Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cardiac history roundup

The photograph above, dated 1931, portrays the cardiologist Edward Franklin Bland. Born in Virginia in 1901, Bland spent most of his career at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), where he was an Intern, House Officer, Cardiac Fellow, and finally in 1949 Chief of Cardiology, a post he held until his retirement in 1964. The photograph was kindly presented to the Wellcome Library by Dr Arthur Hollman FRCP, the biographer of Sir Thomas Lewis: Dr Hollman had acquired it as a result of the fact that in 1930 Bland had spent a year on research in Lewis's laboratory at University College Hospital (UCH) in London. [1]

As a result of Bland's year with Lewis, the Wellcome Library has in its Thomas Lewis archive (PP/LEW) a letter from Lewis to Bland dated 25 March 1933. Lewis thanks Bland for submitting a paper to the journal Heart (edited by Lewis) but has to decline it because Heart was about to be replaced by a new journal Clinical science. Lewis advises Bland to "cut out a lot of stuff about coronary anomalies" because it "doesn't really give anything new": coronary anomalies were a special interest of Bland, and one of them is named Bland-White-Garland Syndrome after him, his former colleague at MGH Paul Dudley White, and Joseph Garland, who was a visiting physician at MGH while editor of the New England Journal of Medicine (and himself the owner of a congenital cardiac anomaly).

Lewis then goes on to offer for Bland's consideration a view which, in its teleological phrasing, could mutatis mutandis have been written by Galen. Explaining why, if arterial blood is not available, the myocardium clutches at straws by accepting venous blood as being better than nothing, Lewis says "In these cases Nature performs an experiment on the effects of supplying the heart with venous blood. Now in cases of occlusion of the coronary arteries, the heart is thought by some to be supplied by the Thebesian vessels [named after their discoverer Adam Christian Thebesius (1686–1732)]. The Thebesian vessels open chiefly into the right heart so that if the myocardium is supplied through these vessels it is being supplied chiefly with venous blood." Lewis does not elaborate further.

Finally in this letter Lewis refers to a forthcoming visit by Bland, who must have been about to return to the UK in 1933: "I will talk about them when I see you in a few weeks. We are looking forward to that very much. It is good of you and Jones to drive us about the country." Jones was possibly T.Duckett Jones, Bland's co-author in several papers on the heart disease rheumatic fever. Evidently Bland and Jones had offered to act as chauffeurs to Sir Thomas and Lady Lewis in exchange for Sir Thomas's gifts of physiological wisdom.

One of the puzzling things about heart transplantation from an outsider's point of view is the sudden emergence to world-wide fame of the previously obscure Dr Christiaan Barnard. Today, he is probably the only transplant surgeon whose name is widely known, yet when experts talk about the history of transplantation, names of other great figures tend to be mentioned, such as Norman Shumway, Roy Calne, Thomas E. Starzl, and Denton A. Cooley. These worked in international centres of surgical research such as Stanford University in California; Houston, Texas; or Cambridge, England — while the man who beat them to the goal and outshone them all in the public mind was apparently a relative outsider: Barnard, working at the University of Cape Town (above) under the pressures of the apartheid regime of the time. How did that happen?

The recent history of Groote Schuur Hospital by Anne Digby and others [2] shows that research at Groote Schuur had developed after a slow start in the 1950s and flourished until the 1980s, though bedevilled by government policies: in the 1960s and 1970s black students were not allowed to cross the corridor which separated the wards for black patients from the white wards. It really was Barnard's first transplant operation on 3 December 1967 which put the hospital on the international map.

The background to these events is presented in a vivid lecture given on 25 January 2011 by Dr. David Cooper to the C.F. Reynolds Medical History Society at the University of Pittsburgh. The lecture has been made available on the internet by Dr John Erlen at the School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh. [3] Dr. Cooper was a surgical associate of Barnard and evidently knew him well. As Cooper shows, there were other names as well, notably "the great John Lewis" (whose achievements in the field went unrecognized) and James Hardy of University of Mississippi at Jackson. Still, Barnard had had the idea of a full human heart transplant in his head for a long time (as Cooper shows from a chance remark made by Barnard early in their acquaintance, while talking about the inadequate treatment a heart patient was receiving). As a result, when he did carry it out, he was remarkably casual about it, showing that he had gone over it in his mind many times without telling anyone. Contrary to legend, Cooper shows that the procedure (apart from a bad patch in the 1970s) was usually very successful in prolonging the lives of patients.

It's a long way from the work of Edward F. Bland, though there is a connection: Barnard developed his techniques of cardiac surgery in the Tetralogy of Fallot, one of those anatomical anomalies that Bland was so interested in. Bland did live to see the establishment of transplantation: he himself must have been blessed with a good heart, for he died in 1992 at the age of 91.

The history of the Knights of Malta (Knights of Rhodes, Knights Hospitallers, Knights of St John) was one of the interests of the founder of the Wellcome Library, Henry S. Wellcome. He acquired a substantial archive of their papers in Paris in 1933 (subsequently returned to Malta), and several iconographic documents, most notably this painting by Antoine de Favray. In recent years the Knights have focused their medical activities on specific fields such as refugees, people with leprosy, and – most conspicuous in Great Britain -- emergency services: their British outcrop St John's Ambulance is a familiar presence at crowded events such as football matches, gigs and royal weddings.

One of their contributions to emergency medicine was a campaign in France in the 1960s called "Don du souffle" (Gift of breath). Judging from this poster (above: Wellcome Library no. 744037i) which sports the Cross of Malta in the top right corner, it was intended to educate the French public in the possibilities of cardiac resuscitation. The heart — a small organ normally enveloped by the larger lung — is here brought into the foreground, being presented as a red berry on the green leaf of a single lung which folds out from the trachea. Highly stylised anatomy, of course, but all in the aid of saving lives by drawing attention to what can be done with the heart and lung.

