Thursday, June 30, 2011

A lesser-known side of Marie Stopes

The Library has recently added to the catalogue a copy of Marie Stopes' little-known first (and only) novel, Love's Creation, published in 1928 under the rather transparent pseudonym of 'Marie Carmichael' (Stopes' mother's maiden name was Carmichael and her own full name was Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes). The copy was Stopes' own and is inscribed with her address inside the front cover.

Stopes is, of course, well-known for her best-selling works on marriage and birth control and related topics in sexual enlightenment. A few people have heard of her poetry (which was turned down for publication by Faber, politely but firmly, by T. S. Eliot) or of her plays, several of which achieved production, or of the film, Maisie's Marriage, which she scripted in order to convey the birth control message to a wider audience.

Love's Creation, however, remains a unique venture, at least in terms of having actually achieved publication. The copy in the Wellcome Library is a first edition, although it is probably truer to say the only edition as there were no reprints and no demands by publisher or literary agent to produce a successor, since it sold poorly. Neither did it gain critical recognition, being largely dismissed, when reviewed at all, with a brief notice rather than extensive critical discussion. One notice indeed described it as 'old-fashioned', and this seems not unjust when we consider that other works appearing on the literary scene in 1928 included Virginia Woolf's Orlando, Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness, and Aldous Huxley's Point Counterpoint. Mary Abbott, a friend of Stopes, suggested in a letter to her that the furore around Hall's novel of lesbian advocacy might have had a knock-on impact on libraries and booksellers, making them cautious of anything that might turn out to be scandalous, but this seems rather improbable as an explanation for the popular and critical apathy which greeted Love's Creation.

Since Stopes was working on versions of the novel that eventually appeared in 1928 for a period of some twelve years, it presumably had some particular personal significance for her, given the many other demands on her time and energies. Although she at one time had considered embodying the ideas about marriage that eventually became her best-selling manual Married Love in fictional form, Love's Creation does not appear to be the fictional version of her message to 'young husbands and all who are betrothed in love'.

The novel begins with the arrival of a female scientist in a laboratory previously all male. While one might hope that this might become the largely untold tale of a woman in science, it soon turns into the romance between Lilian and her colleague Kenneth. Shortly after their marriage, Lilian dies in a road accident. A second strand of the plot is the story of her younger sister, Rose Amber, and her disastrous marriage. Meanwhile, the widowed Kenneth throws up his university position in favour of travel for scientific purposes (his experiences very closely mirror Stopes' as recounted in her Journal from Japan, 1910). Its depiction of the characters and roles of women and men seems strangely conventional given Stopes' own pioneering career and achievements. It depicts one marriage abruptly terminated by accidental death and one made hellish by the husband's pathological jealousy (this may well draw on Stopes' experiences in her first marriage). While the ending promises a future union along the lines set out in Married Love, such an ideal is nowhere presented fictionally within the novel. The story is also, for a realist work, curiously unanchored in history: it is never clear whether the action is taking place before or after the Great War, which is never mentioned. There is also an entire chapter putting forward a 'large cosmic theory' through the mouth of Kenneth. Stopes, who was capable of producing non-fictional works which were and are extremely readable and which early readers found compelling, had less success when it came to telling a story.

It seems probable that very few people have ever read this novel: I only did so when I was invited to contribute a chapter on Stopes - 'Uniting Science and Sensibility: Marie Stopes and the Narratives of Marriage in the 1920s' - to the essay collection Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals: British Women Writers 1889-1939 edited by Angela Ingram and Daphne Patai (University of North Carolina Press, 1993). It remains, however, a historical curiosity and a sidelight on the complex character of Marie Stopes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Item of the Month, June 2011 - "An important alchemical manuscript..."

This year's Manchester International Festival sees the premier of a new opera, based on the life of the Elizabethan mathematician, astrologer and alchemist, John Dee.

We've already tweeted about the Opera and flagged up some Dee-related items from our collections. We didn't highlight the following item however, saving it for a more detailed 'Item of the Month' post.

What you see here is a page from our MS.239, titled 'Practica et accurtaciones Georgii Ryplay et Raimundi' (in other words, notes on the alchemists George Ripley and Ramon Lull). It consists of 67 pages, in English and Latin, written in italic and in a secretary hand - the handwriting being that of John Dee himself.

The manuscript was purchased for Henry Wellcome on 17th February 1931 from an auction at Sotheby's, where it was described in the sale catalogue as "an important Alchemical manuscript...on the transmutation of metals and search for the Elixir of Life". Tha author of the sale catalogue was guarded on its provenance, stating it was "probably in the hand of John Dee" but noting the manuscript's "very detailed resemblances to the varied hand of Dee".

By the time the manuscript was catalogued by the Wellcome, cataloguer S.A.J. Moorat was more certain of Dee being its author, noting that "there seems little doubt that this MS. is by the hand of the famous astrologer and alchemist". Moorat noted the initials J.D. are found - identical with those in other authentic Dee MSS - on five of the manuscript's pages.

Also noted by Moorat - and visible on the image above - is Dee's small 'ladder sign' given as one of his attributable marks in the 1921 title Preface to the List of MSS. formerly owned by Dr. John Dee. This reference work was produced by the then Provost of Eton College, Montague Rhodes James - now remembered more for his seminal tales of the supernatural, than for his scholarly research.

It's rather fitting that Dee and James are linked by this manuscript: it's easy to imagine its occult contents - and the elucidation of them by curious antiquarians - to lie at the dark heart of one of James's stories.

For more on the possible influence of Dee on James's story 'Count Magnus', see this essay from the M R James site, Ghosts and Scholars

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fighting the Filthy Reality of Everyday Life

The archives of the Royal Society for Public Health are now available at the Wellcome Library. Whilst the current Wellcome Collection exhibition, Dirt, shows the filthy reality of everyday life, this collection demonstrates how people have worked to combat dirt, in its many forms, over the years.

Originally founded following the Public Health Act of 1875, the Society works to educate people about health and hygiene. The society offers courses leading to qualifications in subjects such as food hygiene, and health and safety, as well as advocating for improvements in public health. In the past, they ran courses of public lectures on subjects as diverse as meat and food inspection, birth control, and forensic medicine, as well as running a number of laboratories and the Parkes Hygiene Museum. The museum, which closed in 1962, was used for teaching and demonstrations, allowing public health workers and the public to see examples of different public health solutions, and examine their construction and defects.

