Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Map of Civil War DC hospitals

Pinpointing the location of Civil War hospitals is harder than you'd expect. I got a call looking for one in Southeast Washington today - I couldn't find it, but I did find this site with a list of hospitals. I don't know if it's complete and I wish the map was larger, but it's helpful.

NLM Lecture - "Finding Humanity in Rat City: John B. Calhoun's Experiments in Crowding at the NIMH."


History of Medicine Division Seminar

Co-sponsored by the Office of NIH History

Wednesday, May 7, 2008, 2-3:30pm

Lister Hill Visitor's Center Bldg 38A, NLM

Bethesda, MD

"Finding Humanity in Rat City: John B. Calhoun's Experiments in Crowding at the NIMH."

Edmund Ramsden, London School of Economics and Exeter University

In a series of experiments at the National Institute of Mental Health from 1954-86, John B. Calhoun offered rats and mice everything they needed, except space. The resulting population explosion was followed by profound "social pathologies" such as violence, sexual deviance, and withdrawal; a "behavioral sink" culminating in extinction. While some were keen to see Calhoun's "rat cities" as evidence for what was going wrong with the American city, others cautioned against drawing strong
analogies between rodents and man. The ensuing dispute saw social and biomedical scientists involved in a careful negotiation of the boundary between human and non-human animals.

All are Welcome

Note: The next history of medicine seminar will be on Wednesday, June 11, 2-3:30pm in the Lister Hill Auditorium, NLM's Bldg 38A. In a special program for Asian American History Month, Judy Wu of the Ohio State University will speak on 'From White Woman's Burden to Orientalized Motherhood: The Strange Career of Dr. "Mom" Chung.'

Sign language interpretation is provided. Individuals with disabilities
who need reasonable accommodation to participate may contact Stephen
Greenberg at (301-435-4995), e-mail, or the
Federal Relay (1-800-877-8339).

Due to current security measures at NIH, off-campus visitors are advised
to consult the NIH Visitors and Security website:

Stephen J. Greenberg, MSLS, PhD
Coordinator of Public Services
History of Medicine Division
National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health
Department of Health and Human Services


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NY Times on syphilis

As you might expect from an Army museum and a pathology institute, we have a lot of photographs of syphilis (and yaws, a related disease). Here's the NY Times on the natural history of the disease:

A Great Pox’s Greatest Feat: Staying Alive
Published: April 29, 2008
Research indicates that syphilis became less virulent over time, which probably helped it survive.

Veterinary Corps again

Some time ago I wrote about Greg Krenzelok's Veterinary Corps website, where he's devoted considerable time to documenting the role horses played in World War 1. To help him out a bit, we've been feeding him pictures from our collection and he's been putting them on his page. He's made a separate section for our pictures and has given us some really nice credit, as well as giving the link to this blog. Take a look at his site; it's truly a labor of love.

June 11: Mitch Yockelson's World War 1 book lecture

My old colleague Mitch Yockelson (if I can use that term when we were both Archives Techs) is speaking at National Archives Building, Constitution Ave., between 7th & 9th Streets, NW, Washington, DC 20408 US on Wednesday, June 11, at 12:00PM

He's celebrating the publication of his new book: Borrowed Soldiers: Americans Under British Command 1918 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2008). A discussion of the book will be held in the National Archives McGowan Theater and a reception and book signing will follow. Use Special Events entrance on Constitution Ave.

I'd encourage anyone interested in military history to stop by. Later in the year, Mitch will be speaking at the Medical Museum specifically on the medical part of the story.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Anatomical Theatre: Medical Museum Images

Came across this nice set of images (click on gallery) done by Joanna Ebenstein, a New York-based photographer and designer, during a one-month pilgrimage to medical museums in England, Scotland, Hungary, Italy, Austria, The Netherlands, and the United States. Wax models, wet specimens, skeletal specimens...and is that Brian's arm I see?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Body Worlds vs. Bodies - the Exhibition

Bodies was on display in Arlington a few months back; and Body Worlds is up in Baltimore now. Our colleagues at Biomedicine on display have a couple of blog posts on what they thought of the exhibits - here and here.

Should you trust this blog?

Ehh, maybe. See "Can You Handle It? Better Yet: Do You Know It When You See It?," by Monica Hesse, Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, April 27, 2008; Page M01, for a good discussion of online information versus knowledge.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Poison Gas

Earlier this week ran an article on the 93rd anniversary of the first use of poison gas on the Western Front in World War 1, when the Germans used chlorine gas against French and Algerian troops. The article said that chlorine gas produces a green cloud and a strong odor, giving the victims at least a little advance warning. This made me think of posters we have from World War 2 that warn soldiers of the different smells that gases produce (although I neither know nor wish to know what flypaper smells like):





Friday, April 25, 2008

Medical technology creates ethical dilemmas. Again

Read about left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) in "Heart Pump Creates Life-Death Ethical Dilemmas," By Rob Stein, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, April 24, 2008; A01. Once one of these is implanted in someone, their heart can't fail. I'm pretty sure we don't have any of these devices in the museum yet.

National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine division announces websites

The Bathtub Collection!

Two new websites from HMD

The History of Medicine Division of the NLM is pleased to announce two new websites focusing on the Bathtub collection and genealogical resources.