[1] Memoir of Bland:

[2] Anne Digby and Howard Phillips with Harriet Deacon and Kirsten Thomson, At the heart of healing: Groote Schuur Hospital, 1938-2008, Auckland Park, South Africa: Jacana, 2008, pp. xiii, 281-285

[3] David K.C. Cooper, 'Chris Barnard and the story of heart transplantation', URL: See also his book Open heart: the radical surgeons who revolutionized medicine, New York: Kaplan Pub., 2010

Putting Medical Officer of Health reports on the map

The Wellcome Library holds nearly 3,000 Medical Officer of Health reports, the most complete collection of its kind in Great Britain. These can already be searched on our catalogue, where the ‘Place’ and ‘Refine by tag’ facets make it easy to narrow down your search by geographical area.

But it also makes sense to view geographical information on a map:
Every red dot is a placemarker for each report that we hold, and the sheer number of placemarkers shows the volume of this material at the Wellcome Library. As with any Google Map, you can drag and zoom in and out to focus on a particular place.
Placemarkers not only indicate that we have a report for that area. Click one and you get more information about the report itself, as well as a link to it in our catalogue:

The map was created by putting some Library data into a Google Fusion Table. You can play around with the map a bit more there. For example, it’s easy to see a map for records with a particular subject heading, such as ‘Harbors’, by filtering:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Digitising the archive of geneticist Hans Grüneberg

The Wellcome Library is host to numerous scientists who are famed for discovering important aspects of genetics, many of whose papers are being digitised as part of a major on-going project. While Arthur Mourant was the so-called ‘father of serology’, Hans Grüneberg was believed to be the ‘father of mouse genetics’ (Lewis and Hunt, Biographical Memoirs of Members of the Royal Society, 1984, vol. 30, p.239).

His papers were recently catalogued (see our earlier post) and these papers are now in the process of being digitised. A gifted Jewish scientist, Grüneberg was plucked from Germany in 1933, to work on the genetics of the mouse at University College London, alongside another distinguished geneticist, J. B. S. Haldane. According to Lewis and Hunt, Gruneberg's "...great strength was his singleness of purpose … reinforced when he saw the mouse as a model for the understanding of inherited defects in man". 

Grüneberg’s personal papers contain numerous lab notes, correspondence and research on the genetic make-up and defects of the ‘house mouse’, including press cuttings retained by Grüneberg for their relevance to his work. But it wasn’t just mice Grüneberg paid attention to as we see in a cutting dated 15 November 1947, headed ‘'British Rabbits. They like to walk on two feet” which shows two rabbits (see image above) apparently suffering from a genetic spinal defect: 

"On a table top in Reginald Freeman's butcher shop in Barking outside of London, England, two young rabbits named Junior and Mr. Walker padded back and forth on their forefeet before an admiring crowd. Mr Freeman, used to his rabbits' habits, took a seat in the corner. To people who wondered why the rabbits walked this way, he explained that the rabbits simply like to. Both have been doing it since they were born. Mr. Walker the elder rabbit, started right off walking on his forefeet. Junior, a female, at first experimented with the more conventional four-legged method but after watching Mr. Walker for a while switched to his two-legged style. Mr. Freeman asked a veterinarian about all this and was told the rabbits' spinal muscles were underdeveloped and they walked on two legs because it was easier".

The study of spinal cord neural tube defects, which would have probably been the cause of the rabbits' deformity was one of the areas that Grüneberg researched in embryonic and new born (specifically 'curly-tail') mice for their striking similarity to the situation in humans. For information on his research in this field, see 'Genetical studies of the skeleton of the mouse VIII. curly-tail' in Journal of Genetics 52 (1954), The pathology of development : a study of inherited skeletal disorders in animals / by Hans Grüneberg, Oxford, Blackwell, 1963 and file ref: PP/GRU/80)

Image refs: Photograph from press cutting dated 15 November 1947 File ref: PP/GRU/57. X-ray of normal (left) and transgenic (right) mice, B0003657, Wellcome Images.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A grim day in Minnesota

This colour lithograph (click on image to enlarge) was recently found in a drawer in the Wellcome Library containing personalia of Henry S. Wellcome, the founder of the Library. It shows the hanging of 38 Sioux or Dakota leaders in Mankato, Minnesota, in 1862. There is an impression of it in the Library of Congress (as one would expect, for deposit in that Library was a necessary condition for registration of copyright in the USA), and a few other impressions are also documented, but the significance of the Wellcome Library impression is that it had belonged to someone who was actually caught up in the massacre by the Sioux for which their leaders were hanged –- the event portrayed in in the lithograph.

Henry S. Wellcome was only nine years old at the time. The state of Minnesota had been created in 1846-1858 out of lands that were an enclave within unceded Sioux territory. It passed to the United States under compensation promises that were never fulfilled owing to some conditions in the small print that overruled them in favour of competing compensation promises in favour of white interests. The non-payment of the compensation became a runnning grievance for the Sioux, who regarded the white settlers in the Minnesota Valley in much the same way as Hamas today regards the Israeli settlements on the West Bank of the River Jordan.
Settlers fleeing the Dakota, Minnesota 1862. Published by Whitney's Gallery, St. Paul, Minn.
As in the Middle East, a series of barbarous tit-for-tat murders and massacres ensued. In August 1862, anticipating an all-out attack by the settlers, the Sioux started a general uprising, attacking ferociously some outlying settlements and even townships such as the one in which the Wellcome family lived, Garden City, Minn. The boy Wellcome assisted his uncle Jacob, the town surgeon-apothecary, in treating the wounded. Casualties among the settlers would have been greater but for the protection of another Native American tribe, the Winnebago.

The United States did indeed respond in kind, defeated the Sioux in battle, and tried the prisoners. Three hundred and three were found guilty of savage crimes of whom all but 38 were pardoned by President Lincoln. The 38 walked to the scaffold in Mankato on 26 December 1862 in warpaint and feathered headdresses, to be hanged simultaneously on one massive set of gallows.

Henry S. Wellcome did not attend the hanging but he kept this print of it, and later described the Sioux uprising (rather undramatically) as "the most interesting event of my life". Though he might have been expected to have lost his respect for the Native Americans, in fact he reacted in the opposite way. He recognized the historical reasons for their hostility to the settlers, appreciated their culture from the anthropologist's point of view, and -- from a room in the Arlington Hotel in Washington, D.C. -- worked tirelessly in later life to prevent further injustices.