Over the years the society has responded to the needs of the time, becoming involved in the design of respirators to protect the public in the event of a gas attack in World War I, for example. A gradual decline in membership throughout the 20th century has recently been reversed, as events such as the recent E. coli outbreak demonstrate that public health education and advocacy is just as important today.

The papers of the Royal Society for the promotion of Health are part of the Wellcome Library's Archives and Manuscripts collection. The catalogue can be searched via our online catalogue, using the reference SA/RSP.

Picture credit: Neil Leslie, Wellcome Images, B0003318

Wellcome Library workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

The key to the medicine cabinet: unlocking resources in archives and manuscripts
Have you ever thought about using archives and manuscripts in your research? We hold the most important history of medicine collection in Britain, and whatever your topic we are likely to hold an unexpected archival gem for you. By the end of the workshop you will know how to browse our Archive and Manuscripts catalogue with confidence, refine your searches, navigate between the Library catalogue and Archive and Manuscripts, and order up materials.
Tuesday 28th June 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 30th June, 2-3pm

Our programme of free workshops offers 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.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The lost world of Snow Hill

The image above captures the popular conception of London's reaction to the Blitz, which was arguably at its most fearsome during May and June 70 years ago. During the night-time bombings, lives were lost and buildings were destroyed. But come the morning... a cyclist trundles by, a roadsweeper brushes up: life goes on.

The remains of the building you see here are actually enormously important to the story of our founder Henry Wellcome, as this is the corner of Snow Hill and Holborn Viaduct in London, the site of the head office of the pharmaceutical company he co-founded, Burroughs Wellcome & Co.

Opened in 1883, three years after Silas Mainville Burroughs and Henry Wellcome entered into partnership, the scale of their head office matched the expectations Burroughs and Wellcome had for their nascent pharmaceutical company.

The imposing building was constructed of red brick, with granite pilars guarding the entrance. The tiled mosaic floor of the was illustrated with images of Commerce and Industry and the rich wood used for the walls was best American Walnut. [1]

Henry Wellcome was personally involved in designing and furnishing the interior of the building: no easy task given the building's curved shape. As the image above shows, Moorish curves were ideal for a building Wellcome himself described as having "not a single right-angle". The interior arrangements were executed under the direction of Christopher Dresser, now regarded as Britain's first industrial designer. Snow Hill was also one of the first business houses in London to be lit using electric light.

The interior alluded to Burroughs and Wellcome's country of birth with models of the Statue of Liberty and the American Eagle (visible towards the back of the image above) and the building captured something of the entrepreneurial get-up-and-go of these two salesmen.

The building also hinted at another aspect of Wellcome's personality: his growing interest in collecting. This is how Wellcome's office was described in a praiseworthy report on the building in Chemist and Druggist:

"It is furnished as a library, although hunting trophies, works of art from countries visited by the occupant...and a varied selection of general literature give it less the look of a commercial room and more the appearance of a bachelor's den". [1]

Fast forward to 1941 and it seems this example of late Victorian architecture was no longer fit for the purposes of twentieth century business: five years after Henry Wellcome's death, the Wellcome Foundation still retained Snow Hill as offices, but sought to build new premises elsewhere in London.

On the night of 10-11 May 1941, during one of the heaviest nights of the Blitz, the Snow Hill building was destroyed. Afterwards, staff were temporarily moved to other Wellcome owned sites - such as the main warehouse where Wellcome's collection was stored in Willesden and to the Wellcome Research Institution on Euston Road (which is now, of course, where the Library and the rest of Wellcome Collection is situated). Not ideal accommodation, but just as for the figures beside the bombed out Snow Hill offices shown above, life had to go on for the employees as well.

But with its carefully designed interior - and his collection-rich office - the lost world of Snow Hill captures something of Henry Wellcome's - often elusive - personality.

[1] Clues to the furnishings of the Snow Hill office remain through drawings which survive in the papers of the Wellcome Foundation Archive, WF/CA/P/01
[2] Chemist and Druggist, 28th January, 1888

- Burroughs Wellcome & Co Headquarters, Snow Hill, London, after being destroyed in the Blitz, 1941 (Wellcome Images, M0020173)
- Burroughs Wellcome & Co Head Office, Snow Hill, London (Wellcome Images, M0007868)
- Interior of the Burroughs Wellcome & Co building, Snow Hill, London (Chemist & Druggist, 28th January 1888)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hack for victory!

Open access to data and its reuse is a policy dear to the heart of the Wellcome Library and Wellcome Trust, supported primarily through UK PubMed Central and the Trust’s grant funding for research. So it was with particular interest that we read of the Hack4Europe! competition to reuse openly held cultural data.
The UK Hack4Europe! winner was Michael Selway from System Simulation. The Wellcome Library has a very close relationship with System Simulation as they build and maintain Wellcome Images with us.
Hack4Europe! was organised by the Europeana Foundation, with whom the Wellcome Library is involved via the Europeana Libraries project to put 5 million freely available digitised objects online in two years.
Congratulations to Michael and SSL! 

Wellcome Library Insight - Women, health and healing

This week's free Wellcome Library Insight session - on Thursday 23rd June - 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 3pm. For more details on attending, see the Wellcome Collection website.

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

Wellcome Library workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

Plants and Medicine
An introduction to contemporary and historical resources relating to the use of plants in medicine found in the Wellcome Library's online and print collections.
Tuesday 21st June, 2-3pm

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!
Thursday 23rd June, 2-3pm

Our programme of free workshops offers 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.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Treasure of Rain

As today is the UN World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, we thought we would draw attention to some of the many ways people have sought to cope with drought and its consequences, as found in our collections.

The illustration to the right is from a page in a Chinese Shiwu Bencao, a dietic herbal of the Ming period (1368-1644). It depicts two figures, one sweeping snow from the ground and the other storing it in a jar, during the last lunar month of the year. This month was known as layue, a time of offerings to the spirits and gods, and the snow that fell then was called laxue, or final month snow. It had sacred qualities and, carefully sealed and stored in a dark place, retained a potency for many years. Crops that were covered in final month snow were thought to resist drought, and the care with which these figures collect the snow in the cold still season reflects a concern for the uncertainties of agriculture and the civilisations that depend upon it.

These uncertainties have formed a close bond between farmers and their crops, and there are few places where this is more apparent than in the high desert mesas of northern Arizona. Here, the Hopi people have sustained an agriculture growing corn in a harsh, meagre environment for nearly a thousand years. For the Hopi, corn is not only sustenance but a ‘ceremonial object, prayer offering, symbol, and sentient being unto itself’ [1], and Hopi farmers intimately nuture each seedling, singing to the growing plants to aid the work of the sun. Relying almost solely on precipitation and run-off water in a predominately arid climate, care and attention go hand in hand with prayer and supplication, as shown in this photograph of a ceremonial corn planting. Such ceremony - embodied in late winter katsinas dances - is a vital support for this tenuous agriculture, and an entreaty to the spirits of the earth, the sky, and the clouds to bring rain and continued life.

