arthur Conan Doyle, undated.
3/ Crystal Palace Park, shortly after its opening in the mid-19th century. The cricket ground took over the area occupied by the large fountain to the left of the picture, beyond the dinosaurs.
4/ W.G. Grace in his prime.

Monday, August 23, 2010

BBC audio slideshow "The secret of life" highlights Wellcome digitisation project

























The BBC has published an audio slideshow about the Wellcome Library's newly announced digitisation project. The slideshow focuses primarily on the Crick archive, which, at 300 boxes of material, represents some quarter of a million pages to be made freely available online at the end of a 2 year pilot project.

Dr Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, narrates the slideshow describing the content, the significance of Crick's research and the impact this online resource will have on the research community.

Images in the slideshow feature key items from the Crick archive (and other collections to be digitised related to the foundations of genetic research). The images also provide a behind the scenes view of conservation, preparation and photography.

Wellcome Library launches major digitisation project

The Wellcome Library has announced the launch of an ambitious digitisation project, to provide free, online access to its collections, including archives and papers from Nobel prize-winning scientists Francis Crick, Fred Sanger and Peter Medawar:

"Creation of the Wellcome Digital Library will throw open the doors of the Wellcome Library and its unique collections to a worldwide audience, providing a global resource for the study of the history of medicine and modern bioscience.

The Wellcome Trust has approved a budget of £3.9 million to begin a two-year pilot project on the theme of Modern Genetics and its Foundations. Drawing on the Wellcome Library's internationally renowned collections, content will include 1400 books on genetics and heredity published between 1850 and 1990, along with important archives including the papers of Francis Crick and his original drawings of the proposed structure of DNA.

Director of the Wellcome Trust, Sir Mark Walport, explains the choice of the pilot theme: "Modern genetics has made a tremendous impact on our understanding of human and animal health in recent years, and so it makes sense that the Library would begin digitising its collections in this important area of medical history. This project marks the first step on a long road which we hope will lead ultimately to free online access to all of our collections."

'In addition to our unique and spectacular collections, we have a team of experts who can offer interpretations to place the collections in their cultural and historical contexts'.

The aim is to provide a documentary record of modern genetics, not only from a scientific perspective, but also from political, economic, technological, social, cultural and personal viewpoints.

'Free, online access to these highly significant manuscripts and books will be a wonderful resource for historians of medical science and others interested in genetics. It will transform what we can do,' said Dr Nick Hopwood, a medical historian at the University of Cambridge. 'As the Wellcome Digital Library expands, I expect it to play a major role in stimulating research and debate.'

In addition to content from the Wellcome Library, up to £1 million of the fund will be used to support digitisation of relevant material from partner institutions in the UK and overseas.

Users will be able to access the repository following completion of the pilot phase of digitisation, slated for completion in September 2012."

This project will see up to 1m images digitised from the Wellcome Library's archival and book holdings. The library will also build a digital library system to manage and preserve the content over the long term, and to display digital content in easy-to-use, flexible, and engaging ways.

Friday, August 20, 2010

20th August 1858

It could be argued that the 20th August is one of the most important days in the history of scientific publication. As it was on this day in 1858, that Volume III Number 9 of the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society was published.

Why the importance? Click on the image to the left and the last of the Zoological Papers listed may ring some bells.

The importance of this paper was not immediately clear at the time, with Thomas Bell, the President of the Linnean Society commenting in 1859 (now infamously): "The year which has passed has not, indeed, been marked by any of those striking discoveries which at once revolutionize, so to speak, the department of science on which they bear".

Given the developments which arose from the paper, we may laugh at Bell's comment now. But are we confident enough to think that we would have noted the importance of this paper if we would have read it on this day in 1858?

Edwin Morgan (1920-2010)


The death was announced yesterday of the Scottish poet Edwin Morgan. A major poetical voice, Morgan's obituaries do their best to capture the range and styles of his vast array of poems.

Evident from Morgan's work is his fascination by science: his poems commenting with wonder upon such topics as space travel, zoology, biology and evolution. A naturally clear-sighted illustration of his belief in the close relationship of science with poetry, is to be found in his essay 'Poetry and Virtual Realities' published in Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science (2007) (a copy of which is held in our Medicine and Society collections).