Left: Wellcome Library no. 45889i

The series of pastel portraits which he commissioned from the artist W. Langdon Kihn in the 1920s demonstrate his interest in preserving their vanishing culture. The example shown here retains its original frame: a Jazz Age record of Native American decoration.

Acknowledgment: Robert Rhodes James, Henry Wellcome, London 1994, pp. 23-29

Friday, March 25, 2011

On this day 1807

On 25th March 1807, the Slave Trade Act 1807 was passed by Parliament. This was the first definite victory for the campaign initiated twenty years earlier to abolish the trade. Although slavery itself had been outlawed in England since 1772, it remained legal in many parts of the Empire until 1833.

Archives and Manuscripts contains a significant amount of material relating to Slavery and Anti-Slavery, spanning almost exactly three centures: from an account in MS.MSL.19/2 concerning a revolt on board a slave-ship sailing from Africa to America in Oct 1678, to Dr Cicely Williams' correspondence with the Anti-Slavery Society, 1979-80, concerning the issue of female genital mutilation.

The most important collection among our holdings relating to anti-slavery is the Hodgkin papers: these include materials of several members of this extensive network of interrelated families in the Society of Friends, most particularly the papers of Thomas Hodgkin MD. As well as being a pioneering pathologist and the first person to describe Hodgkin's Disease, he was actively involved in the emancipation of slaves and projects of colonisation by freed slaves.

Professor A and Professor B discuss Darwinism in Berlin

The idea of man's evolution from animals is an ancient one. Some statements on the subject by the Greek philosopher Anaximander (ca. 610–after 546 BC):

"The first living creatures were born in moisture, enclosed in thorny casings, and as their age increased, they came forth on to the drier part, and when the bark had broken off, they lived a different kind of life for a short time."

"In the beginnning man was born from creatures of a different kind, because other creatures are soon self-supporting, but man alone needs prolonged nursing."

"There arose from heated water and earth either fish or creatures very like fish; in these man grew in the form of embryos retained within them until puberty; then at last the fish-like creatures burst, and men and women who were already able to nourish themselves stepped forth."

"Living creatures came into being from moisture evaporated by the sun. Man was originally similar to another creature, that is, to a fish." [1]

After a very long period of sometimes low-level and sporadic interest in the matter, the idea of evolution came to the fore in the public mind as a result of the storm over Darwin's and Wallace's theory of natural selection, proposed in 1858 and published in book form – On the origin of species – in 1859. Familiarity with the theory is evinced in the pamphlet wars and caricatures published in the wake of those publications. Among the caricatures popular with today's historians are the clever circular drawings 'Studies in Darwinesque development' by Charles Henry Bennett (1829-1867) which were first published as a weekly series of wood engravings in 1863 (left: Wellcome Library no. 12105i) and republished posthumously in book form (Character sketches, development drawings and original pictures of wit and humor) in 1872. [2]

A set of twenty coloured caricatures, hitherto little known, was produced in Berlin probably soon after the translation of the Origin of species into German in 1860. The full set has now been published in the Wellcome Library catalogue as Wellcome Library no. 680406i.
The designer was one Friedrich Schmidt, who also lithographed and published the prints. They consist of twenty coloured lithographs showing in most cases the evolution of a household article into a human or animal type. Some of the human types are universal (an old lady, a teenage girl, an old man with a long beard), while others for historical reasons occur particularly in the eastern half of Europe: of the twenty plates, six show the evolutionary origins of Russians or Croats, such as a Russian priest coming into being from a vodka bottle (above); a waggon evolving into a Croat in a greatcoat (below); how, from a Russian helmet, a dove of peace comes into being.

The evolution caricatures are introduced by monochrome lithographs of two rather obscure drawings on the title sheet. In one of them the first ape to evolve into a man standing erect takes leave of his relatives who are still swinging with prehensile tails. He is called "The first Pre-Adamite (born about 180,500 B.C.)". The other drawing, on the verso of the same sheet, contains a "Discussion between two professors of mathematics (A and B) about (Pseudo-)Darwinism". The two mathematicians are reduced to the geometrical configurations which they study. Professor A says he finds it difficult to clarify the distinction between the prevous theory of generatio equivoca and Darwin's doctrine, so Professor B replies that he has created the twenty drawings to demonstrate it.

Between them are four geometric figures with human faces and the lettering in English "Pretty faces and some sharp lines". Perhaps a reader can explain the origins of the designs and the meaning of the allusions?

In one of the prints (above), Garibaldi evolves from a Croatian guard (Pandur). This reference may help to date the series more precisely.

The set is surprisingly rare: the only other copy traced is in the Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, and is identified from its description in the bibliographic database WorldCat.

Its rarety explains why it was not known to Professor Janet Browne when she wrote her article [3] on Darwin in caricature (she kindly examined the Wellcome Library's set in 2010); nor was it in Pamela Kort's 2009 Frankfurt exhibition catalogue [4]; nor currently in Mark Aldrich's website Cartooning evolution, 1861-1925. [5]

However, all these sources can be recommended for providing the context in which these caricatures by Schmidt themselves "came into being". For instance the fact that a cartoon similar to one of Schmidt's was published in Fun (a rival to Punch), 31 October 1888, as recorded in Cartooning evolution suggests that he may have had some slight influence on other artists, in addition to amusing his Berlin audience with his preposterous fantasies based on Darwin's doctrine.
And despite the huge gulf in chronology and language, his sequence showing the evolution of a fish (Backfisch) into a teenage girl (also called Backfisch in slang of the time) would surely have been comprehensible to Anaximander.