The experience of drought in our own mostly grey and wet land has at various times inspired similar entreaties to the sky. During a long dry period in 1615, Samuel Page, incumbent of St Nicholas church in Deptford, observed in a sermon that ‘the heavens above us’ were now made ‘as brasse, and these have locked up the treasure of raine’. He went on to decry:

The earth is sensible of this calamitie, the face of it is discoloured, the grasse is burnt up, the fruits faile, the greene hearbe is withered, the earth openeth her mouth wide, and gapeth for thirst, and no clouds but of dust, have for a long time rained upon us: the beasts of the field have felt this woe, who have wanted their necessary food: only wee who know the cause of all this, and are too blame for all this, for whose sins, the earth, the beasts of the field suffer, wee doe not change garment, or countenance for the matter, the drunkard drinkes not a draught the lesse, nor comes to Church the more for it; the wonton abateth nothing of his delights, nor the worldly man of his desires: but aske the Rich man of the earth, will all the wealth which they have heaped up buy us one shower of raine now in this our extremest necessite: I say not to quench the great thirst, but to lay the dust thereof?

Though Samuel Page acknowledged ‘there be natural causes, which produce drought, and the learned Students in the Bookes of ceslestiall bodies, give good accompt often of these accidents’, he called for his congregation to pray for their sins, as ‘the Medicinall Antidote against miserie’. Given that the title of his next sermon was ‘A Thanksgiving for Raine’, he may well have felt his words were well heeded.

For those of us with less faith in the expediency of prayer, Frank Rowntree, Health Education Officer for Sheffield in the 1970s, offers practical advice on the steps needed to keep drought at bay in modern Britain, advice that is still pressingly relevant some forty years after it was first broadcast as one of his regular health features for BBC Radio Sheffield.

[1] Virgil Masayesva and Dennis Wall, 'People of the Corn: Teachings in Hopi Taditional Agriculture, Spirituality, and Sustainability', American Indian Quarterly, vol. 28, nos. 3 & 4 (2004).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Midwifery on The ONE Show

Last night's edition of BBC's The ONE Show included a feature on the history of midwifery.

Filmed in the Medicine Man gallery of Wellcome Collection, the sequence featured an interview with Prof Elaine Hobby (Loughborough University), who illustrated her account of the changes in practice with the Wellcome Library's copy of Jane Sharp's The Midwives Book.

The episode is available for viewers in the UK for the next seven days through the BBC iPlayer.

Sarah Bakewell on Montaigne: Free Medicine & Literature Event

How do you get on well with people? How do you respond to violence, pain, bereavement or illness? How do you make sense of others’ behaviour? How do you stop worrying about death and pay attention to life instead? These are among many medical and psychological questions to fascinate Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), winegrower, personal essayist, and arguably the world’s first truly modern writer. Montaigne's biographer Sarah Bakewell will explore his work and ask whether reading him helps us to understand the art of physical and mental well-being in the 21st century.

Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live: a life of Michel de Montaigne (Vintage, 2011) won the Duff Cooper Award 2010 and the U.S. National Book Critics’ Circle Biography Prize 2011, and was shortlisted for the 2010 Costa Award in biography. She has written two previous books, The Smart (2001) and The English Dane (2005), and until 2002 was the Wellcome Library’s Assistant Curator of Early Printed Books.

Sarah's talk will be taking place in the Library Reading Room on Wednesday 29 June. The Reading Room will be open from 6.45pm and the talk will run from 7pm-8.15pm.

The event is free and there are just a few spaces left. Tickets must be booked in advance and are available here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Behind the Scenes: Conservation and Collection Care

Behind the Scenes at the Wellcome Library resumes in 2011 with an expose of the Library's Conservation and Collection Care team. This team of six work in a spacious conservation studio that enables them to do on-site conservation and preservation of the Library's special collections, monitor the environments these collections are stored or displayed in, and to provide training in careful handling to all Trust staff.

Managed by Gillian Boal, a book conservator by background, the team can deal with a wide range of material types. But the focus is naturally on book and paper conservation. Gillian sums up the team's purpose, saying "Conservation is about ensuring these special collections are still around for future generations to access and consult. Everything we do is aimed at facilitating access by repairing and maintaining objects, as well as training staff and putting procedures in place to ensure that access remains a possibility." It is not about locking items away - although in some cases, this may be a necessity until stabilisation can be achieved.

The conservators do not just randomly repair and treat objects that happen to come to their attention (although this does happen on occasion). There is a strategy in place that prioritises objects for conservation, prompted by events such as exhibitions, daily use of Library materials, or by following a longer-term plan where entire collections, identified by the curators, are conserved in their turn.

Library materials are often lent for exhibition - both internally to Wellcome Collections, and externally to a range of locations in the UK and abroad. Luana Franceschet, the exhibitions conservator, works to repair and stabilise items for loan and ensure that the transport and exhibition environments are appropriate to the materials. She works closely with Rowan de Saulles - who, as the Library Exhibits Liason, manages the overall loans process. The venues to receive Wellcome Library items in 2011 include the Canadian War Museum, Tate Britain, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brigham Young University Museum of Art (USA), and Museum Boerhaave (Belgium), to name a few.

Stefania Signorello is the primary book conservator, who also manages outsourcing of work to specialist conservation experts. Stefania supports the librarians, archivists, and the photographers in handling and storing items during use. Objects requested for photography in particular are often popular, well-used special collection items; reviewing these requests provides a useful check on how objects are holding up under use. Stefania recently explained the benefits of her profession, and of working at the Wellcome Library in a Wellcome Trust video on the Jobs website.

Amy Junker-Heslip normally focuses on paper conservation, but is currently managing a project to rehouse - and then make available for access - the personal collection of Henry Wellcome including objects like his saddlebags, his cane, and many different types of textiles. This will require a combination of in-house management and organisation as well as outsourcing construction of new storage and display units.

Simon Jones is the environmental guru at the Library, keeping a careful eye on exhibition spaces in the building, storage areas, and any other locations where special collections will be stored or used. There are a range of parameters to be wary off, and to control as much as possible, including temperature, humidity, light and, of course, pests.