In this essay, Morgan comments how his work looked at "how scientific facts and discoveries could be opened out fictionally within a broader context of human experience". Such a statement stands for much of his poetry, but perhaps the clearest examples are in his collection Virtual and Other Realities (2007). This work includes a poem on Matthew Clydesdale, the executed murderer allegedly brought (briefly) back to life by Dr Andrew Ure at the University of Glasgow in 1818 and 'A Voyage' a sequence of poems on the meeting of a sperm and an egg and which are told from their perspectives.

It is perhaps not surprising that when diagnosed with cancer Morgan turned his gaze inward: writing dialogues between a normal cell and a cancerous cell. Even here, life could be looked upon with wonder and humour.

Image: from The Guardian

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Medical London Free iPhone App

Wellcome Collection have produced a free iPhone app to accompany the Medical London: City of Diseases, City of Cures book. The app offers an audiovisual tour of Bloomsbury and the surrounding area, delving into the medical heritage quite literally on the Wellcome Library's doorstep.

The original work by author Richard Barnett drew heavily on the Library's holdings. Subtitled Blood, Guts, Brains and Babies, the tour begins at Lincoln's Inn Fields and covers approximately three miles. On average it should take around two hours to complete, but of course depends on your pace - and how sidetracked you get.

If you can't get to Bloomsbury to hit the pavements for yourself, we would still heartily encourage you to check the free app out (or indeed, viewing the content online). For those who are in and around London this coming October another series of medically-themed free walks are scheduled for the Bloomsbury area. Keep an eye on the Wellcome Collection website for more details.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beatles, Brains and Seahorses






MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans taken of the head, create a magnetic field 30,000 times stronger than that generated by the earth. In doing so, water molecules in the brain absorb or transmit radio waves which can then be read by computer. Ultimately this allows us to measure changes in blood-oxygen levels, indicating areas of activity deep within the brain.
Brain scans have only just begun to reap enormous benefits for scientists as they can now, literally, watch us 'think'. They are re-shaping the way in which we see ourselves and what is known about how we process our emotions and relate to the outside world.
Another important brain scanning technique is the CT (Computed Tomography) scan in which two-dimensional X rays are transformed into a three-dimensional image.
But what can the Beatles take credit for? In an intriguing footnote in her recently published book, Pictures of the Mind , Miriam Boleyn-Fitzgerald reveals that the enormous success of the group enabled their then record company EMI to help fund one of the researchers who invented the CT scan.
The language used to discuss the Brain has changed to reflect the dominant ideologies of the time, when humoral theory was popular it was seen as a part of the ebb and flow of fluids around our system. More recently it has been compared to a 'computer' that acts as a controlling nerve centre. I like Boleyn-Fitzgerald's description of the hippocampus, a structure within the forebrain, which she describes, more naturally, as 'seahorse-shaped'.














Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Norman Heatley OBE (1911-2004) - The unsung hero of Penicillin

In May 1940 Norman Heatley applied for the Philip Walker Studentship in Pathology, University of Oxford. He wrote:

“Since October 1939 I have been helping Professor Florey (in collaboration with Dr E. Chain) in the investigation of the naturally occurring bactericidal agent “Penicillin”, which is formed by a certain species of mould. This material was first reported in 1929, but in spite of its obvious practical importance, --- for it seems to be completely non-toxic to mammalian tissues, --- practically no further work on it has been published. It is possible that during the last decade several people have begun work on this problem but have been discouraged by its apparent instability, or the difficulty of obtaining it, or the laboriousness of measuring its activity. During the last six months a technique has been worked out in this laboratory by which a steady and increasing supply of the material is assured; at the same time a method of assay many times quicker than that used previously has been evolved, and already a considerable purification of the active principle has been achieved. We have shown that enormous doses of the material can be injected intravenously into mice without harmful effects, and it is known that certain pathogenic bacteria are inhibited or destroyed by very low concentrations of it. At worst, penicillin will be a valuable bacteriological reagent for the isolation and cultivation of certain difficult bacteria; at best, it may turn out to be a therapeutic agent of the highest immediate importance (e.g. for the treatment and prevention of infection in war wounds)” (Letter contained in PP/NHE/B/2/3).

The way in which Heatley, (as part of the team that developed penicillin), continued the “investigation of the chemical, pharmacological and bacteriological properties of penicillin” and the enormous impact the results had on millions of lives throughout the world is documented in the recently catalogued Heatley archive.