[1] G.S. Kirk, J.E. Raven and M. Schofield, The presocratic philosophers, Cambridge 1983, pp. 140-142

[2] Julia Voss, Darwin's pictures: views of evolutionary theory, 1837-1874, New Haven 2010, pp. 146-147

[3] Janet Browne, 'Darwin in caricature: a study in the popularization and dissemination of evolution', in The art of evolution, edited by Barbara Larson and Fae Brauer, Hanover, N.H.: Dartmouth College Press, 2009, pp. 18-34

[4] Pamela Kort, Darwin: art and the search for origins, Cologne: Wienand, 2009

[5] Cartooning evolution, 1861-1925: at

Credits: Wellcome Library

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Online resources: PEP Web

An online resource on the history of psychoanalysis is now available at the Wellcome Library.

Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing (PEP) was formed through the collaborative efforts of the American Psychoanalytic Association and the Institute of Psychoanalysis.

The database, which started life on a CD, is a digital archive of many of the major works of psychoanalysis. The current PEP Web version launched in January 2011 contains the full-text of 42 psychoanalytic journals and 58 classic psychoanalytic texts. It also contains the full-text and editorial notes of the 24 volumes of ‘The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud’ (and also of the 18 volume German Edition) as well as works by Melanie Klein, John Bowlby and Donald Winnicott (so forming a contextualizing resource for our archival holdings on psychoanalysis).

Full-text is available for articles from the period 1871-2007. Post 2007 content can also be searched but can only be accessed at abstract level. The Wellcome Library holds current subscriptions for some of the titles in the archive - such as Psychoanalysis and history and Studies in gender and sexuality - so it’s worth checking the journal title on our catalogue if the full-text is not available on PEP Web.

Author: Victoria Sinclair

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wellcome Library Insight: Wellcome Image Awards

This Thursday at 6pm, join Dr Laura Pastorelli, Biomedical Images Coordinator, Wellcome Images, to find out more about the stories and techniques behind the winners of the 2011 Wellcome Image Awards.

The Insight will take on display in the Lightbox on the 1st floor of Wellcome Collection, where the Wellcome Image Award Winners are currently on display.

For details on attending this free event, see the Wellcome Collection website.

Image: False-coloured scanning electron micrograph of a honeybee (Credit: Annie Cavanagh, Wellcome Images)

New on the shelves: Strange Attractor

The latest edition of the anthology series Strange Attractor, has now joined copies of the previous three volumes on the shelves of the Wellcome Library. All four editions feature essays on a number of historical, cultural and esoteric themes.

The Wellcome Library itself has a cameo role in the latest edition. In their essay, Dr Lauder Lindsay's Lemmings, Richard Barnett and Michael Neve re-evaluate a Victorian physician's researches into the madness of animals. The authors include a detailed account of William Lauder Lindsay's Mind in the lower animals in health and disease (1879), which Barnett and Neve had found in the Wellcome Library, "untouched in the closed stack for almost a century...".

To find out more about what Barnett and Neve discovered, either see the new Strange Attractor, or indeed, look up Lauder's Mind in the lower animals.

Image: Frontcover illustration of Strange Attractor Journal 4, by Julian House

Friday, March 18, 2011

Helping you to find the Wellcome LibrARy

… or, the Wellcome Library augments reality
Wouldn’t it be nice if, for your visit to the Wellcome Library, you had a personal guide to get you all the way from the station or bus stop and right to our door? You can already get good Google Maps directions to the Wellcome Library, but now we’ve gone one better.
The Wellcome Library is now in Layar [1], an augmented reality app for smartphones. Augmented reality (AR) overlays your view of the real environment with computer-generated input such as graphics, sound or video [2].
What does this mean for us? Now you can just follow your smartphone to the Wellcome Library.
For example, from Euston Station I can look on my phone for any local layers or spots in Layar:

Turning in the direction indicated by the spot on the target, information pops up on screen about the Wellcome Library:
Tapping this opens up more details:

The actions at the bottom are self-explanatory. ‘Take me there’ opens your phone’s mapping app or software, and shows you where you are and where the Wellcome Library is. It’s then simply a question of following your phone. If you keep the spot in the target area segment facing forward you can’t go too far wrong.
The traditionalists amongst you can still find the Wellcome Library using the location information on our website, or a good old London A-Z.
[1] Layar is available for Android, Ovi Nokia and iOS devices.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Item of the Month: 'Business Head of the Future'

Recently re-discovered in a corner of the storage rooms was a modest, thin volume that revealed the economic hope of the future in earlier times, when faith was placed in one man. It was none other than David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer who became Prime Minister. But on what basis did the author have such confidence in him? It was quite simply that he had a large head which bulged in the right places. If I tell you that it was written by Brighton's brightest phrenologist, J Millott Severn, this might help explain why it came to be and why the shape of the Chancellor's skull was significant.

The enterprising 'bump reader' had measured Lloyd George's head some ten years earlier and concluded that the it had physically grown, reflecting the internal growth of his remarkable mental powers. Shrewdly, Severn was making the most of his celebrity clients to bolster his own reputation.

Severn was typical of those self-made phrenologists first emerging during the Victorian era when the popularity of this practise was at its height. The descendent of Derbyshire Quakers, he is celebrated by locals as a favourite son of Codnor, after achieving some success and a decent living from his self-promotion. Having toured extensively around Britain, Severn's autobiography gives an intriguing insight of vernacular life up and down the country, often going behind the closed doors of private homes. (In one such domicile, he is alarmed to see the offspring with a learning disorder chained to a wall and he is asked to give a pronouncement on the severity of the condition.)

Flying in the face of accepted medical knowledge Severn is insistent that his tape measure proved an adult's cranium could expand. I wonder if Lloyd George's luxurious locks of later years could possibly have added something along the way. As any phrenologist will tell you, size does matter and the bigger the better. For a look into the original world of phrenology you can browse the original Phrenological Journal here in the Library or see any of our 659 holdings on phrenology.

Below are some examples of phrenological readings of past celebrities; Charles Dickens (ref : L0067697) and Robert Peel (ref: L0007584) from Wellcome Images:

The analysis of Charles Dickens is from Mary O. Stanton's Encyclopaedia of face and form reading. For a more detailed explanation of the less flattering image of Peel see our catalogue record.