The conservation team have a strong agenda in improving education on careful handling and custodianship of the Library's collections, providing training to all new Wellcome Trust staff. They disseminate handling information to the Library's visitors using leaflets, posters and - a new addition - illustrated table mats for use in the Rare Materials Reading Room. They are on hand for consultation and support when readers need to use items that are difficult to handle - but the high quality of training they provide to Library staff means that this is rarely needed.

Wellcome Library workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

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.
Tuesday 14th June, 2-3pm

Wellcome Images
Do you need a picture? Find what you need from Wellcome Images: search 160 000 pictures online, covering the history of medicine and the history of human culture from the earliest periods of civilisation to the present day.
Thursday 16th June, 2-3pm

Our programme of free workshops offers 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.

The Thing Is...Lister's Legacy

MRSA and C Diff may be relative new-comers on the scene, but hospital acquired infections have been around as long as hospitals have. It was Joseph Lister's groundbreaking work on aseptic surgery which offered the first hope of a solution in this life-or-death situation.

Join Professor Hugh Pennington, an eminent microbiologist who has advised on numerous outbreaks of E-Coli, C Diff and other infections, who will be speaking at the Wellcome Library about his hero Lister, the impact of Lister's work and how it relates to the challenges facing us today. The event will be hosted by Quentin Cooper from Radio 4's Material World, and will feature a mystery object - to be revealed at the event.

Where: Wellcome Library
When: 15 June 2011, 19:00-20:00

Book free tickets for the event.

Author: Eleanor Lanyon

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wellcome Library Insight - Fascinating Faces

This Thursday afternoon (16th June) offers another chance to explore the provocative idea that faces can be 'read', through our free Fascinating Faces 'Insight' session.

This session will explore face reading, from its origins in Ancient Greece and China up to present day security debates on facial recognition.

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

This Thursday's session starts at 3pm, and tickets are available from the Wellcome Collection Information Desk from 1.30pm onwards. For more details, see the Wellcome Collection website.

Image: J.C. Lavater, Essays on physiognomy, translated by Henry Hunter, D.D. London: John Murray, 1789-1798. Volume I, page 96, group of faces set in a circle.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Make a joyful noise

This week is National Music Therapy week in the UK: running from June 6th toJune 11th, and organised by the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT). Music therapy harnesses the ability of music to express things in a non-verbal way, and thus to bypass difficulties that people may have in expressing themselves verbally: therapists work with a wide range of isolating conditions, from brain damage or neurological disease to autism. More about the therapy, its practitioners and the professional networks that support them can be found on the BAMT’s website.

As a codified, organised discipline music therapy is a (relatively) young one: however, the link between music and healing is an old one, and some of the themes of modern music therapy can be seen in Wellcome Library holdings dating from centuries ago. The use of music to treat depression and mental disturbance is a particularly long-standing practice. In the Old Testament, in the first book of Samuel, we read of how Saul, king of Israel, was tormented by a spirit sent by God, which sounds like periodic depression, and was relieved by music:
And it came to pass, when the [evil] spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him. (1 Samuel 16:23; King James version)

We see this illustrated in the Library’s Iconographic collections, in an engraving made from a painting by Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533). A similar link between music and treatment of mental illness can be seen embedded in the plans of Ticehurst House asylum, a private mental hospital whose extensive papers are held in the Archives and Manuscripts collection: within a prospectus held as MS.6783 we see a large music room, as well as (adjacent to it) an aviary for singing birds, which might have served a similar purpose.

The presence of this therapeutic element in a commercial prospectus designed to recruit paying patients reminds us that music also occurs in the Library in the context of advertising, sometimes in the most peculiar of contexts. It is hard to know, for example, who might be tempted to dance the Painkiller Polka, but the sheet music for this enticing dance appears in our Ephemera collection linked to a full-page late-nineteenth century advertisement for a painkiller. The song occurs in a collection also including the Crutch Polka, as well as jolly numbers about “Morison’s Pills” and “The Vegetarian”, some sung by stars of the day such as Dan Leno or George Robey.

Moving to a more elevated cultural plane, the Library also holds sheet music by Haydn: the Austrian composer, who of course spent some time in London in the late eighteenth century, dedicated a collection of six “canzonettas” to the eminent surgeon and anatomist John Hunter. But the last word, perhaps, should go to an eighteenth-century printed song that links those two staples of medical student life, music and strong drink. It sounds, it must be said, a world away from the songs one normally hears as the pubs close: Mr Monro, the composer or arranger of the piece, gives us two verses set for that rather delicate instrument the flute, and fills his lyrics with classical allusions:
…let's try to show our selves men of merit,
by toasting those Gods [Apollo and Bacchus: gods of music and drink] in a bowl of good claret,
and then we shall all be deserving of praise;
but ye man that drinks most, shall go off with ye bays [ie, the wreath of victory].

The BAMT website for National Music Therapy week includes the opportunity to record yourself as part of a mass musical improvisation, "Different Grooves", and upload the results; we take no responsibility for any performances of this little number that may find their way through.

1/ David playing before Saul, engraving after Lucas van Leyden.
2/ Ticehurst House, prosptectus (MS.6783)
3/ Cover of Haydn's Canzonettas dedicating them to John Hunter.
4/ 'The releif, or pow'r of drink': song set by Mr. Monro, c.1731.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

We need your views: Library Website Survey Launches Today!

Many of you have completed our Library User Survey, and we thank you all for taking the time to tell us about your visits to the Library in person. Now we would like to know a little more about you and what you think of the Library website. Your opinions will help us understand more about our audience and the type of information we need to provide in order to meet your needs.

You may have noticed a small pop-up box appearing in the bottom left-hand corner of the Library website home page a few seconds after the page loads. If you click on this box, it will lead you through to the new Library Website Survey which we are launching today.

As with the Library User Survey, all the information provided by you will be treated in the strictest confidence, and all completed surveys will be entered into a prize draw with the winner receiving £100.

Thanks in advance for taking the time to complete the Library Surveys. Your opinions are very important to us!

Working at the Wellcome Library

This is the time of year when the Wellcome Library begins to host internships and work experience placements for students. Some of them are arranged by schools and universities, while others are organized as private initiatives by the students themselves. The Library owes a great debt of gratitude for the work which these volunteers do, and in return tries to make sure that they learn new things, have interesting jobs to do, and meet some highly-skilled people –- none of them difficult to find in the Wellcome Library.

