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The Center for the History of Medicine, Countway Library, houses one of the world's leading collections in the history of health care and medicine, with strong holdings in virtually every medical discipline, including anatomy, anesthesiology, cardiology, dentistry, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, and surgery. The Center offers access to the personal and professional papers of prominent American physicians and is the institutional repository for the records of Harvard Medical School (founded 1782), Harvard School of Dental Medicine (1867), and Harvard School of Public Health (1922).
Researcher access to portions of many of the modern
manuscript and archival collections may be restricted due to the presence of personal
and patient information; these records are restricted for a period of 80 years
from the date of creation. In addition,
access to all Harvard
University records is
restricted for a period of 50 years from the date of creation. Restrictions and their duration are generally
noted on the finding aids to the individual collection.
Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult the public services staff for
additional information on the application process.
In addition to the resources available on the Center's website, researchers are invited to browse digitized items from the Center's collections via its Omeka site
or its Digital Access Repository.
Introducing the Strong Medicine Project Coordinator
We are happy to welcome Joan Ilacqua as Project Coordinator for the Center’s efforts to capture, preserve, and share the stories and reflections of the medical community’s experiences of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing and its aftermath.
Joan Ilacqua, 2014
Q. Why did you join the Center’s Strong Medicine initiative?
A. I became involved with Strong Medicine not only to make Boston Stronger, but also to make Boston Better. As a public historian, my job is usually to navigate the relationship between historical institutions and the public who come to view a museum collection or take a tour. Strong Medicine employs another facet of public history, that is, to collect and create history with the public’s help. Northeastern University’s Our Marathon, our partner project, is undergoing a similar project collecting memories, photographs, and other media from all over Greater Boston and the world. By contrast, Strong Medicine looks to a more narrow community: Boston’s medical community. Boston has some of the most prestigious hospitals, medical schools and libraries, and other medical institutions, in the world. Strong Medicine looks to save the stories of the people of this community who came together to heal Marathon survivors and Boston. Learning what these people did, why they did it, what they learned, and how they’ve changed and transformed since then, provides a way for Boston to heal itself by looking to the strength of the medical community. Collecting submissions for Strong Medicine is my own contribution to making Boston Better and I am proud to be a part of it.
Q. What will you be doing as Project Coordinator?
A. My first role is to be the public face of Strong Medicine. We have an open call for submissions and I’m here to rally people to submit and answer questions. I’ve been contacting groups asking to submit their materials to us, and I’m scheduling collection events with local institutions. If you’re interested in working with us, please contact me!
I’ve also been helping at Our Marathon’s collection events, and finding new submissions for Strong Medicine through Our Marathon. Through our partnership, we share our submissions across both digital archives to provide the largest public access possible.
So far, our biggest project has been an oral history project. Three wonderful Harvard History of Medicine students, Emily Harrison, Jacob Moses, and Miriam Rich, are interviewing medical professionals across Boston. 20 interviews are scheduled for this spring and we’re still scheduling interviews! This unique project will provide insight into institutional training and reactions to this disaster, reflections on the use and prevalence of technology and social media, as well as personal reactions to the tragedy. As of today, three of those interviews have been undertaken and we’re working to quickly get them transcribed, online, and available to the public.
Q. What should people do if they want to contribute a story or photo to Strong Medicine?
A. Please don’t hesitate to submit to Strong Medicine! Every story is important and we want to hear yours. Your story will become part of the vital effort to help us remember, reflect, and heal. You can submit your story, photograph, or social media screen-captures at http://countway.harvard.edu/strongmedicine
We can also schedule a collection event at your institution! I will travel to your institution, talk with you and your colleagues about the project, and guide you through the submission process. Contact me at Joan_Ilacqua@hms.harvard.edu for more information or with any questions. I’d love to hear from you!
Joan comes to the Center for the History of Medicine by way of UMass Boston’s Public History graduate program, where she is the History Graduate Student Association President. She has extensive museum and archives experience at such institutions as the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, UMass/Boston University Archives and Special Collections, Plimoth Plantation, and several National Park Service sites. She holds a B.A. in History and Studio Art from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.
Manfred L. Karnovsky Papers Open to Research
Manfred L. Karnovsky, undated, Portrait Collection. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.
The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the Manfred L. Karnovsky papers, 1925-1998. Karnovsky (1918-1999) was Harold T. White Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology Emeritus at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout his career, his research focused on multiple areas of biological chemistry, particularly the biochemistry of sleep, the biochemical basis of phagocytosis, and the biochemistry of complex lipids. His research showed how white blood cells use oxygen to strengthen their defenses against bacterial intruders. With Prof. John Pappenheimer, he advanced the biochemical study of sleep-inducing substances in the brain.