The Birth of the Birth Control Clinic

As part of IHR@90, a celebration of the ninetieth anniversary of the foundation of the Institute of Historical Research, a conference was held last Friday at Senate House on ‘The Birth of the Birth Control Clinic’ (jointly organised with the University of Exeter), since it is also 90 years since Marie Stopes established the first birth control clinic in the UK, in Holloway – it subsequently moved to Whitfield Street in Fitzrovia, illustrated here.

This conference could hardly have taken place without the wealth of archival resources on birth control and allied matters held in the Wellcome Library providing a solid basis for research in this area.

It was a full day of fascinating papers and vigorous discussion, kicking off with Lesley Hall’s paper ‘Situating Stopes, or putting Marie in her proper place’. While suggesting that ideologically Stopes’s views were less pernicious than they have sometimes been depicted and that her involvement with contemporary ideas about eugenics was complex, it was also suggested that her difficult personality created many problems in her relationship with the birth control movement as a whole. This was perhaps prefigured by her secession from the Malthusian League to form her own Society for Constructive Birth Control in 1921.

Unfortunately one of the speakers for the first panel session on ‘Contexts’, Sarah Hodges, was unable to attend and we were thus deprived of an insight into the impact of birth control ideas in India, ‘Married Love among Madras's Neo-Malthusians’. However, Stephen Brooke demonstrated the significant impact more generally on gender issues in Labour politics of the introduction of birth control into the political sphere through the activities of Dora Russell and others in the Workers’ Birth Control Group. Another facet to issues around birth was revealed in Anne Bergin’s paper on the professionalisation of midwifery in nineteenth century Ireland, ‘From the Wop to the Bed: the modernisation of midwifery from handy woman to the professional midwife in Ireland, c.1800-1900’ (the ‘wop’ or ‘sop’ was the bed of straw upon which Irish women traditionally gave birth).

After lunch we had an insight into continuing work on reproductive health and contraception on a global scale from Victoria Elliott of Marie Stopes International. While this organisation is not a direct descendant of Stopes’s original Mothers’ Clinics, its headquarters are in the Whitfield Street building to which her London clinic moved in 1925, and its logo is its doorway.

Stopes’ own global, or rather, Imperial, concerns and ambitions were illuminated in Susanne Klausen’s discussion of Stopes’s interaction with the birth control movement in South Africa, ‘I ought to have a clinic in every country in the world’: Marie Stopes, imperial feminism and the South African birth-control movement, 1930-1945’.

In a further panel session ‘After Stopes’, Lara Marks gave a nuanced account of the multiple elements leading to the development of the contraceptive pill and the diverse nature of its impact, in ‘Panacea or Poisoned Chalice? A History of the Contraceptive Pill’ (and it is gratifying to hear that her major work Sexual Chemistry on this subject is now out in a new edition). Tania McIntosh paid attention to significant local differences in family size based on the nature of local economies in ‘Methods and beliefs: family planning in Sheffield and Nottingham, 1925-35’, as well as demonstrating the extent to which traditional cultures of abortion flourished. Amanda Raphael in ‘Birth by the book: Grantly Dick Read and the beginnings of the “natural childbirth” movement in England’, suggested that in spite of Dick Read’s appeal to ideals of the natural, his views only really gained purchase in a context inflected by the idea of family planning in which childbirth was no longer an inevitable ordeal over which the woman had no control. (Dick Read’s papers are also held in the Wellcome Library.)

Finally, Christina Hauck addressed a perhaps less well-known facet of Stopes’s diverse career, her ambitions as a dramatist, in ‘A baby of her own: maternal desire and English polity in the plays of Marie Stopes’. Hauck suggested that, even when not directly based on Stopes’s personal experience, as with Vectia, which rested very heavily on the debacle of her first marriage, the plays are autobiographically revealing of Stopes’s ideas about herself and the tensions between her public and private personae. Although the work of birth control propaganda Our Ostriches was produced at the Royal Court Theatre, and Stopes did have other plays staged, works such as Vectia and the unpublished The Vortex Dammed (based on Noel Coward’s first major success, The Vortex) sounded pretty much unproduceable, quite apart from the difficulties Stopes experienced with the theatrical censorship system.

This was a very full day and there was enthusiastic commentary and questioning on all papers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"A Digital Future for the History of Medicine?"

Next Wednesday (23rd March), Dr Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, will be giving a talk at the Centre for the Humanities and Health (CHH), King’s College London, titled: "A Digital Future for the History of Medicine?"

The talk starts at 6pm and will take place in the Council Room (K2.29), King's Building, Strand Campus, King’s College London (directions).

More information is available through the CHH events webpage.

Image: The gyri of the thinker's brain as a maze of choices in biomedical ethics. Scraperboard drawing by Bill Sanderson, 1997 (Wellcome Library no. 40586i).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wellcome Library Workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

Using historical newspapers online
Have you ever wanted to browse newspapers from the 19th Century? In this workshop you can explore the Times Digital Archive, and learn how to search the text of newspapers from the British Library's newspaper archive online. A wealth of social history for all!
Tuesday 15th March, 2-3pm

Making the most of my library:
the Wellcome Library catalogue and how to personalise it
Perplexed by the Library catalogue? Find what you're really looking for! In this workshop you will learn the most effective way of searching the Wellcome Library catalogue and the best strategies for finding the resources you need. You'll also discover what you can do with your Library Account, and what it can do for you.
Thursday 17th March, 5-6pm

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.

New on the website: British Medical Journal video tutorial

We recently blogged about the launch of a new section of our website: Guides and Video Tutorials - which offers introductions to our online catalogues and full-text resources.

Another video tutorial has now been added to this section: so, joining videos on how to make the most of the Library catalogue, the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue, and Wellcome Images, is a video on how to access the British Medical Journal historical archive, from 1840-2008.

The video demonstrates how to access this online archive using PubMed Central. It also shows you how to browse for specific articles when you have a citation and also find obituaries, advertisements and biannual indexes.

Image: Plate from Augustus D. Waller, Introductory address on the electromotive properties of the human heart. British Medical Journal, Volume 2 (1449), 1888, pp751-752

Monday, March 7, 2011

Wellcome Library Insight - Women, health and healing

This week's free Wellcome Library Insight session - on Thursday 10th March - explores the changing role of women in medicine and attitudes to female healers through the centuries, with historical material drawn from the Wellcome Library’s collections.