NLM is home to numerous biographical and genealogical resources for those seeking information about ancestors with medical or health related training. Among these is the AMA Deceased Physicians Card File, a collection of nearly 400,000 index cards created by the AMA between about 1901 and 1969 focusing on everyone in the U.S. who received a medical degree. The cards were updated throughout the physician's career with information about degrees obtained, licensing, addresses and finally cause of death and sometimes obituary citations and even portraits. Please visit the site at:

The Bathtub collection consists of fragments found in the old and rare bindings of the NLM's rare book collection when items were rebound and conserved in the 1940s and 1950s. It is called the "Bathtub Collection" because then-curator Dorothy Schullian took the leftovers of conservation work home and soaked them in her bathtub to retrieve the often interesting bits and pieces of medieval manuscripts and early
printed ephemera she found. Please visit the site at:

Actually the Bathtub Collection sounds like one person made the best of a bad conservation plan...

Southern California Medical Museum exhibit on quackery

See "Medical quackery gets airing at California Medical Museum," By MELANIE LADONGA, The Press-Enterprise April 24, 2008.

The Southern California Medical Museum sounds like a traditional small medical museum - "Medical artifact collections on display include surgical kits from the Civil War up to World War II and battlefield amputation kits, syringes and poison bottles. A collection of thermometers includes a thermometer made of gold that is more than 100 years old."

This is outside my usual stomping ground, but I'd stop in if possible.

Tours of Forest Glen Seminary, formerly part of Walter Reed

From World War 2 until the 1990s, Walter Reed owned and used the National Park Seminary girl's school buildings at Forest Glen, MD. They didn't maintain the buildings well; around 1989 or so I rescued a post-Works Project Administration mural of the Seminary by Jack McMillan which showed orange jumpsuited psychiatric patients on the grounds. It was being damaged by water leaking down from 3 floors above. The painting is restored and on display in the Museum; in the meantime, you can take tours of the buildings as explained in this article "At an Old Retreat, Signs of Renewal," by Amy Orndorff, Washington Post Friday, April 25, 2008; Page WE05 (which is not quite factual - the theater burned down). There's two photographs on the site as well.

A few points of interest - the fountain, which was badly damaged the last time I saw it, was a sixteenth century work imported from Italy if I remember correctly. Also the ballroom in the main building was restored and is stunning, although a lot of the busts that lined it are missing.

The place is well worth seeing. It's being turned into condos now.

Susan L. Smith on WWII Mustard Gas Experiments

Lecture at NYAM: Susan L. Smith on WWII Mustard Gas Experiments

This year, the New York Academy of Medicine's Public Lecture Series in the History of Medicine and Public Health has been looking at some new aspects of the history of medicine in wartime - specifically, the interplay between war, medicine and society. Our series explores the poisonous ideologies that fester into wars, and the development and testing of deadly new weapons to fight them; the social and
infrastructural stresses and fractures war brings; and the challenges of helping war's maimed and damaged soldiers find peaceful occupations when the fighting is over.

The series concludes next month with Susan L. Smith's look at human experimentation in the context of global war.

Thursday, May , 8, 2008, 6:00 PM with reception at 5:30 PM The Lilianna Sauter Lecture Medicine in Wartime, Part IV: Place, Health and War: World War II Mustard Gas Experiments in Transnational Perspective Susan L. Smith, University of Alberta

In the early 1940s, medical scientists funded by the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service conducted painful mustard gas experiments on at least 60,000 American soldiers. The Allies, including the governments of Canada, Britain, Australia, and the United States, conducted these experiments on their own soldiers in order to identify the impact of chemical weapons on the health of soldiers. One component of the research program involved examining how mustard gas affected men of various "races." At least eight separate experimental programs in the United States focused specifically on Japanese American and African American soldiers and one focused on testing Puerto Ricans on an island off Panama. The researchers were searching for evidence of race-based differences in the responses of the human body to mustard gas exposure. In the 1940s in a climate of contested beliefs over the existence and meanings of racial differences, medical researchers examined the bodies of these specific minority groups for evidence of how they differed from whites.

Susan L. Smith is a Professor of History and Classics at the University of Alberta specializing in the history of health and medicine. Her current reserach focuses on race, health, and war. She is the author of two books on race and health in the United States, Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: Black Women's Health Activism in America, 1890-1950 and Japanese American Midwives: Culture, Community, and Health
Politics, 1880-1950.

To register for this event, visit :

For more information about NYAM programs in the history of medicine, visit our website at , write , or call 212.822.7310.

Historical programs at NYAM are supported by the Friends of the Rare Book Room. Please join the Friends! Download a membership form at .


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Former Curator Jeff Reznick at Book Festival

Jeff Reznick writes in to tell us about an opportunity talk to him and buy his World War I medical history books (which you can learn more about by clicking on the two pictures):

"This Sunday, April 27, the town of Kensington, Maryland will celebrate The International Day of the Book with a street festival on Howard Avenue in Old Town Kensington. I am excited to be one of nearly five-dozen local authors participating in the event.

Copies of my first book will be on display alongside flyers promoting my new book, which is due out early next year from Manchester University Press/ Palgrave Macmillan.

You can learn more about Kensington's Day of the Book Festival here

Links, links, and more links (actually, just four links tonight)

A few links for you, on this warm spring Tuesday evening:

  • Morbid Anatomy offers some most excellent linkage to something called "The Spitzner Museum's Wax Woman," by Francoise Riviere and Andreas Martens. It's described as a comic book, which I am sure is going to get the attention of one of our staff.
  • An outstanding syndicated travel column featured the Museum. Thanks!
  • Revealed links to some details about a catalog for a previous exhibit at the Duke University Museum of Art entitled "The Physician’s Art."
  • And Street Anatomy brings the funny when they offer a link to Panexa.


Museums on the Web

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this year's Museums and the Web conference, which this year took place in Montreal, Canada. This was my first visit to Montreal, and I was able to visit a few of the local sites, and you're invited to see a few of those photos on this Flickr stream.