Originally consisting of just one box of material, listed and deposited in the Wellcome Library in the early 1980s (and given the collection reference GC/48), the collection was greatly enlarged by the donation of additional material from Mercy Heatley, following her husband’s death in 2004. Now comprising 30 boxes and catalogued with the collection reference PP/NHE the Heatley archive informs researchers in three main regards: it records the career of Norman George Heatley, biochemist and experimental pathologist; it forms an important source of original and retrospective material on the history of penicillin and antibiotics; undoubtedly, it conveys Heatley’s exceptional skills as a scientist as well as his personality - meticulous, modest, courteous and infinitely helpful.

The collection includes:
• Norman Heatley’s laboratory research notebooks, including those recording
breakthrough work with Howard Florey on the therapeutic effects of penicillin, in Oxford May 1940 (see PP/NHE/A/2/1/4).
• Correspondence and papers relating to Heatley’s work in the USA during 1941 and 1942 on the development of penicillin and promotion of its large scale production.
• Notebooks and papers relating to Heatley’s other biochemical research work, including his design and development of a new microrespirometer from the 1930s onwards, research on non-ionic detergents in the early 1950s, work in Oxford on Staphylococcal Delta-Haemolysin in the mid-1960s, and secondments to laboratories in the USA to work on secretin and pancreozymin, 1962-1963 and 1968.
• Publications and writings by Norman Heatley spanning his entire career.
• Publications and writings by scientists working in the same field notably series of articles by Howard Florey and by Edward P Abraham and other scientists based at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford.
• Section C, entitled ‘Telling the Story of Penicillin’, comprises material collected by Norman Heatley during his lifetime, much of which was generated via his contribution to or participation in antibiotic related histories, anniversaries, exhibitions, publications and broadcasts. As such, Section C may be of particular interest to those who wish to study the ways in which the discovery, development and history of penicillin and antibiotics has been recounted and portrayed in various media.

The catalogue of the Heatley archive can be searched online at through our archives and maunuscript catalogue and the papers are available to researchers at the Wellcome Library from 18 August 2010.

Stop Press: The Heatley archive is scheduled for photography as part of the Wellcome Library Digitization Project, 'Modern Genetics and its Foundations', between mid-September 2010 to mid-April 2011 and will be unavailable to library users during that period. Researchers who wish to consult the collection before Spring next year should therefore hurry along to the Wellcome Library within the next few weeks!

Images:
1 - Photograph of Norman Heatley, used in a BBC News article on Heatley
2 - Illustration of apparatus used for producing penicillin (PP/NHE/A/2/1/5)

Author: Amanda Engineer

Monday, August 16, 2010

Item of the Month: Pencil drawings by an unknown Prisoner of War


The picture above was drawn in 1944, when the artist was interned in Tamuang camp, Thailand. This drawing, along with two others by the same artist, came to the Wellcome Library as part of a small collection of papers belonging to Dr. John Simpson. We do not know how Simpson acquired this drawings, but the signature is clearly not his. John Simpson was a Flight Lieutenant in the medical branch of the RAF. In late 1941 24 year old Simpson was posted to Singapore, which fell to the Japanese shortly afterwards.

From the time of his arrival in Singapore until June 1943, Simpson kept a record of his movements by making brief notes in his RAF ID. From this, we can see that he spent the first months of his internment being moved around between a total of six different camps within Indonesia. On 25th February 1943 he was put on board the former SS Kinta, one of the notorious hell ships, and transported to Thailand, via Singapore, to become one of the 60,000 allied POW's working on the Thailand-Burma railway.

Whilst he was a Prisoner of War, John Simpson treated his fellow POW's for conditions such as oedema and cholera, both of which were common results of the poor conditions within the camps. He recorded details of the patients he saw on scraps of paper. Unfortunately, however, the high turnover of people within the camps means that it is not possible to see how often his advice was followed, or what happened to his patients.

Despite a 6 month long battle with diarrhea in 1943, and an eighteen month bout of fever in 1943-1944, Simpson was one of the lucky ones. The Burma-Thailand railway was nicknamed the “Death Railway” because of the number of people who died during its construction, estimated to be over 100,000. The building of the Thailand–Burma railway is considered a war crime.

After the war, John Simpson returned home to Britain. He used his experiences of treating prisoners of war to write his thesis “A Syndrome of Painful Feet and Retrbular Neuritis Occurring Amongst British Prisoners of War in the Far East”, a copy of which is included in the archive.

Nothing is known about the fate of the artist.