Our Insight sessions offer 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. Spaces are limited and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. For more details, see the Wellcome Collection website.

Image: A nurse and a smallpox patient in an isolation hospital, possibly at Ilford, Essex (Wellcome Library no. 527792i).

Arguing on the telephone

On this day in 1876, one hundred and thirty five years ago, Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone that he had spent the previous two years developing.

Obviously since that day the telephone has been used as widely by medical men and women as by the rest of the population. The number of lives saved simply by our being able to dial 999 (or 911, or whatever other number applies in our country) and summon urgent medical assistance, defies any attempt to calculate it. Less well known, however, is the medical element in the story of the telephone’s development. Alexander Graham Bell was born in Edinburgh in 1847, the son of Alexander Melville Bell (1819-1905). Bell senior was a speech therapist and elocutionist, and his own father, Alexander Bell (1790-1865), grandfather of the inventor, was also an elocutionist.

Alexander Graham Bell moved into the family specialism: after education at the Royal High School in Edinburgh he spent some time in 1862 learning from his grandfather in London before teaching both music and elocution as a pupil-teacher in Elgin. He studied at Edinburgh University for a year before returning to Elgin as a master in 1865; however, in 1867 he moved to London, joining his father who had taken on the work of the senior Alexander Bell. Here he studied anatomy and physiology at the University of London, and became skilled at teaching the deaf. In 1870 Bell and his parents emigrated to North America; here Alexander Graham Bell continued his work with the deaf, becoming Professor of Vocal Physiology and Elocution at Boston University in 1873.

From work with the deaf, then, grew Bell's interest in phonetics and work on the transmission of sound by electricity, which led to the development of the telephone. Bell built, for example, on work by Koenig and Scott on the translation of sound into visual images via electric impulses: this clearly is a concept of great potential for communication by deaf people. However, once one has worked out how to translate sound into electrical impulses, there is a wide variety of things that can be done with them, and one obvious use is to transmit them over distance and then reverse the process, turning them back into sound: the modern telephone. Bell spent much of the winter of 1874/5 in experiments and in summer 1875 demonstrated a system that used a diaphragm to translate sound into electrical impulses, transmit it down a wire using various interrupted tones of different frequencies, and translate it back into intelligible human speech at the other end using another vibrating membrane. In spring 1876, he patented the system, having already set up a company to exploit it: commercially, the rest is history. As early as 1878, Bell was demonstrating his invention to Queen Victoria, MS.8748 in the Wellcome Library comprising a letter written by Bell about this occasion. His telephone system exploded across the world and, arguably, dominated global communications for the next hundred years.

In the English-speaking world, this is often seen as the whole story. However, in Italy in particular another much less well-known figure, Antonio Meucci, also gets a part in the story. Meucci was born in Florence in 1808; he studied chemical and mechanical engineering at the Florence Academy of Fine Arts and later worked at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence as a stage technician. In 1834 he devised a form of acoustic telephone to communicate between the stage and control room at the Teatro, modelled on ships' speaking pipes. However, his involvement in the turbulent politics of a divided Italy led him to imprisonment and exile: he and his wife left Italy in 1835.

He went first to Cuba, where his work on Mesmer's theories of natural electricity led him to invent electrotherapy equipment; he is also said to have devised a form of telephone through which inarticulate speech could be detected. His friendship with Garibaldi made him suspect in Cuba and the success of Samuel Morse in inventing the telegraph suggested new opportunities, so in 1850 he relocated to the United States. He set up a tallow candle factory in Staten Island, New York, and used this to finance work on an electromagnetic telephone, constructing various prototypes; however, his finances grew worse and worse and although he filed a patent caveat for one such machine, dubbed the "telettrofono", in 1871, he was unable to convert it to a full patent and unable to renew it in 1874.

When Alexander Graham Bell patented his telephone in 1876, Meucci sued him for infringement of intellectual copyright; a series of lawsuits went all the way to the Supreme Court, and dragged on for the remainder of Meucci's life and beyond: Meucci died in 1889 with these issues unresolved but having failed to profit from his inventions. The surviving cases were finally dropped, without decision, in 1897.

There is considerable debate and partisanship on both sides; the issues causing debate can be summarised as whether Meucci's own patent documents mention a mechanism for converting sound waves into electromagnetic ones and back again, the intelligibility of the sounds transmitted by Meucci's device, whether or not Meucci described his invention in the New York Italian newspaper L'Eco d'Italia in 1861, all issues of the paper from that period having perished, and the precise dating of some of Meucci's papers (at one of the court hearings he was accused of having fabricated papers retrospectively).

Like an unsatisfactory telephone, the debate has generated noise but little clarity, with the protagonists tending to hear what they want to hear. The Wellcome Library holds as its MS.7323 a dossier of letters by Meucci which were displayed at the 1929 Florence Scientific Exhibition. Fascist Italy of course took it as an item of faith that Meucci had beaten Bell to the punch, but their viewpoint is scarcely unbiassed. As with many other inventions, it seems clear that scientific developments were converging on the telephone and if one person had not invented it someone else would have done so shortly afterwards. Bell, whatever the rights and wrongs of his claim to primacy, certainly had the capital to patent and develop the application; the older man did not. Bell died at his home in Nova Scotia in 1922 on 2nd August; he was buried at 6:25pm on August 4th, at which time all telephone traffic in the United States was stopped for one minute as a tribute. In contrast, in the English-speaking world Meucci is only a sad footnote. Next time you lift the receiver, spare him a thought.