The bulk of the papers contain professional correspondence, research notes, manuscript drafts, and Harvard Medical School departmental and committee meeting minutes and reports. Papers also contain Karnovsky’s Harvard Medical School teaching records, professional organization meeting minutes and reports, reprints of his scientific papers, and a collection of 35-millimeter teaching slides related to biochemistry.
Karnovsky served as Secretary and Communications Secretary for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Interviewer for the China-United States Biochemistry Examination and Application (CUSBEA) Program, which sought to place Chinese biochemistry graduate students in United States universities. In 1991, he was awarded the Special Recognition Award of the Phagocyte Gordon Conference. His further awards include the 1955 Lederle Medical Faculty Award and the 1966 Gold Medal of the International Reticuloendothelial Society. He published over two hundred scientific papers during his career.
To learn more about Manfred L. Karnovsky and his collection, please view the online finding aid.
Share Your 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing Stories
Strong Medicine is a digital archive created by the Center for the History of Medicine to capture the Boston medical community’s experiences of and responses to the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. It is a space where stories, photographs, and other media created by the medical community are available to inform and inspire health care professionals, students, and the general public.
Strong Medicine’s first submission is the Brigham and Women’s Boston Marathon Bombing Ephemera collection. It highlights only a fraction of the cards and letters of support, sympathy, and encouragement sent to Marathon survivors and healers at the Brigham from around the country. The collection also includes objects sent from as far away as Washington state and handmade blankets from as close as Braintree, Massachusetts. The cards and gifts embody the healing spirit felt for those affected by the Marathon Bombing.
In addition, the Boston Medical Library has funded the collection of interviews with key Boston health care professionals on duty that day. Three graduate students from Harvard’s History of Science department, Emily Harrison, Jacob Moses, and Miriam Rich, have scheduled interviews with professionals from Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital. We continue to pursue the involvement of other trauma centers. Interview topics include disaster planning and preparedness, the awareness and presence of news media and social media, technologies and training, and lessons learned. Interviews are being undertaken this spring and will be uploaded to the digital archive as they are completed.
Strong Medicine is actively seeking and accepting submissions from individuals in the medical community to create the most complete and useful documentary record possible. Please submit your stories, photographs, texts, or social media screen captures to the Strong Medicine archive at http://countway.harvard.edu/strongmedicine or contact us to host a Strong Medicine collecting session at your institution.
Questions should be directed to Strong Medicine Project Coordinator Joan Ilacqua at Joan_Ilacqua@hms.harvard.edu.
We also invite you to visit our partner site, Northeastern University’s Our Marathon Boston Bombing Digital Archive.
Help us all remember, reflect, and heal.
Phineas Gage Featured on Italian Public Television Program “Superquark”
Skull of Phineas Gage, Warren Anatomical Museum in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine [WAM 00949]
The skull, life cast, and tamping iron of Phineas Gage was featured on the Italian television program Superquark in its recent special on the brain. Superquark visited the Warren Anatomical Museum in October 2013.
Also featured in the program is Harvard Medical School Professor of Neurobiology Margaret Livingstone, who commented on the location and extent of Gage’s brain injury.
Video of the episode is located on the Superquark website. Gage’s skull and the interview with Dr. Livingstone begins at the 00:38:06 mark.
The (Medical) Education of Charles Miller Fisher
Glass plate negative of a brain section.
Staff at the Center for the History of Medicine are completing the processing of the papers of Charles Miller Fisher (1913-2012), a noted neurologist. The collection reflects Fisher’s activities as a practicing physician and neurological researcher.
Fisher attended medical school at Victoria University and the University of Toronto Medical School. He entered Victoria University straight from high school; the medical degree tracks required no intervening BA or BS degrees. There were two options for students wanting to study medicine: Straight Medicine and Biology and Medicine. The former had a six year course, the latter, a seven year, including special instruction in science and the arts. Fisher entered the Biology and Medicine track with 25 other young men. According to Fisher’s recollections, the Straight Medicine track attracted more students: 120 men and 20 women at his matriculation.
The Biology and Medicine course (Fisher refers to it as “B and M” in his memoirs) included both pre-clinical and clinical work. Looking back, Fisher remembers particularly vividly the coursework in physics and anatomy: “The students’ nemesis was the practical examination when 100 human anatomical specimens of various kinds were laid out in orderly fashion on long tables and in an equally long procession the students advanced from specimen to specimen being given 60 seconds to answer the question posed…”
Fisher received a B.A. from Victoria University in Toronto in 1935 and his M.D. from the University of Toronto Medical School in 1938. He was born in Ontario and returned to Canada during the early years of his career; in 1954, he took a teaching post at Harvard Medical School and joined the neurology service at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Fisher spent the next half century at MGH and Harvard University, where he created and led the first formal Stroke Service. When Charles Miller Fisher, M.D., died on April 14, 2012, his obituary in JAMA Neurology reported that “the field of neurology lost one of its 20th century giants.”
The Charles M. Fisher papers will be open to researchers later this spring.