The Wellcome Library Archives and Manuscripts department holds a number of items relating to the experiences of Prisoners of War in the Far East, including the papers of Cicely Williams, Surgeon-Captain John Allison Page, and the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Florence Nightingale Centenary

On this day one hundred years ago, Florence Nightingale died. As such, we have chosen to mark the day by considering the collections held in the Wellcome Library pertaining to a woman who is still one of the most recognisable names in the history of medicine.

Our collections include a sizeable amount of Nightingale's correspondence: hundreds of letters whose date-span covers almost the whole of her long life. The letters cover her career and interests, including her attempts to become a nurse despite the protestations of her family, her famous service during the Crimean War and subsequent work reforming the training and practice of nursing, through to her other concerns such as sanitation, cottage hospitals and the use of medical statistics.

The last of these topics is illustrated by correspondence between Nightingale and William Farr (MS.8033). Farr was one of the leading epidemiologists of the nineteenth century, and collaborated with Nightingale in providing statistical evidence for sanitary reform.

To Nightingale, statistics was "the most important science in the world". Statistics could be expressed in visual forms to put across important points, most famously in Nightingale's case in the form of her diagram clearly illustrating how deaths from disease far outweighed fatalities caused by "wounds in battle" during the Crimean War (Click on image to enlarge).



Nightingale's skills as a statistician were recognised when and she was elected as a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society in 1858 - the first woman to receive this accolade.

But our collections also illuminate 'The Lady with the Lamp' even when she's not directly present. For example, the letter book (MS.8520) of Sir John Hall, Head of Medical Services during the Crimean War, gives us a less than flattering portrait of Nightingale. Far from being impressed with her reforms, Hall writes to his superiors defending the army medical services from her criticisms, including that her intervention deprived the army of perfectly good nurses who were working in the Crimean before her arrival. Hall pulls no punches in accusing Nightingale of arrogance and being an interfering busy body desperate for power, in short – to quote directly from his letters – a "petticoat imperium".

However, the romanticised representations of Nightingale - often in object form - of the late nineteenth century are mirrored in the visual representations the Library holds. Lithographs, prints and paintings, all putting a positive spin on Nightingale's activities in the Crimean (where it should be remembered, she only spent 2 years of the nine decades of her life). These images though, help to illustrate how she was objectified and romanticised in the nineteenth century.

Nightingale's life has been reinterpreted by each succeeding generation, with new biographers seeking to zero in on a new area of Nightingale's life. For example, in Brian Dillon's Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives (2009), Nightingale's long period of convalescence after the Crimean War is analysed. Understandably, given the range and scale of our sources described above, many of these biographies – such as Mark Bostridge's Florence Nightingale: The Woman and her Legend (2008) - have utilised our resources and on publication have gone on to find a space in the Library's collections.

But perhaps we can leave the last word to Nightingale herself: not through her voluminous writings, but through her own voice, as the Library holds a recording, made in 1890 of Nightingale which aimed to raise money for the impoverished veterans of the Charge of the Light Brigade. Freely available to listen to online, Nightingale's words bring together her involvement in the Crimean with reflections on her own posterity:

"When I am no longer a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life. God bless my dear old comrades of Balaclava and bring them safe to shore. Florence Nightingale".

(The story behind how this item came into our collections is worth exploring in more detail and its something we hope to return to in a future Blog post).

Florence Nightingale, her legacy and wider notions of nursing are also the subject of two forthcoming Wellcome Collections events. On the evening of Friday 17th September, Handle with Care explores the critical roles that science and the senses have played in nursing and midwifery and reflects on changes in practice, through film, theatre, music, talks and many hands-on activities. While on Saturday 18th September, Nightingale's multi-faceted life will be explored at 'Navigating Nightingale', a symposium organised by the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, King’s College London, and featuring an array of expert speakers.

'Handle with Care' is a free event, while details on registering for 'Navigating Nightingale' are available through King's College's website.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Introducing My Lists to the Library catalogue

Today we’re bringing wish list functionality to the library catalogue with the roll-out of a new feature: My Lists.

What is My Lists?

Maybe you need to create a list of items to consult on your next visit to the Library. Or you may be looking for a way to save multiple lists of materials for your various research interests. My Lists lets you do this and more. By using My Lists, you can create a permanent record of library catalogue records for reference, request from the closed stores, export and email.

Another great advantage of this new feature is permanence. If you use My Lists, all lists you create will be saved to your account until you delete them.