The image of the doctor on the telephone at the head of this post comes from Wellcome Images, image number V0011546, by D.L. Ghilchip (1932).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Archives and Manuscripts cataloguing: February 2011

February was a month of sustained activity in the archives and manuscripts department, with a lot of cataloguing projects but most of these still ongoing. Some 243 new records went into the database, but of these only a tenth became visible to the public before the month's end. Only one major collection was released to the public this month, but it was an important one: the papers of the Population Investigation Committee. The PIC was founded in 1936 as a research body to gather data about issues relevant to the population of the United Kingdom and its then colonies, the major issue at the time being a falling birth-rate. In the years since that the PIC has investigated a wide variety of issues: vital statistics, foreign population policies, birth control, marriage, fertility, maternity services, social mobility, and the health and development of children. A more detailed description of the collection by its cataloguer can be found in a recent blog post. A wide variety of research topics are therefore opened up by this significant addition to our collections; the full catalogue can be browsed in the catalogue at SA/PIC.

Last month we trailed the forthcoming release of the final tranche of the papers of Francis Crick (PP/CRI). Physical processing of these papers – rearrangement, rehousing in acid-free packaging, and so forth - is now complete, and the vast majority of the work on fine-tuning 900 database records is done. Since the Crick papers will be at the heart of the Library’s project to digitise material significant to the history of genetics, it is intended to digitise the papers immediately and release them for use in the reading rooms once this is done; the expanded catalogue will probably be available some time before this.

As noted at the head of this post, a lot more has gone into the database this month than is visible immediately: next month will see some of this other ongoing work completed and the database records released to public view on the net.

The image at the head of this post is from Wellcome Images and is a copyrighted image made available under Creative Commons License.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Guest Post: A History of British Sports Medicine

Dr Vanessa Heggie is a Research Fellow in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. Here, she describes the background and research to her new book, 'A History of British Sports Medicine'.

When I tell people I’ve written a book about the history of sports medicine usually the first thing they want to know is when the specialty ‘started’. It sounds like a simple question, but it’s much harder to answer than it might appear...

Sport and Exercise Medicine became a formal specialty in the UK as recently as 2005; but the first British organisation dedicated to the topic was formed in 1952 – that was the British Association of Sport and Medicine, which changed its name in the 1990s to the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine. Yet all of the doctors who founded this organisation already had years, and in some cases decades, of experience treating athletes and sportspeople – one attending the 1908 London Olympic Games, where the first dope ban and the first ‘health screening’ for athletes was introduced. Even as early as the late nineteenth century there was a hydropathic hospital known as the “Footballers’ Hospital” in Manchester which specialised in treating injured athletes, particularly footballers.

There is nothing particularly new or modern about doctors and other healers treating people injured while taking part in sports and games – after all, the great Roman authority on medicine, Galen, was a doctor to the gladiators in Pergamon in the second century CE. But to be a medical specialty sports medicine has to be more than just a doctor treating a disease or injury caused by sport (otherwise we should also have ‘craft medicine’ for the treatment of knitting needle injuries or ‘data entry medicine’ dealing with headaches caused by staring at a computer screen). So the history of sports medicine turned into a detective story, where I was searching for the special patient rather than the specialist doctor – that is, a hunt for the moment when athletes stopped being normal people doing sport (and getting normal medical advice) and started becoming something different: supernormal, abnormal, atypical, extraordinary.

That point, for Britain, occurs in the early twentieth century, somewhere between the beginning of the First World War and the end of the Second World War. This was the point when doctors and scientists began to realise that different rules applied to the elite athletic body; that a resting pulse rate below 40 beats per minute didn’t indicate heart disease, but rather exceptional fitness; that for a young woman to stop menstruating didn’t indicate a medical problem so much as her dedication to training for gymnastic competition. This is also when different rules started to be applied to the sportsperson – rules about gender and tests for drug use were introduced into international competition in the 1940s and 1960s, respectively. We find it quite acceptable for someone to take a strong anti-hay fever tablet while at work…unless they’re a professional athlete (anti-inflammatory glucocorticosteroids are banned by the World Anti Doping Agency). Different bodies, different rules.

Having a really distinct patient group is great for the formation of a specialty (we also have specialities dealing with the young and elderly patient: paediatrics and geriatrics). But it can become a challenge when that speciality has to take its knowledge about strange, different athletic bodies and apply it to normal, everyday bodies. This is exactly what happened at the end of the twentieth century, when there was a boom in sports participation by the general population at the same time as new research began to show that sport and exercise were needed to ward off the diseases that our sedentary lifestyles tend to give us – obesity and heart disease in particular. This is why Sports Medicine became Sport and Exercise Medicine: these experts now have to know about school sports, post-coronary patients taking exercise ‘on prescription’, Olympic athletic diets, and the needs of the ‘worried well’ trying to maintain a healthy weight. Switching between these groups is not easy, and it’s a problem faced elsewhere in sport too, for example in the need for Olympic ‘legacy’: a swimming pool designed for Olympic competitors is not necessarily going to be the ideal pool for mixed community and leisure use; a sports drink tested on elite runners will not necessarily help me burn calories on a stationary bicycle in my local gym.

This is the first book on the history of sports medicine in Britain, and the first to hunt out the patient, rather than study the doctor in sports medicine, but it still leaves plenty of questions unanswered. Luckily, the Wellcome Library has some of the materials we need to solve the remaining puzzles. The research for this book was funded by the Wellcome Trust, and as a consequence the archives of the British Association of Exercise Medicine were collected (thanks to my project colleague Dr Neil Carter at De Montfort University) and deposited in the Wellcome Library (SA/BSM). We also organised a Witness Seminar, gathering some of the leading figures in the discipline and encouraging them to talk about their memories of sports medicine in the twentieth century. In itself the witness statements are a rich source of information (available to download here), but Witness Seminars also encourage participants to deposit their own records, photographs and other material with the Wellcome Library (GC253/36).

Intriguing stories remain in these archives: British scientists were crucial to the development of the first functional tests for amphetamines, which were trialled at the 1965 Tour of Britain cycling race, and at the celebrated 1966 Football World Cup. There is detailed information about the courses and syllabuses of the first sports medicine diplomas; looking at those can tell us much more about what the pioneers of speciality thought sports medicine really was – is the emphasis on orthopaedics, or diet, or even the psychology of competition? Sports medicine is also a highly commercialised enterprise, with large private provision – not to mention sports drinks, energy bars, and ‘scientifically designed’ running shoes – and the history of the relationship between public and private medicine in this field could tell us a great deal about recent history, and the political reforms of healthcare and research in the 1980s and ‘90s.