Much is made everyday of the impact the Internet is having on our lives, and that impact is just as acutely felt in the museum world as any place else. MW2008 was about how institutions large and small and from around the world are incorporating the Web and other Internet-based technologies into their programs and business. More than 650 people from 27 countries attended. (Other stats here.)

There were awards offered, too: of note was this one category, the Best of the Web (Education) award was given to The American Image: The Photographs of John Collier Jr., an offering by The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and College of Education’s Technology & Education Center (TEC) at the University of New Mexico. The very Best of the Web was Launchball of the Science Museum, London. (Beware, this is the very epitome of a timewaster, I lost a few hours somehow after logging onto that for the first time.) The list of awardees is here.

There was so much discussed at the conference that I've been overwhelmed with trying to offer some wayposts to our eight or nine readers who might be interested in learning more about the topics discussed. So, I was glad to run across this post by one Bryan Kennedy from the Science Museum of Minnesota, who wrote on the Museum 2.0 blog. Take special note of a few of the links he offers: the backchannel that was prevalent at times during the conference, for instance.

And what a comment that makes, in an of itself: A conference about the Web used the Web to enrich the experience, in real time, using Twitter, individual blogs, Flickr, whatever else was handy.

There's a lot more, and I could go on about it for a while longer, and I might add to this or post some more later on this topic. For now, I encourage you to check out this conference Web site, which features blogs written before, during and after the meeting. There are links there to search the conference papers, too, which are worth perusing if time allows, and how to find presenters' slides and handouts.

Cool Dissection Atlas Profiled

Morbid Anatomy linked to a New York Times article today, which I circulated around the office today - a feature on the Bassett Stereoscopic Dissection Collection (watch their video, too, of which I am very jealous!). And to add to the flurry of links, check out this Flickr stream and this article from Stanford. Very cool stuff. I, for one, would love to check out some of those View-masters.

St. Elizabeth's Calvarium - Dr. I.W. Blackburn

A good day at the museum is rediscovering the history of a specimen or artifact that has lost its association with the record that tells us who, where and why it has come to the museum. Sometimes it takes archival research to do this and sometimes it's purely serendipitous.

This weekend I discovered a copy of "Intracranial Tumors Among the Insane (1902) by Dr. I. W. Blackburn in a used bookstore in Gaithersburg, MD. Dr. Blackburn was the former pathologist for St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. He performed hundreds maybe thousands of autopsies on patients who died at the hospital. While browsing through the book I noticed a photo of very unique calvarium (top of the skull). The specimen had two rare conditions; scaphocephaly and hyperostosis frontalis interna. The bone looked strangely familiar.

In the Anatomical Division of NMHM we have such a specimen. It was listed as coming to the museum from an early exchange with the Smithsonian National Museum and not attributed to St. Elizabeth's at all. I bought the book for $15 and lo and behold when I brought it back to the museum our specimen was the same one in the book. It was attributed to a 65 year old black female patient at St. Es. The existing record was based on a bygone curatorial staff member using the wrong numbering system to describe the specimen. There have been several systems in place at the museum at various times which causes a lot of confusion for us today.

Here is a recent photo of the specimen. In addition to the pathological conditions there are also consistencies among the size and shape of the exposed frontal sinus, the etchings of the meningeal vessels, the contours of the thickened frontal bone and the two small bony exostoses in the center just left of the midline. The front of the skull is oriented to the right.

The specimen's history is now restored. Additionally, four other calvaria in the collection with no known history have similarly composed autopsy numbers written on the bones. All are now believed to be from St. Elizabeth's with further research pending. These specimens have very early accession numbers which means that they arrived at the museum around 1917-1918 when the Army Medical Museum was busy attending to the medical needs of World War I. It is not clear when the original error was made, but it likely extends back several decades. The specimens themselves are from the late 19th century autopsies.

In the photo below you can see the scaphocephalic calvarium (left) next to a normal one (right). Notice that the normal one on the right has a jagged line called the sagittal suture (front to back) which the one on the left lacks. Sutures are where the bones of the cranium grow and expand. In scaphocephaly the sagittal suture fuses prematurely and the coronal suture continues to grow which gives the unique elongated shape you see here. The one on the left is darker due to over 100 years of dust and dirt adhering to oils that remained in the bone. Since bone is porous, it can absorb materials from the environment which effect its color. The one on the right was cleaned using chemicals that removed much of the oils and was stored in a relatively cleaner environment.

Civil War photos from Museum on display in Smithsonian

Toby Jurovics, a curator of photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, borrowed some William Bell pictures from us last year. Bell's work is often confused with the more famous Matthew Brady. They're on display in a small gallery of Civil War photos, along with more famous pictures by Gardener and Sullivan.

Here's roughly how they look although I should have turned the flash off:






Sunday, April 20, 2008

National Health Museum

The Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting that the "National Health Museum," which doesn't exist except as a website, is now looking beyond Washington for a home. The NHM was established in 1988 as the National Museum of Health & Medicine Foundation, but eventually decided in the early 1990s that they didn't want to be affiliated with the existing medical museum anymore and went on their own. So in two decades, they've created a website and now are looking to move out of DC - "After a 10-month search, he said Atlanta remains in the running with Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Museum officials will announce a selection later this year, [Mark Dunham] said."

See "National health museum might call Atlanta home," by CRAIG SCHNEIDER. Published on: 03/26/08. Thanks to Jen Heilman for the tip.

Library of Congress has a blog now too!