My Lists requires a login and PIN, so if you’re not already a Wellcome Library member, register online now to get selected membership privileges. Then check out the catalogue help page to get started using My Lists.

We’re always keen to hear your feedback on our online catalogues and services. Tell us your tales of Library catalogue woes or woohoos by commenting on the blog or sending an email.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Do the English really have bad teeth?

While looking for interesting items from our collections to show a visiting group of dental professionals, I came across these examples of dentists’ advertising cards in our Ephemera Collection.




All dating from around the early 1900s, they demonstrate an intriguing persistence in design. A young woman is depicted in ‘before and after’ shots in which her blackened teeth are transformed into a perfect smile. In two of the cards the pictures are helpfully labelled to reassure you that the dentist will restore you smile, not leave you toothless. The design becomes faintly ridiculous when it is applied to a photograph where the blackened teeth are obviously faked.


Apart from the glimpse of advertising in its unsophisticated infancy, the cards also offer an interesting comment on the fashion of the time. The hair, jewellery and dress of the young women is virtually identical in all three cards, and one wonders if they might have been modelled on some famous beauty of the time?

The other thing that caught my eye was the reference to American dentistry (viz. “American Dental Association” and the “American Dental Co”) in the names of English dental practices. Investigating the dental ephemera material further, I found other references to American dentistry from the 1890s. London based dentist J. Shipley Slipper [1] recalls that:

“an American dissenting minister called upon me yesterday… if he had been an Englishman he wouldn’t have had a tooth left in his head. As it was he had nearly all of them, only they had been stopped”.

And an American dentist also based in London, Dr Edwin L. Shattuck produced a booklet [2], in which he noted that:

“The British public seem generally left far and away behind other countries and especially America as regards [dentistry]. The present uphill struggle is due to the antagonism of old-fashioned English dentists who are content with the old systems laid down by their fathers and probably their grandfathers.”

A little historical research reveals that the high regard for American dentistry in the UK around this time goes back to the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, when American dentists won top honours for their displays of artificial teeth, crowns and bridgework. At the end of the nineteenth century there were nine dental colleges in the United States, in Europe there were none [3]. The term ‘American Dentistry’ then, became synonymous with modern practices and high quality procedures, resulting in the many American style practitioners at the turn of the century, many of whom had little or no connection to American training. Dr Shattuck warns of this in his booklet:

“I warn patients against all so-called American dentists whose qualifications will not bear the light of day. It was possible some years ago for Englishmen to obtain a sham degree from America for the large sum of $10... styling themselves ‘American dentists’".

It’s fascinating how ideas persist in societies, long after the original circumstances have disappeared or been forgotten. It would seem that those jokes in American films and TV programmes about the English having bad teeth might have had some basis in truth, at least at the end of the nineteenth century when American Dentistry became mark of high quality, even amongst the English.

[1] A Brief Treatise on English and American Dentistry, 1890
[2] A Few Remarks on Modern and American Dentistry, c.1890
[3] Wynbrandt, James, The Excruciating History of Dentistry, 1998

Author: Lalita Kaplish

Monday, August 9, 2010

Genetic Alliance UK Archive Available at the Wellcome Library


The archives of Genetic Alliance UK (formerly known as the Genetic Interest Group) have been catalogued and are now available to researchers at the Wellcome Library. The catalogue of the collection can be searched online through the Archives and Manuscripts online catalogue.

The Genetic Alliance UK archive consists of material relating to the organisation from their founding in 1989 right through to their recent name change, which took place in June of this year. It includes documents originally produced for internal circulation, such as minutes of meetings, and those created to be seen outside the organisation, for example newsletters and publications. The collection of publications produced by Genetic Alliance UK, both alone, and in conjunction with other organisations, is a particularly rich source of information. A few of these publications can be viewed in digital form on the Genetic Alliance UK Website

The Wellcome Library, along with our parent body the Wellcome Trust, has a stated interest in genetics and public engagement. Genetic Alliance UK is an organisation that successfully brings these two things together. As such we look forward to a long and productive relationship with Genetic Alliance UK and their members.

Getting public health messages across

"A really successful poster actually tells people what to do". That's the opening message from Dr Laragh Gollogly of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the BBC's new audio-slideshow on public health posters. The posters shown are some of those selected by Dr Gollogly for publication in a splendid illustrated book Public health campaigns: getting the message across (Geneva: WHO, 2009), which was launched at the Wellcome Library earlier this year.