And of course, we still need to know what happened to everyone who wasn’t an elite athlete, before Sports Medicine became Sport and Exercise Medicine? Where did injured amateur joggers get treatment in the 1930s? Who advised schools about their physical education curriculum? For this we surely need a history of British Fitness and Medicine, as well as British Sports Medicine...

Author: Dr Vanessa Heggie

- Portrait of Galen holding bookand ointment jar (Wellcome Images: L0012416)
- Hurdlers in action showing stages in flight (Wellcome Images: M0003223)
- Sports doctor assessing flexibility in the spineand back of the upper leg of a male athlete at theBritish Olympic Medical Centre (BOMC) (Wellcome Images:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Jersey connection: Arthur Mourant and Jacqueline du Pré

The Wellcome Library is not known particularly for its holdings of musical celebrities but the archives often reveal some unexpected items. The fate that struck the talented cellist, Jacqueline du Pré does fall within the Wellcome Library’s remit however, given that it was multiple sclerosis that robbed her early of a longer brilliant musical career. Readers would not expect to find material from her within the personal papers of the serologist Arthur Mourant, that have just been digitised as part of a wider project dedicated to "Modern Genetics and its Foundations".

Yet, here we find correspondence of a very personal nature that reveals the close relationship that Mourant had with her Jersey-born family. In one letter dated 9 September 1942 from Jacqueline's father, Derek du Pré, Mourant is invited to be god-father to her older sister, Hilary Anne (File ref: PP/AEM/A.262).

Mourant’s papers include several other letters from Derek, many press cuttings from the 1960s relating to Jacqueline’s brilliant career and private life as well as all Jacqueline’s concert programmes and tickets Mourant attended.

In his autobiography Mourant includes childhood reminiscences of Jacqueline’s sister, Hilary and his relationship with the Du Pré family. She remembers him as a warm and generous man who played with the Du Pré children and “took delight in listening to their weekly concerts”. Mourant was known as the 'Pied Piper' in the children's games, as well as ‘Lalla’ and ‘Uncle Arthur’ (Blood and Stones: an autobiography by A.E. Mourant, La Haule, Jersey: La Haule Books, 1995, p.96). A bachelor until late in life, Mourant enjoyed feeling a part of their family. Also within the papers is a poem that is dedicated to the musically gifted Jacqueline, here re-named ‘Dame Josephine’:

It is touching to find Mourant retained an undated drawing given to him by Jacqueline when she was very young.

The drawing sits in the archive alongside a letter dated March 2nd 1961 from Jacqueline to Mourant: "Dear Uncle Arthur, what a wonderful bouquet! It gave me such pleasure when I came home and arranged the lovely variety of Spring flowers (at 3 a.m!)… with lots of love from Jackie". This letter was sent the day after her debut concert at Wigmore Hall at the tender age of 16 - his brochure and ticket are retained within the same files (PP/AEM/A.267):

Just over 10 years later after extensive concert performances, Jacqueline was forced to retire from the platform apparently from ‘nervous exhaustion’ that was later correctly diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. She died at the age of 42 on 19 October 1987. Following du Pré’s diagnosis, Mourant wrote a letter in Feb 1972 to R.J. Berry of the Royal Free Hospital, London requesting information about the disease according to a responding letter dated 23 Feb 1972 containing multiple-sclerosis statistics (File ref: PP/AEM/K.194).

Picture references:
Photo of Jacqueline du Pré by Lotte Meitner-Graf taken from a Royal Festival Hall concert programme 21 November 1965, File ref PP/AEM/A.268
Drawing and letter given to Mourant by Jaqueline du Pré, n.d. File ref. PP/AEM/A.267
Mourant’s poem dedicated to Jacqueline, n.d. File ref PP/AEM/A.272
Cover of Wigmore Hall concert programme, File ref PP/AEM/A.268

Authors: Rada Vlatkovic and Julia Nurse

Medical Spectators

On this day in 1711, the first issue of The Spectator was published [1]. Initially written by Richard Steele and Joseph Addison - though both Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift contrbuted to later volumes - it ran every day except Sunday until 1712 and was revived for six months in 1714. It was widely read at the time and consisted of a mixture of news, reviews and commentary. An exemplar of refined thought and wit, The Spectator is recognised as one of the most influential publications of its time. Copies of all eight of its collected volumes are held in the Wellcome Library.

The Spectator provides some choice insights into opinions of medical and scientific knowledge, and their impact upon contemporary society. For instance, an exploration of its volumes finds a discussion of the merits of maternal breast-feeding (December 12, 1711. No 246) and the ill-treatment of children (August 30, 1711. No 157).

Perhaps more expected is the ridiculing of the medical expression, with physicians readily lampooned, whether for their mistreatment of patients ("...we may lay it down as a Maxim, that When a Nation abounds in Physicians, it grows thin of people") or in their misdirected and painful experiments:

"...there are [other] innumerable Retainers to Physick, who, for want of other Patients, amuse themselves with the stifling of Cats in an Air Pump, cutting up Dogs alive, or impaling Insects upon the point of a Needle for Microscopical Observations; besides those that are employed in the gathering of Weeds, and the Chase of Butterflies..." (both quotes March 24, 1711. No 24).

Those seeking the services of physicians did not escape criticism: with swooning ladies of fashion being gently skewered thus:

"...a great part of Ceremony and Good-breeding among Ladies turns upon their Uneasiness; and I'll undertake, if the How-d'ye Servants of our Women were to make a Weekly Bill of Sickness, as the Parish Clerks do of Mortality, you would not find in an Account of seven Days, one in Thirty that was not downright Sick or indisposed..." (August 14, 1711. No 143)

The Spectator can also be accessed remotely by Library users through the Burney Collection. For more detail on the themes above, see Fielding H. Garrison, 'Medicine in the Tatler, Spectator and Guardian', Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine, Vol. 2, No.8 (1934), pp477-503.

Image: Joseph Addison

[1] The Spectator's weekly namesake, which is still published today, is a different publication which was launched in 1828.

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