In April, May and June the Library has benefited from the presence of Sophia Selby and Anna Suwalowska (above, left and right respectively, with a watercolour of the death of Napoleon). Sophia is studying Book Arts at the London College of Communication, while Anna is studying Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts: both colleges are part of the University of the Arts London. Both of them helped with the essential work on paintings, drawings, photographs and prints (putting them in to folders and boxes, numbering, organizing, listing and shelving) that has to be done before cataloguing can start, and before photography can then follow.

For Sophia an interesting aspect of the work was seeing items transformed as they went through different curatorial stages. A collection of 19th and 20th century magic lantern slides, kept for decades in a filthy brown cardboard box, was transformed into ordered and listed series wrapped in clean packets in a solander box (right, showing Goldilocks being confronted by the bears: click on image to enlarge). Seeing a picture framer completely change the appearance of an old master painting by placing it in a period frame was another dramatic experience.

For Anna, receiving a set of voodoo paintings from the dealer who had discovered them in Benin, housing them in new storage and documenting their locations was just as much of a revelation. For both, a great advantage of working at the Wellcome Library was the chance to see and handle large numbers of historic documents in many media: mezzotints, watercolours, drawings, engravings, lithographs, screen prints and innumerable others. Some of the special items which passed through their hands were Roentgen's original X-rays from 1895, posters from Russia and the Ukraine, and engravings of Constantinople and the Bosphorus in 1819.

Long hours of foldering and shelving were compensated for by attendance at talks and meetings in the Wellcome Library, and by visits to places outside: a paintings conservation studio, an exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians, an auction at Christie's and a private view at the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace, all of which added to the educational value of the internship. Both the Library and the students benefited greatly from the experience, and as one of them said, "I genuinely enjoyed it!".

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A life on (or under) the ocean wave - World Oceans Day

When we think of planet Earth seen from space, the chances are that we think of the colour green. Our planet occupies the comfortable middle ground between the searingly hot silver clouds of Venus and the cold red deserts of Mars: the so-called “Goldilocks Zone”, not too hot and not too cold, in which water can exist in liquid form and sustain life.

Our view as land-dwellers is a biassed one: to a disinterested alien, the main pecularity of our planet would probably be the large amount of blue in its colour-schemes. The presence of liquid water covering much of the planet's surface is a function of our delicately-poised position in the Goldilocks Zone. Yet, to a land-species like us the ocean is a foreign, sometimes threatening environment, on which we often turn our backs: we treat it as an obstacle, as a food-source to plunder rapidly before returning to land, or at worst as a vast sewer into which we can dump all our various wastes and fondly believe that they vanish. World Oceans Day, taking place in 2011 on June 8th, is an annual attempt to redress this balance; accordingly, today we will seek to highlight some sources in our Library relating to the oceans.

Where humankind goes, sickness and injury follows: so the expansion of Western trade and exploration in the past few hundred years has been tracked by medical men and women, accompanying the voyagers. The richness of our holdings relating to travel is a recurring theme in this blog: our regular talk on Around the World in 100 Years highlights these. We can do no more today than splash in the shallows. Some examples: within the archives department, our manuscript diaries and notebooks allow you to

- follow Harry Hayter Ramsdale on his long journey to Australia in the emigrant ship Clifton, in 1861-1862: in the course of the journey Ramsdale is pressed into service as the ship's medical man when the regular surgeon cuts his throat before they are even out of the English Channel, and subsequently delivers a child on board which he suggests should be named after him. We also share his melancholy reflections when, later, a child dies on board and is buried at sea: "I always think that when buried in our native country we do not altogether lose our friends but when buried at sea everything is apparently gone ... to become the prey of fishes or perhaps rot in the bottomless or serve as a football to every wave." (MS.5324);

- lie at anchor in the Straits of Magellan with the naval surgeon Henry Piers, whose journal of a voyage from Britain to Canada on HMS Satellite in 1856-1857 is held as MS.6110: “Our anchorage at 'Sandy Point' was so close to the shore - within half a mile I should think - that we could distinctly hear noises resembling the croaking of frogs &c. and the ripple breaking on the shore...”;

- cruise the Indian Ocean and the shores of Australia with another naval surgeon, Fleetwood Buckle, who records the coastline in a series of delicate watercolours in his journals, part of a large archive held as MSS.1395-1404 and 5656;

- take notes on the natural history of the oceans with John Temperley Gray as he travels on a P&O ship backwards and forwards between Britain and India, at one point pasting the wing of a flying fish into his notebook (MS.5875)

- in the first years of peace after the Napoleonic Wars, voyage to Madras on the East India Company ship the William Miles, whose young surgeon gives us a detailed description of the ceremonies involved in "Crossing the Line" to the southern hemisphere, which turns into the nineteenth-century equivalent of a wet T-shirt competition:

“Neptune’s Car (in the shape of a blazing tar barrel) was thrown overboard last evening at dusk, and had a very fine effect… Neptune and Amphitrite went in procession round the quarter deck in their car, attended by Triton and their attendants – chief judge, barber, physician, etc. etc. all appropriately costumed... When the procession was over, the Chief Judge came to the gang way and read out the names of those who had not before obeyed Neptune – and one by one they came up and were delivered over to one of the attendants to be blindfolded – after that they were placed upon a chair and the barber got his lathering brush (a mop) and dipping it into a bucket of a delightful mixture of pitch, grease & other highly odoriferous materials, bedaubed the poor fellow’s whole face most plenteously; then taking his razor made of a barrel iron hoop, scraped it all off very carefully not sparing the foundation on which it lay. The next process he had to undergo was the ducking – for this he was carried to a large tub, and soused & soused & soused again – they then dried him with a large swab, & dismissed him.... When the shaving was over the Captain came out and ordering a bucket stood at one of the ports and belaboured us all with water, as long as he could stand…. The ladies seemed to enjoy the fun very much – in the very midst of their laughing, the Captain went round at one of the ports with a bucket of water, & threw it among them all as they stood in the cuddy, looking thro’ the windows laughing at us – few of them escaped a good wetting...Every one seemed to enjoy the ducking very well, and the ladies more than the men.” (MS.7114)

These, of course, are all land-dwellers' perspectives. What lies below the surface of the oceans was, until recently, as much a mystery as the dark side of the moon: oceanography as we understand it only begins in the nineteenth century. One of the first scientific expeditions to explore the deep ocean was that of the Challenger in 1872-1876, after which the Challenger Deep - the deepest point on the earth's surface, the very bottom of the Marianas Trench - is named. The Challenger expedition shed much light on what lies beneath the deep oceans that cover so much of the earth's surface. It was not, however, universally applauded. One of our odder collections is the papers of the doctor and naturalist George Wallich (MSS.4962-4970). Wallich had served as naturlist on an earlier expedition, that of HMS Bulldog in 1860, which surveyed the Atlantic seabed with an eye to the laying of a submarine telegraph cable but brought back natural history data as well. His papers seethe with a sense of grievance, that his priority in observation is being stolen by academic scoundrels: Sir Charles Wyvill Thomson (1830-1882), naturalist of the Challenger expedition, for instance, is always nick-named 'Weevil'. His notebooks cover matters such as ocean circulation and marine life, but more and more are given over to what he describes as "Dark Chapters", the tale - in various coloured inks with copious underlinings - of the injustices done to him. Frightening and mysterious things live beneath the sea but none of them, Wallich might mutter darkly, as frightening and mysterious as scientific plagiarism and deceit. If you want to immerse yourself in Wallich's mounting sense of persecution, watch the rites of Neptune on the William Miles or share in any of the other oceanic explorations in the Wellcome Library, please set sail for the Euston Road.