The international coverage of the WHO (it has 193 countries as members) makes it well suited to display the particular problems arising from health campaigns in more than one country, which are discussed by Dr Gollogly in the audio commentary and illustrated in the choice of posters. Without detailed local knowledge, it would be impossible to respond to people's fears and desires, stir their emotions and engage them in the mission to do whatever the campaign needs to get done. Some of the posters are less concerned with "telling people what to do" than with raising their awareness of what not to do, and in fact a wide range of approaches is revealed.

Anyone working with historic posters faces particular obstacles. The collections are scattered. There are not many catalogues, and most of them are too laconic from want of contextual information. Almost all the posters other than those produced by the US government are in copyright, and clearance of copyrights can be arduous. Information about dates and print runs is hard to find except in bureaucratic regimes such as Soviet Russia. As a result of Soviet dirigism we know that this diphtheria poster (right) was produced in 1939 and had a print run of 10,000 impressions, but most British, Dutch and Danish posters (for example) do not have the print run printed on them, and we can only guess at the date (1940s or 1950s) of the American swimming-pool poster reproduced above (top).

But the posters are often the main means of communication between health organizations and the public, so it can be rewarding to meet these challenges, as the WHO has done here. And if one does so, one often finds an interesting backstory behind the production of the poster, as for example with Abram Games's controversial Your Britain series (left).

And as more posters are catalogued the job becomes easier, since the opportunities to compare and contrast are increased, and further light is shed on previously obscure designers, publishers and catchphrases. The Wellcome Library catalogue currently includes 4,208 posters, and new items are being added frequently, whether from new acquisitions or from existing, previously uncatalogued, holdings. There are also good online catalogues at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC; the US National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland; the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library at the University of California in Los Angeles; the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam; the Swiss National Library in Berne; the Museum für Gestaltung in Zürich; the Kunstindustrimuseet in Copenhagen; the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin; and elsewhere. Printed catalogues such as those by William H. Helfand and Marine Robert-Sterkendries have not been superseded by online works, and the WHO's new volume is a useful addition alongside the publications of those expert authors.

The BBC's introduction to the WHO's new work is one in a series of productions by Paul Kerley, who has refined these five-minute talks with music and visual evidence into a fine art. Recent productions by him deal with Pope John Paul II's almost-cancelled tour of the UK in 1982, Siegfried Sassoon's World War I manuscripts in Cambridge University Library, and the current exhibition of Frederick Cayley Robinson's paintings at the National Gallery in London: all highly recommended for their production skills in addition to their subject matter.

Top: poster designed by Dorothy Darling Fellnagel (1913-2006) and published in the USA in the 1940s or 1950s. Wellcome Library no. 47637i
Above right: "Protect your child from diphtheria. Go to the doctor and get him vaccinated.", Moscow 1939.
Wellcome Library no. 545750i
Above left: poster designed by Abram Games (1914-1996) in 1942, showing Kensal House, at the north end of Ladbroke Grove in London, as a promise of improved housing after the war.
Wellcome Library no. 20283i

Friday, August 6, 2010

'Nutrition and History in the Twentieth Century'


A one day conference at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), will be held next month on 15th September.

The conference - 'Nutrition and History in the Twentieth Century' - is jointly organised by the Centre for History in Public Health and the LSHTM Archives, and will bring together historians, archivists and past and present members of the Nutrition Unit at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The conference will draw attention to nutrition archives at LSHTM and at the Wellcome Library and speakers - on such themes as nutrition science, food policy, and famine - include David Smith, Sander Gilman and the Wellcome Library's Amanda Engineer.

A draft programme for the day is available and more details on the Conference - including an application form - can be found on the the LSHTM website.


Images:
A health worker in India, using flash cards to give health education on nutrition, mid-late twentieth century
Advert for Liebig's Beef Wine prepared by S. Stephens, Chemist and Opticians, Milnsbridge, 1900s

Rev : the Gothic Years

Passing under my nose in the Rare Materials Room this week was a fascinating tome by the Reverend Thomas Price, writing passionately in 1829 about Goths (not the pasty-faced variety clothed in black but the ancient tribe).

Wrestling with the belief that all humankind is descended from the same parents, Price considers how we ended up looking different (skin colour, physical type, hair variations, etc). It is a fascinating insight into the age before Darwin's theory of evolution. For example, Price observed that dark-eyed people lived near coal mines and he believed this was just one example of environment shaping our appearance. He did not worry about scientific proof but concludes that this must be a significant factor.