The Library of Congress has a blog now too! And they're posting Hitler's Treasures there, but I'm noting it just to say - we were here first! Their blog is by Matt Raymond, one of their PR guys apparently.

Influenza subject to the endangered species act?

MIS 58-15573-69 - Influenza Ward, Sagamihara Hospital, Japan, August 9, 1957.

Well, probably not, but the Post had this interesting article - "Researchers Chart Flu's Global Journey: Strains Arise in Asia, Die in S. America," by David Brown, Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, April 17, 2008; Page A04 - about how strains go extinct in South America this year, but new ones arise in Asia to replace them. The genetic analysis of the influenza virus continues to amaze.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Speaking of Flickr

As I do in the next post... here are three I posted this week. I won't steal Mike's thunder. I'll let him show you the ones he sent to Flickr himself.





SC 41726 Just All Eyes, Brother (This one had 102 views overnight, and makes me think of my son the Marine. He said all through boot camp the drill instructor would yell out, "Did I say eyeballs?" if he caught the recruits looking at him.)

SC 41726 Just All Eyes, Brother

Flickr bragging

I did a quick count this morning on our three Flickr accounts. (Come on already, Flickr, with our Commons account!)

Here are the beautiful numbers:

Otisarchives1: 42,001 (198 images)
Otisarchives2: 21,381 (199 images)
Otisarchives3: 9,998 (180 images)
For a total of 73,380 views on 577 images.

We're not Library of Congress or the National Archives, but I think we do pretty well. In case you need a reminder of where our accounts are, or a refresher for new posts, feel free to take a look.,, and

Prescription safety

I had a couple of prescriptions filled at Costco today. I usually get my scripts filled elsewhere so I was kind of surprised to see what Costco has done to increase safety in prescription drugs. The label has all of the usual information but also includes a list that says what form the drug is (tablet, capsule, etc.), what its shape is, its color, and any printing on it. I think that's brilliant. How simple and how smart. I have a relative that takes a lot of prescriptions and at one time kept the open bottles in a shoe box which of course was overturned. This would have been of great help in sorting out the mess on the bottom of the box. (We won't even talk about the tops not being on the bottles.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

National Library of Medicine lecture - "Doctors' Ladies," or: Another Look at Chinese Diagnostic Manikins

We have two of these on display in our Museum, not the ones in the following picture, and the NLM is about 15 minutes away.

Reeve062752Male and female anatomical mannequins (not Chinese), made of ivory. Length of figures 6.5 inches. View showing the figures open. Reeve62752


History of Medicine Division Seminar

Wednesday, April 23, 2008, 2-3:30pm

Lister Hill Visitor's Center Bldg 38A, NLM Bethesda, MD

"Doctors' Ladies," or: Another Look at Chinese Diagnostic Manikins

Chinese anatomical diagnostic manikins are among the many interesting artifacts found in medical history collections. Ivory female figurines were used by Chinese doctors during a house call. The Chinese custom decreed that a woman must not be physically examined by a male physician. The female patient marked the area of pain or discomfort on the doll and passed it through a curtain without actually being seen by
the doctor.

Christine Ruggere,

Johns Hopkins University

All are Welcome

Note: The next history of medicine seminar will be on Wednesday, May 7, 2008, 2-3:30pm in the Lister Hill Visitor's Center, NLM's Bldg 38A. In a joint program with the Office of NIH History, Edmund Ramsden, London School of Economics and Exeter University, will speak on "Finding Humanity in Rat City: John B. Calhoun's Experiments in Crowding at the NIMH."

Sign language interpretation is provided. Individuals with disabilities who need reasonable accommodation to participate may contact Stephen Greenberg at (301-435-4995), e-mail
, or the Federal Relay (1-800-877-8339).

Due to current security measures at NIH, off-campus visitors are advised
to consult the NIH Visitors and Security website:

Stephen J. Greenberg, MSLS, PhD

Coordinator of Public Services

History of Medicine Division

National Library of Medicine

National Institutes of Health

Department of Health and Human Services


Forensic paper redux

Mike has posted about a recent paper written by Lenore Barbian and me that used the Civil War skeletal collection. Here's the abstract and title page image from the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

This paper reports on the gross appearance of the initial osseous response following cranial gunshot wounds. A total of 127 adult crania and cranial sections were analyzed for four types of bone response: osteoblastic, osteoclastic, line of demarcation, and sequestration. In general, no osteoblastic or osteoclastic response was noted during the first week. This response was followed by an increasing prevalence of expression after this time. By the sixth week postfracture both osteoclastic and osteoblastic activity was scored for 100% of the sample. Further, our observations suggest that the line of demarcation may establish the boundary between the living bone and bone not surviving the fracture. Sequestration appears to be a long-term event and was scored as present well past the eighth week of healing. The osseous expression of infection following fracture was also considered.

For those not versed in the forensic anthropological lexicon, let me decipher it for you. The Civil War skeletal collection is unique in many ways, but for this study it was the documented date of injury and date of death that allowed us to determine the time elapsed following injury. We examined skull sections of 127 Civil War soldiers looking at the way in which the fractured bone responds to injury over time-- and this is the only collection in the world where this could be done.

Forensic anthropologists can use the information in this study when they have a case that could involve survival after a traumatic injury. Some of the data may also be useful in looking at child abuse cases or human rights abuse cases.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chest-compression-only CPR, one of my favorite news sources, reported a couple of weeks ago about the American Heart Association giving the OK for chest compressions only, in unexpected collapse of adults. The AHA says skip the mouth-to-mouth, which most people are unwilling to do anyway because of the "yuck factor;" quickly call 911 and give 100 compressions a minute until the paramedics arrive.