1/ Ascension Island, from the papers of Fleetwood Buckle (MS.1395).
2/ Parsee hats observed in Bombay, and a description of a Remora caught off Suez, from the notebook of John Temperley Gray (MS.5875).
3/ and 4/ "Dark Chapters", from the papers of George Wallich (MSS.4965-4966).

#AskArchivists Day on June 9th

The Library will be joining colleagues from over 100 archives worldwide to take part in Ask Archivists Day on Twitter on June 9th. We're encouraging the Tweeting world to "Ask Away!" so if there's anything you wanted to know about the Wellcome Library's Archives collections but were too afraid to ask, then please feel free to get in touch tomorrow.

Interested in taking part?

It's very simple! Send us an enquiring tweet from your Twitter account to @WellcomeLibrary on 9 June using the #AskArchivists hashtag. We have members of staff on hand to deal with the Twitter enquiries, and we'll do our very best to get back to you as quickly as we can.

You can follow questions and our responses via our Twitter feed or directly by following us on Twitter @WellcomeLibrary.

Not a Tweeter?

Then fear not! The Wellcome Library is here to assist you with your enquiries in many ways, and details of how to contact us can be found

Four new electronic journal trials

The Wellcome Library currently has trials running to four electronic journals, which can be accessed via the links below to the Library catalogue:

American historical review
The official publication of the American Historical Association.

HOPOS: the journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science
A new journal from the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, concerning the history of philosophical discussions about science.

Philosophy of science
Founded in 1934, the journal of the Philosophy of Science Association.

Jung journal: culture and psyche
Founded in 1979, the journal offers a dialogue between culture and contemporary Jungian views of the dynamic relationship between the cultural and personal aspects of the human psyche.

The trials run until 30 June, and we’d welcome your feedback on each of them. Please email your comments to

Author: Aileen Cook

Image: A philosopher reading. Oil painting (Wellcome Library no. 45131i).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

African posters

The Wellcome Library has acquired a substantial number of posters (circa 1,100) published in thirty African countries to promote health and wellbeing. Dating from 1993 to 2010, they were collected in the latter year from the following countries:

Burkina Faso; Benin; Cameroon; Congo (from 1997); Djibouti; Egypt; Ethiopia; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea Bissau; Ivory Coast; Kenya; Liberia; Madagascar; Malawi; Mali; Mauritius; Morocco; Mozambique; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania; Tunisia; Uganda; Zaire (up to 1997); Zambia; Zimbabwe.

The best represented countries are Ethiopia (286), Kenya (219), Nigeria (130) and Tanzania (120). Some of the subjects represented:

Contraception and reproductive health, sexually transmitted diseases, "backyard abortion", tubal ligation, breast feeding, weighing babies (as a concept), child health centres, vitamins.

Vaccination as a concept; African traditional medicine; pills as a concept.

Protection against communicable diseases including: polio, malaria, AIDS, schistosomiasis, food poisoning, nematode infections (right), tuberculosis, bird flu, and rodent-borne diseases; and against toxic pesticides and diarrhoea.

Smoking, spitting, female genital mutilation, empty hospital pharmacies due to overdemand, traditional tattooing, general health education, avoiding environmental pollution, men's and women's roles in preserving health, the health of orphans, the health of camels, appeals to Islamic and Christian values and images, individual responsibility, child abuse, and activism.

Cataloguing of the collection with brief, first-draft catalogue records has just started, and newly catalogued items are listed on the Wellcome Library's rolling web feed.

Individual items will become available in the Library as they are catalogued, but in the meantime anyone wants to see works from a particular country may see them in the Wellcome Library by ordering them from the online catalogue.

Looking at Sir James Young Simpson

As today is the 200th anniversay of the birth of Sir James Young Simpson, we did think of marking the day by highlighting the works in our collections written by him, which reflect not just his pioneering work in the use of anaesthetics, but also the range of his other interests.

However, whilst considering Simpson's striking features - his wild hair, his shaggy sideburns - we realised the Library also holds a number of interesting visual portrayals of the man.

Take this one for instance: a photograph of a younger Simpson by the early Scottish photographer, James G Tunny:

Although undated, other contemporary images of Simpson would seems to date this photograph to the late 1840s, around the time Simpson had started to investigate the properties of chloroform.

The length of time it would have taken to have captured this image of Simpson, is contrasted by an earlier visual depiction in our holdings. This comes from the notebook of an 1830s Edinburgh medical student, Thomas Graham, who in between note-taking during lectures assayed some rough sketches of his lecturers. So, in profile, here we have James Young Simpson, teacher of pathology (alongside Dr James Home and possibly James Hamilton Junior).

One last illustration of Simpson also depicts his career as a teacher: from 1862, by which time Simpson had been garlanded by accolades, here we have him invigilating an exam, a figure - albeit for comic effect - now grown in size as well as prestige.


Also shown are the stressed students: "ye unfortunate undergraduates are in ye agonies of composition" runs the text, which reminds us that 7th June may be the anniversary of Simpson's birth, but it's also a time of year when students - not just medical ones - are still suffering the torments visualized here.