Normans, Goths, Celts, Picts and many others come under close scrutiny as does ancient Roman writings on what these people looked like. The Roman authors were very much at odds with each other over the distinguishing features of other 'national' tribes. Even as long ago as that, appearances, it seems, are very much in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Archives and Manuscripts cataloguing - July 2010

Our archive cataloguing during July was chiefly dominated by on-going projects rather than the release of new records to the database: although several of those projects will appear very shortly, some as early as August’s round-up. One very small collection was catalogued swiftly and released on the same day: various items of correspondence, mostly undated, by the author and medical man Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) (MS.8744).

The papers of the biochemist Norman Heatley (PP/NHE) will be released in the very near future: cataloguing is completed and what remains is the final editing of the catalogue and the necessary physical processing (boxing up, labelling and so forth). As mentioned in a recent blog post, this will tell another side of the penicillin story to that given in the recently-retroconverted papers of Sir Ernest Chain (PP/EBC).

Behind the scenes, work continued on the papers of the psychiatrist Henry Dicks. In addition, under the heading of new cataloguing, we can include a radical expansion of the catalogue of the papers of the geneticist Professor Hans Grüneberg (PP/GRU) which will make available much more detailed information about his individual correspondents.

A project is also under way to expand the amount of material catalogued and available that relates to Wellcome Witness seminars on various topics in medical science – the fruits of this will appear in the near future as GC/253.

The retroconversion project to convert all our old hard-copy archive catalogues to database form moves ever closer to completion. This month saw the release of the catalogue relating to Sir Graham Selby Wilson (1895-1987), bacteriologist (PP/GSW). Wilson’s particular research areas were the Salmonella group of bacteria, brucellosis and tuberculosis, milk hygiene and the control of diphtheria. His papers include biographical information, research materials, lectures and material on his academic career in Manchester and at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and papers on the setting up and operation of the wartime Emergency Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS), of which Wilson became Director in 1941, continuing as Director of the peacetime service until retirement in 1963.

Also of particular note is the collection of papers from the Abortion Law Reform Association (SA/ALR), whose catalogue completed retroconversion and checking during the final hours of July and went live on Monday August 2nd – these will be mentioned in more detail in next month’s round-up.

In addition, behind the scenes retroconversion work also continued on various collections such as the Medical Research Council’s Blood Group Unit (SA/BGU) and the Birth Control Campaign (SA/BCC).

Image: Sir Graham Selby Wilson, the catalogue of whose papers was released to the database this month. Photograph from Wellcome Images.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Rare Books




















High summer finds us in the cool basement stores where the Rare Books are kept. Nearly 70,000 printed books and pamphlets published up to 1850 are shelved here, making up one of the most comprehensive collections of early medical literature and containing titles by all the key authors in this field. One of nearly 650 incunabula, the earliest book in the collection was published in 1467: De sermonum proprietate, by Rabanus Maurus, Archibishop of Mainz.

“This collection, which contains a significant proportion of books unique to the UK, is a valuable resource for researchers; consequently the collection is very popular with our visitors,” according to Julianne Simpson, Rare Books Librarian, who has managed the collection for the past five years. Some of the most interesting items include those on alchemy and the early history of chemistry, the “anatomical fugitive sheets”, printed ephemera, books from the Medical Society of London Library, 1,500 books from the library of Ernst Darmstaedter, and over 200 books from the library of William Morris.

Many of these books were collected in the early 20th century by Henry Wellcome (founder of the Wellcome Trust), but new titles have been added since, and continue to be added. Julianne sources relevant and unique titles from a number of trusted booksellers and auction houses. All new accessions are included in the Library catalogue.

Julianne may be seen regularly invigilating in the Rare Materials Room, but she also provides support to researchers by answering enquiries about the collection (for example, providing information about the unique aspects of specific editions or copies held here). Julianne works with the Photography team in approving book scanning for readers; with Rowan on lending books to exhibitions both internal and external; and with the Cataloguing department.

Several books from the collection are on display in the current Skin exhibition in Wellcome Collections, and even more have been identified for the High Society exhibition planned for autumn 2010. This allows the public to view these rare and fascinating books otherwise accessible only to visiting researchers or as images online. Many illustrations and some cover-to-cover photography is available on Wellcome Images, or via the Library catalogue (for example, The Christian’s Refuge, 1665 which can be downloaded in full as a PDF).

 
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