The more you know, the more you know

Mike and I were talking today about just what our digitization project has accomplished. This was in response to a meeting we'd attended where it was brought up that many researchers today think if something's not on the Internet, it doesn't exist and/or it doesn't matter (it must not be significant if it's not worth digitizing). For those of you reading this blog, I can imagine you either shaking or nodding your head - you've heard this before or just can't believe people think that way. But I heard it in library school so it must be so.

Anyway, this segued into talking about the first collection we scanned as a part of this project, in 2005 - the MAMAS collection. That stands for Museum and Medical Arts Services. I blogged briefly about MAMAS way back in this blog's infancy but, in short, MAMAS photographers were dispatched to the European and Pacific theaters during World War 2 to document the medical treatment the troops were getting. We scanned a dozen or so boxes of photos and realized we had very little from Europe. Didn't know where they were but they weren't in this batch of boxes.

Fast forward to late 2007. Over the years the archives has rescued countless documents that were being discarded for whatever reason. We've begun to dig through them and in the sort we realized that what we had were several hundred MAMAS photos from Europe. Happy day, and exciting. They're now in the process of being cataloged and will be scanned some time this year.

And so, this is the source of this post's title. If we hadn't scanned the first, "known" batch of MAMAS, we would never have "known" that these several hundred (and most likely will top 1000) photos were also part of that collection.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mark Your Calendar--National Hairball Awareness Day

It's April 27, if it's not already on your calendar. Make plans now for your salute to the bezoar--the museum is. We will host a special exhibition of hairballs. One of our human hairballs is already on display in our Human Body exhibit. To celebrate NHD, we'll display some of our veterinary specimens--they are impressive. Cats get hairballs and so do humans (trichobezoars). Ruminant animals do, too (cows, llamas, goats, etc.). They once were thought to be a universal antidote to any poison. Turns out that they just might work on arsenic. Here's a pic of one our human hairballs that is currently on display. It was surgically removed from a 12 year-old girl who had been eating her hair for 6 years.

The Army Reads Blogs - do they do it at work? reports that the Army reads blogs just to make sure that what's being said about it and its goings-on is the truth. Do they have to do it on their own time, from home? We can't read what bloggers are saying about our museum from our Army computers, and because of that have to print out what's being said about it from our own computers at home. I guess there are rules and there are rules.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Post on changes for Walter Reed soldiers

To read about some of the changes about patient care at the hospital, see "The Young Lions of Able Troop: To the Cadre on the Front Lines Of Improving Care at Walter Reed, The Challenge Can Rival Combat," By Steve Vogel, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, April 10, 2008; B01.

AFIP's educational offerings

Dr. Mullick, director of the Pathology Institute, sent out this email today -

Congratulations to the Department of Medical Education and particularly to Mr. Carlos Moran, MS, Department Chair, for a most impressive achievement. The Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) accredited the Institute's continuing medical education program for six years. In addition, the ACCME awarded five commendations, further underscoring the exemplary nature of the AFIP education program. It is also interesting to note that only 8% of the many hundreds of ACCME accredited providers nationwide receive a six year accreditation, and even fewer do so with more than four commendations. This is truly and outstanding achievement and I would like to personally thank Mr. Moran and the Department staff whose dedicated efforts continue to strengthen the educational activities of the AFIP.

For many years the AFIP's conducted courses - the Museum's offered paleopathology, forensic anthropology and helped out in others. The radiology course is attended by most radiologists in the US I believe.

Longtime Archives research Beth Linker lectures on World War 1 in NYC

Medicine in Wartime

War and medicine share an ancient and intimate relationship, and the history of military medicine is a lively meeting-place for scholars from many fields. This year, the New York Academy of Medicine's Section on the History of Medicine and Public Health is dedicating four public lectures to the topic of medicine in wartime - specifically, the interplay between war, medicine and society. Our series explores the poisonous ideologies that fester into wars and the development and testing of deadly new weapons to fight them; the social and infrastructural stresses and fractures war brings; and the challenges of helping war's maimed and damaged soldiers find peaceful occupations when the fighting is over.

On April 24, Beth Linker will present the third lecture in the mini-series:

Medicine in Wartime III
Limb Lab: Getting Amputee Soldiers Back to Work in World War I America Beth Linker, PhD, University of Pennsylvania Sponsored by the New York Academy Section on the History of Medicine and Public Health

Reception at 5:30 p.m.; Lecture at 6:00 p.m.

Looking across the Atlantic in the spring of 1917 at the ravages of the Great War, the U.S. Council of National Defense prepared for the worst, envisioning its own country re-"arming" hundreds of thousands of limbless American soldiers. The Council thus ordered the Army Surgeon General's Office to create a "Limb Laboratory" where orthopedic surgeons would standardize and construct affordable prosthetic arms and legs for returning disabled veterans. The choices that Limb Lab orthopedists made concerning which type of artificial limbs best suited America's maimed veterans stemmed not only from medical theory and practice, but also from deep-seated political, cultural, and economic concerns shared by many other social progressives at the time. Defining masculinity as the ability to earn wages, orthopedists believed that artificial limbs were necessary to make disabled soldiers whole again, bringing them into their rightful place as "industrial citizens." With this aim in mind, the Limb Lab emphasized the utility of artificial limbs, claiming that amputee men should have "tool-like" appendages rather than anatomical replicas in order to be competitive with able-bodied men in the job market.

Beth Linker, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her teaching interests include disability, American health policy, bioethics, public health, gender and health, and the history and sociology of medicalization.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information about NYAM programs in the history of medicine, click here , write , or call Chris Warren at 212.822.7314.