- Sir James Young Simpson. Wood engraving by R. Taylor, 1870, after J. Moffat. (Wellcome Library no. 8772i)
- Sir James Young Simpson. Photograph by J.G. Tunny. (Wellcome Library no. 13565i)
- Illustrations of three men from the notebook of Thomas Graham, 1836-1838 (MS.8415)
- Sir James Young Simpson. Pen drawing by [E.A.G. S.], 1862. (Wellcome Library no. 8773i)

Sir James Young Simpson is also the subject of a new exhibition at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Surgeons' Hall Museums.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Wellcome Library workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

Finding visual resources in the Wellcome Library collections
A introduction to the wealth of visual resources available in the Wellcome Library collections, and some suggestions and tips on using the library catalogue to find them.
Tuesday 7th June 2-3.15pm

Hunt the Ancestor: resources for medical family history
Was someone in your family a doctor, nurse or patient? Find out about the wealth of resources available to the family historian.
Thursday 12th June, 2-3.15pm

Our programme of free workshops offers 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.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Would you like a Flake with that?

Here in central London it's another warm, sunny day as a record-breaking dry spring shades into summer. The approach of the weekend, of course, gives the British climate the chance to spring a downpour on us all at the time of maximum inconvenience; but let's not harbour such negative thoughts. (Let us also, for the moment, put aside the nagging worry about what a long dry spell like this means for climate change.) Let's focus, instead, on how the weather has turned out perfectly for the UK's National Ice-Cream Week.

We've written many times on this blog about the Wellcome Library's holdings relating to food: pies, curry (twice: here and here), chocolate, cheese, sausages.... the list goes on. It's no surprise, then, that ice-cream also features in our holdings. What is special is that, as far as food historians know, the Library holds the oldest recipe for ice-cream in this country - so in a sense National Ice Cream week, the choc-ice, the 99 and the Mivvi all start here.

Our seventeenth-century recipe-book collection (now digitised) is a wealth of food-historical facts, and it's here that we find the ice-cream recipe: in the recipe book of Lady Ann Fanshawe (1625-1680), MS.7113. Lady Ann was the wife of Sir Richard Fanshawe (1608-1666), a prominent Royalist who had undergone imprisonment and exile during the Commonwealth and was rewarded for his dedication to the Stuart cause, on the Restoration of the monarchy, with the position of Ambassador to Spain. (This was the first permanent resident embassy sent abroad by the English crown: previous ambassadors had been sent as envoys to carry out particular negotiations and had then returned home.) Lady Ann travelled with him and the recipes she compiled show the signs of her Spanish experiences, with New World products such as chocolate entering her kitchen. A more detailed description of her recipe compilation can be found in an article by David Potter in the the journal Petits Propos Culinaires (David Potter, “The Household Receipt Book of Ann, Lady Fanshawe”, Petits Propos Culinaires, 80 (March 2006), pp. 19–32) within the Library: for now we will focus on one particular recipe, that for ice-cream. It sounds serviceable, although some of the flavouring is a little strange to modern tastes:

To Make Icy Cream

Take three pints of the best cream, boyle it with a blade of Mace or else perfume it with orang flower water or Ambergreece, sweeten the Cream, with sugar[,] let it stand till it is quite cold, then put it into Boxes, e[i]ther of Silver or tinn, then take, Ice chopped into small peeces and put it into a tub and set the Boxes in the Ice covering them all over, and let them stand in the Ice two hours, and the Cream Will come to be Ice in the Boxes, then turn them out into a salvar [salver = dish] with some of the same seasoned Cream, so sarve [serve] it up to the Table.

Provided that you have some of the best cream available, there's a project to try out over the weekend: we will, however, excuse you if you choose to flavour the ice-cream with something more to your taste than mace, ambergris or orange-flower water. We would be remiss if we didn't point out that ice-cream can be a vehicle for bacteria, and that it should be prepared and stored hygenically. The twentieth-century papers of Sir Herbert Chalke (1897-1979), held as GC/200, include sobering information on potential contamination: for example, his 1939 article "The chemical and bacteriological examination of ice cream samples" (in Medical Officer, 24 Jun 1939), held as GC/200/D/2/6). Wash your hands well. Let's not end on a negative note, however. Still amongst our twentieth-century papers, we find Sir Weldon Dalrymple-Champneys (1892-1980) (papers held as GC/139) giving in 1951 what is described as the "Inaugural address at the 2nd National Conference of the Ice Cream Alliance" (GC/139/F.19). That's an organisation that, in the current hot spell, most of us would sign up to.

1/ Girl eating an ice-cream (British readers will recognise this as a 99; some day, food historians will puzzle over why a cornet with a Flake was called this), from Wellcome Images (N0031317).
2/ Lady Ann Fanshawe's ice-cream recipe, from MS.7113. (A digitised image of the entire opening can be seen here.)

Archives and manuscripts cataloguing, May 2011

May was, for the most part, a month of steady progress in the Archives and Manuscripts department, with several collections in train but the majority carrying on into June rather than being completed within the month. Nearly 400 records were added to the online database before the month's end. The majority remain invisible for the moment, awaiting the completion of the projects to which they belong, but May did see the release of several noteworthy sets of papers, now available for study in the Wellcome Library.

Our long-running project to repackage and make available material deposited here by the British Psychological Society passed another milestone, with the papers of Charles Wilfred Valentine (1879-1964) (PSY/VAL) being made visible in the database. Valentine was a specialist in educational psychology (and a life-long friend and colleague of Cyril Burt) and many of the papers relate to child development. In some tests, for example, he tracked the reactions of infants from birth to the age of three, monitoring such things as whether the sound of a ticking watch obtruded on their attention enough for them to stop feeding and whether this changed over time. He also wrote on the psychology of aesthetics, and on dreams. One particularly interesting section of the collection comprises notes kept by his one-time research student, Kenneth Davies Hopkins (d.1942). Hopkins, a Birmingham teacher, studied for an MA in Education under Valentine's supervision in the 1930s. A Territorial Army officer, he served in the Second World War and was captured in northern France in 1940. Whilst interned as a Prisoner of War, he embarked on a project to record his dreams and those of his fellow PoWs, with Valentine's encouragement. (Prisoners of war, with all too much time on their hands, undertook many scientific projects during the Second World War: much pioneering work on bird behaviour, for instance, dates from this time.) Sadly, Hopkins died of a lung condition in a PoW camp in 1942; his notebooks were found when the Allies took control of the vacated camp in 1945, and sent to Valentine. The Library is pleased to make them available now, as a small tribute to Major Hopkins' determination to continue scientific work under the most unpromising of circumstances.

War is a leitmotiv of this month's new material: another major tranche of papers relates to the Strangeways Research Laboratory's work during the Second World War. The papers form part of the existing SA/SRL collection of papers from the laboratory (SA/SRL), described as a new section M. The Laboratory spent the war researching substances that might be used in chemical warfare, and agents that might counteract them, in collaboration with the War Ministry's Porton Down Laboratory. An earlier blog post has described these papers in some detail.

On a lighter note, MS.8767 takes us travelling in nineteenth-century Italy. It comprises an account of a journey undertaken in 1855 by C.J.W. Bosanquet, whose identity remains unknown. Starting in Milan, Bosanquet takes us eastwards to Como and the Lakes, then into Switzerland and via Geneva to Lyon; he records sights seen, the weather, his experiences with officials when crossing borders, and religious reflections inspired by all of these. Drinkers of bottled water may be a little unsettled by his note that "We slept at a dirty little place called Evian." We can only applaud his taste, however, in how he opens the journal: its first words are "There are some very curious manuscripts in the Library." There are indeed; and several more are now available to be seen in the reading room.

Image: the travel journal of C.J.W. Bosanquet, 1855, showing geological formations near Geneva (MS.8767).

Guest Post: Neurology, the “Unconscious” and Victorian Psychiatry

The Bethlem Blog is run by the Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives and Museum to provide historical information on one of the world's oldest psychiatric hospitals, access to the Museum's art collection, and to contribute generally to the public understanding and destigmatisation of mental illness. This guest post discusses the work of one of the Hospital's Superintendents, Theophilus B. Hyslop (1863-1933).

The copy of Theo Hyslop’s 1895 publication, Mental Physiology in the Wellcome Library was, presumably, originally the doctor’s own, as it is interleaved with reviews, calling cards and letters to Hyslop from other mental health professionals, forming a fascinating archive in itself.

Mental Physiology was written mainly for the psychological part of Hyslop’s London M.D, which he completed while working as Assistant Medical Officer at Bethlem. Hyslop’s successor, William Stoddart, found it “strange” that the book never reached a second edition. [1] Perhaps Hyslop’s efforts to associate somatic and psychological theories of mental health and illness did not integrate easily with a growing divide between neurological and psychotherapeutic approaches. Nonetheless, Mental Physiology certainly shares similar evolutionary concerns with much British psychiatry of the period, in emphasising the importance of volition (or will) to both the individual and broader civilization, simultaneously associating mental ill-health with a loss of, or failure to attain, this self-control.

Hyslop was also heavily influenced by French neurology, much of which stemmed from the work of Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière in Paris. Mental Physiology contains numerous references to the writings of Charcot’s pupils, such as Charles Féré and Pierre Janet. Janet is of particular note here: his calling card appears among the numerous psychiatrists’ cards pasted into the Wellcome Library's copy of Mental Physiology (from physicians across Europe and the United States), presumably received when they either visited Bethlem or attended a conference or meeting of the Medico-Psychological Association.

A letter from Janet to Hyslop, also included in the Wellcome's edition of Mental Physiology, would seem to be part of a longer correspondence between the two, for it discusses the symptoms, and treatment, of a particular individual, presumably known to both parties. Since Henri Ellenberger’s research into The Discovery of the Unconscious in 1970, Janet’s work has been regarded as important in the formation ‘dynamic psychiatry’ and psychotherapeutic techniques, through his explorations into repressed memory, multiple personality and the connections between past events and present trauma. [2] It is interesting to see here evidence of an established link between French and English psychiatry during a period in which, according to the traditional historical view, continental ideas had limited influence in England.

[1] Stoddart, W. H. B. 1933. “Obituary: Theophilus Bulkeley Hyslop, M.D., CM., M.R.C.P.E., F.R.S.E.”. Journal of Mental Science 79, no. 325: 424-426.

[2] Ellenberger, H. 1970. The Discovery of the Unconscious: the History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry. New York: Basic Books.

This post also appears on the Bethlem Blog.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Studying the stomach

Had not been for an encounter with a fur trapper, it is likely that William Beaumont (1785-1853) (pictured left) would have been just another surgeon in the United States army whose name was lost to posterity. As a result of this meeting, however, Beaumont became the first person to observe human digestion as it occurs in the stomach.

On 6 June 1822, Beaumont - serving in the Army Medical Service in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan - was summoned to treat Alexis St Martin. St Martin was a 28-year-old French-Canadian fur trapper who had been injured by a gunshot blast to the stomach. The initial wound was sizeable - in Beaumont's words, "more than the size of the palm of a man's hand". It gradually healed, but after a nearly a year, small holes (or fistulas) remained in the skin. This meant that Beaumont could move a flap of skin and actually see the workings of St Martin's stomach.

Beaumont realised that this afforded fantastic opportunities for research, and he even employed St Martin - who was no longer fit to resume his previous work - for a time as his family's handyman. Beaumont was assigned to different locations through his attachment to the army over the next decade, but he continued his observations of digestion occurring in St Martin's stomach intermittently in this time.

At a simple level, he removed gastric juices from St Martin and mixed them with canned beef. He also inserted a similar piece of beef tied to a piece of string into St Martin's stomach, then removed this beef to compare the rates of digestion of both pieces of meat. In later research, he tried inserting different foods into St Martin's stomach, including vegetables, raw oysters, sausage and mutton. Beaumont discovered that anger hindered digestion - this from the fact that St Martin sometimes, perhaps understandably, became irritable during the experiments...

Beaumont carried out further experiments with St Martin on the rates of digestion and the constitution of gastric juices. In 1833, he published his research as Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juices and the Physiology of Digestion. This work - which has proved extremely influential - outlined the complexities of the digestive process, describing the stomach in motion and at rest, and even suggested the damage caused to the workings of the stomach by alcohol.

In 1840, Beaumont was able to leave the Army. He became a prominent local doctor in St Louis, Missouri, a job he held until his death in 1853. But what of St Martin? Despite his injuries, he lived to the ripe age of 86 (outliving Beaumont by nearly 30 years).

St Martin's family were nervous that doctors would want to obtain his body, so they deliberately let his corpse decompose for four days before burying him in an unmarked grave. It was only in the 1960s that St Martin's descendents disclosed his grave's location, allowing a plaque to be placed near it. The plaque gives details on St Martin's life and says that "through his affliction he served all humanity".

- Portrait of William Beaumont, from Jesse S Meyer Life and Letters of Dr William Beaumont (St Louis, 1912)
- 'Represents the ordinary appearance of the left breast and side, the aperture filled with the valve; the subject in erect position', from William Beaumont, Experiments and observations on the gastric juice, and the physiology of digestion (Plattsburgh, 1833)
- Portrait of Alexis St. Martin, aged 81, from Jesse S Meyer Life and Letters of Dr William Beaumont (St Louis, 1912)

A version of this blog post appears in the new issue of 'Big Picture'

Find out more on the William Beaumont family website.

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