Save the Date!

Thursday, May 8, 2008, 6:00 PM (with reception at 5:30) Susan Smith, The Annual Lilianna Sauter Lecture, Medicine in Wartime, Part IV: "Human Experimentation with Mustard Gas in World War II"

This event is free and open to the public. To register, visit

For more information about NYAM programs in the history of medicine, visit our website at, write, or call 212.822.7310.

Historical programs at NYAM are supported by the Friends of the Rare Book Room. Please join the Friends! Download a membership form at


Christian Warren, Ph.D.
Historical Collections
New York Academy of Medicine
1216 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029
Phone: 212-822-7314
Fax: 212-423-0273

Change in mammogram technology causes change in diagnosis

Read this article to see how a change in technology is driving changes in diagnosis -

In Shift to Digital, More Repeat Mammograms
New York Times April 10, 2008
As doctors learn to interpret digital mammograms, they are more likely to request second tests.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kidney transplantations

The first kidney transplant took place not quite sixty years ago in 1950, but became more common after anti-rejection drugs appeared in 1964. Yesterday, doctors at Johns Hopkins transplanted six at one time, into five needy people. Historians of medicine (and all types actually) caution against viewing history as a simplistic march of progress, but sometimes progress is progress, no?

New forensic paper based on Civil War specimens

Healing following Cranial Trauma by Lenore Barbian and Paul Sledzik (one of our bloggers) has appeared in the Journal of Forensic Sciences March 2008 issue. The two former curators of the Museum's anatomical section examined 127 Civil War soldier's skulls for evidence of healing after their wounding. The issue is only available online to subscribers.

Civil war soldiers' bodies secretly exhumed

This story about exhuming Civil War-era remains was making the rounds today, and since we're a Museum that features soldiers' remains from the war on display and in the collection, I thought linking to the story was worthwhile.

From USA Today:

"Working in secret, federal archaeologists have dug up the remains of dozens of soldiers and children near a Civil War-era fort after an informant tipped them off about widespread grave-looting."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Imaging technology invention

This is neat, if it works out - "Eyedrops that Probe the Brain: Gene probes deployed in eyedrops show brain damage in MRIs of mice."
by Anna Davison, Friday, April 04, 2008

Road Trip, Anyone? Anyone?

From today's Washington Post:

"Corpus takes visitors inside a large-scale human body with interactive, multi-sensory exhibits that reveal how it operates. Visitors enter the museum through the knee, then travel through eight exhibit spaces, heading up toward the brain. On the way, they can watch a 3-D film on fertilization, bounce on a rubber tongue while they follow a sandwich being digested and throw beanbags against a video screen to destroy bacteria."

They're talking about Corpus, a museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. And I would be adding this to my itinerary, for sure, if I were visiting the EU anytime soon. I would expect that others in the Museum are familiar with this cousin (?) of ours from abroad. Maybe they might elaborate further in comments.

Cell-sorting tech

Here's a story about recent biomedical history - "From the World of Modern Cell Science, A Long and Sorted Coming-of-Age Story, by David Brown, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, April 7, 2008; A06. For years, in our AIDS exhibit, we had displayed a Fluorescent Activated Cell Sorter on loan from the Smithsonian. I imagine it's the same piece mentioned in this article. In this online discussion, "Science and Medicine: Cell Technology," by David Brown and J. Paul Robinson, Washington Post Staff Writer and Professor, Purdue University, Tuesday, April 8, 2008; 11:00 AM, one can find a comment from the Medical Sciences curator Ray Kondratas who led the division at the Museum of American History for many years.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Adler Museum of Medicine in South Africa

Last week, we received the new issue of the Adler Museum of Medicine's Bulletin, which has articles on the Museum and South African medical history. It's a nice glossy publication and you can subscribe to it from their website. We send them our publication, Flesh and Bones, in exchange - it's a newsletter, not a journal, but comes out slightly more often.

the week on flickr - Korean war body armor, Civil War and mosquitoes

April 4th:

Emergency encephalitis laboratory. Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. (Major Cornell, Simmons and Sergeant Rhodes.) [The volunteer has put his arm in a screened cage to be bitten by mosquitoes. Scene. Laboratories. Military camps.]

Armored Vest Number 329 worn by Private 1st Class Willie Tufts, US 52077771, with bullet holes circled and marked 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Company E, 7th Regiment. Front view. 04/26/1952. [Korean War]

Captain Robert Bessey, Jr. (Cincinnati, OH), Infantry member of the Body Armor Team I, Company 15, Infantry Regiment, 30 Division, points to fragment hole in vest worn by Private Edward Schallack (4905 N. 36 St., Milwaukee, WI) who wore the vest on patrol. 04/24/1952. [Korean War]

Private 1st Class Leo Curran, Jr., 46 1/2 Allen Street, Hudson, NY. E Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Division. Was hit in back with fragment while wearing body armor vest on patrol. No penetration. 04/18/1952. [Korean War]

April 1st:

CP 0918
"Gunshot wound of hip." Private William W. Wrightman, Co. L, 2nd New York Heavy Artillery. Wounded at Petersburg, VA on March 31, 1865. Treated by Reed Bontecou at Harewood Hospital.[Civil War]

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Unexpected consequences in universal health care

Apparently there aren't enough doctors doing primary care in Massachusetts to take care of all the newly-insured. This has got to be one of the stupider reasons for not being able to get a physical this year, but it probably was unpredictable. See the article for the details.

In Massachusetts, Universal Coverage Strains Care
New York Times April 5, 2008
An influx of newly insured patients is widening the gap between the supply of primary care physicians and the demand for their services.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Brain Awareness Week mascot; OR, you can go home again if you squint

Former museum graphics guy Bill Discher wrote in to point out that the Brain Awareness Week mascot, seen here...

didn't quite look the way Bill remembered leaving him when he moved on last fall... Bill reworked him again for this look...

..and since he cared enough to do this and write in, you can all see that Museums design by committee at times.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Stop What You Are Doing. Watch This Video.

They had me at 'writhing.' Visit Medgadget first, because they are awesome, and then click through to the New England Journal of Medicine. Hopefully, you too will have the pleasure of watching this video. (Meaning, hopefully this week's feature will prove so popular that NEJM will leave it available to non-subscribers forever.)

I know I won't be alone in saying, I want one of those for our collection!

A few more "Triumph at Carville" links

Mike made an earlier mention of our new temporary exhibition "Triumph at Carville: A Tale of Leprosy in America." The exhibit is closely linked to a documentary of the same name, which premiered on PBS last week (check local listings.) We issued a brief news release about the new exhibit, and and while we work on an online component of the Carville exhibit, I thought I would link to a few positive reviews of the film. Terre Haute's Tribune Star offered this positive review, and the Times-Picayune called the film 'troubling, challenging, beautiful.' I would agree, now having seen the film several times: it's a powerful story, lovingly told by the filmmakers.

I want to offer, a link to the good people at the National Hansen's Disease Program in Baton Rouge, and the National Hansen's Disease Museum in Carville. Their assistance was invaluable in preparing this exhibit, and we appreciate their taking time from their work to partner with us to tell this story.

And I'll mention one correction to the Tribune-Star story: we're always glad for a newspaper mention, but to be certain there's no confusion: the Museum is in upper northwest Washington, D.C., and not in Bethesda, MD.

View Larger Map

Body armor article noted in passing

This article raised a few thoughts about the Museum and the Pathology Institute - "Contracts for Body Armor Filled Without Initial Tests: Inspections Skipped in 13 Of 28 Deals, Report Finds," By Dana Hedgpeth, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, April 3, 2008; Page D01.

"Why?" you say.

Don't worry, we're not producing armor. However over the years, the AFIP has helped evaluate armor. We've got hundreds of pictures of used (unfortunately) body armor from the Korean War in the Archives, and several actual pieces on display now on the Museum floor. Also, the AFIP currently runs the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner which is responsible for investigating military deaths and performs autopsies that can suggest the protection that the armor did or did not afford.

And we've got a really cool piece of armor from the Civil War that didn't work at all. It's got a bullet hole right through the breastplate. Whoops. (It's not on display now, but there is a photo of it in the lobby).

Stuff the museum should have

After fifteen years working in the bowels (well, maybe more like the small intestine) of the museum collections, one tends to developed a vision of things the museum should have. Jessics Joslin's half-animal steampunk creatures should be in one of those nice blue cabinets in the back room. As should Sarina Brewer's more classical taxidermy with a bit of a twist.

Copper, wonderful copper

Here's an interesting article on copper's disinfectant effects, and rediscovering them for germ control in hospitals - "Copper's mettle: It's a germ killer," By Shelley Widhalm, Washington Times, April 3, 2008. What an elegant idea - cheap, simple and hopefully effective.

Librarians Love Us

Gentle readers, a few links for you, and both by authors who stem from one of my favorite professions: librarians!

A very neat blog named Folderol: A Spooky Librarians Production linked to this very blog, and even graced us with our finest compliment to date: "best title ever..." Thanks, Folderol, for the link, and come back anytime.

And from very close to home, a librarian with the vaunted Montgomery County Public Library system linked to this blog, and for that we say, thanks! She's very nice, too, calling this blog "charming" and all.

As someone who spent an untold number of hours using the MCPL (Rockville branch, old-school style, back in the day) as part-time babysitter and enabler of geek addictions as a wayward teen, I have a great fondness for librarians. Especially today, because as a purveyor of information in my chosen field, I am compelled to put on a pedestal someone whose expertise is in weighing and judging the quality of all sorts of information, and have that uncanny knack to find out anything about anything with alacrity. (Without librarians, how else would I even know how to find out what alacrity means?)

Dillinger - the FAQ

Our former PR man Steven Solomon sent me a note this morning with a link to this story - Dillinger: The man, the myths. Steven spent a lot of time on creating little pages in a FAQ to explain parts of the museum including No. 43 - Do you have 20th-century gangster John Dillinger's penis in the collection?

Want to help in a human dissection?

Ever wanted to model yourself after Leonardo?

Here's the final notice from a program in Indiana.

**** F I N A L N O T I C E *****



Indiana University School of Medicine-Northwest Dunes Medical Professional Building 3400 Broadway Gary, Indiana University

PROGRAM SPONSOR: ZIMMER, Inc. (Zimmer Orthopedics)

**** Human Cadaver Dissection **** **** Radiology **** **** Orthopedic Surgery Demonstrations ****

Applications for the July 2008, NATIONAL Human Cadaver Prosection Program at the Indiana University School of Medicine-Northwest(IUSM-NW) are now being accepted. The application form is available online at the IUSM-NW Web Site (URL: The Cadaver Prosection page is linked to the IUSM-NW front page. [Click on "IUSM-Northwest Educational Programs, and then "Cadaver Prosection"]

The Cadaver Prosection will be held on Wednesday, July 30 and Thursday, July 31, 2008, from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., and will include 2 evenings of preparatory work in late June.

Selected participants who complete the program will receive a certificate of completion, honorarium and certification for work with biohazards and blood-borne pathogens. All will have extensive hands-on experience professionally dissecting human cadavers, and will receive intensive exposure to human gross anatomy and radiology.

Zimmer Orthopedics will conduct a special lecture presentation and accepted applicants will participate in a hands-on orthopedic workshop. CME Credit is offered for the NATIONAL Human Cadaver Prosection Program.

You need not be a medical professional or pre-medical student to participate. All are encouraged to apply. Prior participants have included pre-med and pre-vet, nursing, radiological technology, mortuary science students, other undergraduate and graduate students, teachers, attorneys, lab technicians, etc.

For further information go to the Cadaver Prosection Page, or contact the program director:

Ernest F. Talarico, Jr., Ph.D.
TEL: 219-981-4356

Send (ordinary mail or email) your application materials to:
Ernest F. Talarico, Jr., Ph.D.
Assistant Director of Medical Education
Indiana University School of Medicine - Northwest Campus Dunes Medical
Professional Building Room 3028A 3400 Broadway Gary, IN 46408

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Shhh, check this out

It's coming!

A pre-Revolutionary War doctor re-enactor

Last weekend I was down at George Mason's home Gunston Hall where Doctor Henry Payne was explaining how he treated patients in 1764. Fortunately my camera technology still worked and I captured his image. It's been many a year since we've had a reenactor program at the museum... maybe, maybe...

Doctor Henry Payne (aka Doug Cohen) demonstrating bleeding at at George Mason's house Gunston Hall.




Exciting new book by one of our collaborators

Our colleagues at the Borden Institute on Walter Reed AMC recently came out with a new book. We didn't help on this one, but we are collaborating on an illustrated history of Walter Reed AMC. I was speaking to a friend who's an historian of medicine today and he was marveling at how much historical information needed to be included in this volume.

Book Explores Medical Aspects of Biological Warfare


Washington, DC - Reflecting the critical threat posed by biological warfare and terrorism, the Borden Institute has released Medical Aspects of Biological Warfare, the latest volume in the Textbooks of Military Medicine series.

This book is an update of the previous edition of Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare, published in 1997. "The need for a revised version of this work has never been greater. A decade later, the complexity of the threat has increased beyond the boundaries of state-sponsored programs and to the terrorist use of novel pathogens," according to Colonel George W. Korch, MS, US Army, Commander, US Army
Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. "The continued threat of biological weapons dictates that all Department of Defense medical personnel become conversant with state-of-the-art treatment for biological casualties. What may have been perceived merely as useful information in the past is now a requirement for all medical providers."

Major General Gale S. Pollock, while serving as the acting surgeon general, recently said that "we must counter this threat with vigilance and maximize our response to attack with our best medical practices to identify agents involved, minimize casualties, and expedite the treatment of survivors."

Grounded in a historical perspective, Medical Aspects of Biological Warfare addresses weaponization of biological agents, categorizing potential agents as food, waterborne, or agricultural agents or toxins, and discusses their respective epidemiology. Descriptions of individual agents and the illnesses induced include recent advances in biomedical knowledge. The authors present familiar (anthrax, plague, smallpox) and less often discussed (alphaviruses, staphylococcal enterotoxins) biotoxins and explain methods for early agent identification. To
maximize understanding, authors present case studies and research on successful management practices, treatments, and antidotes.

Topics covered by the book include the history of biological weapons; food, waterborne, and agricultural diseases; epidemiology of biowarfare and bioterrorism; organisms and toxins; laboratory identification; consequence management; medical management of biological casualties; countermeasures; biosafety; ethical and legal considerations in biodefense research; and emerging infectious diseases.

Conceived in 1987, the Borden Institute, under the Army Surgeon General, publishes the Textbooks of Military Medicine. Each book is a comprehensive subject reference on the art and science of military medicine, extensively illustrated, and written to integrate lessons learned in past wars with current principles and practices of military medicine.

The Borden Institute offers volumes in hardback, as well as on its website and on CD-ROM.

For more information on the Borden Institute and how to order the publications, visit the organization online at

Ronald Wallace, 202-782-4329 or

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What's more dangerous? Driving or malaria?

C'mon it's a trick question. The answer is vaccination.

Nah. April Fool's!

The UN says driving. Their top 10 causes of death are [my comments]:

1. Ischemic heart disease
2. Cerebrovascular heart disease (such as stroke)
3. Lower respiratory infections (pneumonia)
5. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
6. Perinatal conditions [that's pretty broad, isn't it?]
7. Diarrheal diseases [cholera! dysentery!]
8. Tuberculosis
9. Trachea, bronchus and lung cancers
10. Road traffic injuries
11. Diabetes
12. Malaria

Uh-huh. And what would worry most Americans? Probably being struck by lightening or flying or something.

Read an op-ed at An "Epidemic on Wheels," By Norman Y. Mineta, Washington Post Monday, March 31, 2008; Page A19

"Red (double) Cross"

The April issue of the Costco Connection magazine reports a scam that targets military families who have a family member on deployment. Someone who claims to be from the Red Cross calls the family and says they need personal information about the service member so paperwork for a hospital transfer can be completed. According to the article (Consumer Connection on page 11), the Red Cross never contacts military families this way. Given our connection with Walter Reed Army Medical Center, this strikes particularly close to home.

Another Civil War upload to the Internet Archive

Today we uploaded anther book to the Internet Archive, but instead of a text, this one is a photograph album. Given to Frances Pleasants by wounded soldiers she cared for during the Civil War in Germantown, Pennsylvania, it holds photographs, tintypes, and cartes-de-visite, as well as newspaper clippings.Pleasants 84