Holiday News from the Center

NYAM Library, Rare Book Room photos by Amy Hart © 2012As the year comes to an end, there is a lot going at the Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health.

♦ We are planning our 2014 Festivals (there will be two! Save the date for the first on April 5. Keep an eye out for details coming early next year).

♦ On December 4, we will welcome a number of influential librarians to an informal roundtable to discuss the impact of open access publishing for libraries, researchers, and users. Simon Chaplin, Head of the London Wellcome library, will take part in this discussion, and in the evening present a lecture on the (often eccentric) history of medical tourism. Both events are free but require pre-registration (follow the links to register).

♦ For those in the scholarly world, details of our two research fellowships have just gone live:

  • The Paul Klemperer Fellowship supports research using our collections for the history of medicine. Find out more here.
  • The Audrey and William H. Helfand Fellowship supports work in the history of medicine and public health, with a particular focus on the use of visual materials. More details here.

Applications close March 4, 2014 for the 20142015 academic year. We encourage applicants to get in touch with our Reference Librarian for Historical Collections when shaping their applications.

♦ We are accepting applications for the 2014 Gladys Brooks Book and Paper Conservation Internship now through December 15, 2013. For more information about eligibility, click here.

♦ The Center is growing! We are looking for a curator to join the team to help us develop our scholarly and public presence through exhibitions, programming, and collection development. For more details see the job description here.

♦ The library closes early today, November 27, and will be closed on Thursday and Friday, November 28 and 29. We will also be closed on December 24 and 25.

Item of the Month: Posters from the Special Programme on AIDS, World Health Organization, 1987–1995

By Paul Theerman, Associate Director

The WHO Special Programme on AIDS was the first response of the United Nations to the pandemic that had gained world attention by the mid-1980s.1 The offspring of the first two international conferences on AIDS, in Atlanta in 1985 and in Paris the following year, the Programme was founded in February 1987. The Programme’s dynamic director, Jonathan M. Mann, had great hopes and grand plans for combating AIDS through a coordinated worldwide response—the only feasible way to control the virulent and widely spreading disease, he thought. From the beginning he also saw the AIDS outbreak as a focus for engaging global human rights issues. Under Mann, the WHO moved beyond its role of technical advisor to national governments, for it tried to take a directive role, actively engage non-governmental organizations, and promote non-discriminatory policies towards AIDS sufferers. Between 1987 and 1989, the Special Programme—which also came to be known as the Global Programme on AIDS—developed a comprehensive strategy for attacking the virus.


These two posters—one design in two languages—come from the heady days of the Programme’s beginning. Produced in 1987, these posters announced its slogan, “AIDS: A worldwide effort will stop it.” The posters’ design inadvertently reveals how difficult it was to talk about AIDS in the 1980s. AIDS seemed different from other diseases. First of all, it was a pandemic experienced in the west, perhaps the first such experience since the polio epidemic in the early 1950s, and before that, the influenza pandemic in 1918–19. With the rise of antibiotics and vaccination, widespread disease outbreaks in the developed world were no longer supposed to happen! As Dr. Gerald Friedland, a doctor on the front lines during the height of the pandemic, said at an event at Columbia University earlier this month, the disease caused the “inverse of the life cycle,” as it mostly impacted young people, leading to parents burying their children. “The only thing comparable was war.”

With AIDS, neither antibiotics nor vaccination worked, so epidemiologists were forced back to classic means of halting pandemics: stopping the means of transmission. Here also AIDS proved difficult. Those means—chiefly sexual contact and sharing needles—provoked strong reactions. Coupled with a long latency and an invariably fatal outcome after a horrific decline, AIDS did not have a simple profile.

The posters display that cultural unease. The UN commissioned noted New York graphic designer Milton Glaser, an internationally known logo and poster designer, with such readily recognizable designs as “I ♡ NY,” Esquire and New York magazines, and Sony, among many others. Certainly Glaser knows about the power of images to convey meaning. For these UN posters, he combined three elements, two hearts and a skull, to make a W—presumably to stand for “world” in the World Health Organization, and to reference the caption, “A worldwide effort will stop [AIDS].” But it’s not clear—and it doesn’t work in the Spanish version of the poster. Even more puzzling is the relationship of the hearts to the skulls. Is it cautionary: in the midst of love—erotic love, that is—lurks death? Is it hopeful: compassionate hearts will combine to crush AIDS? Is it both? Glaser produced a striking image, but he also produced an ambiguous one. By 1991, the red ribbon had been introduced as the predominant AIDS symbol, and it soon the supplanted the “heart-and-skull-W,” even at the UN itself.

The year that this poster came out proved to be the Programme’s high point. In 1988 a new director-general came to the World Health Organization. AIDS could not have two masters. By late 1989, the Programme’s efforts, strategies, and budget were brought up short, and Mann departed in 1990. The Programme limped along for another five years, until replaced by UNAIDS, the locus for United Nations action today. In the words of Mann’s successor,  Michael H. Merson: the Programme “was unable to muster the necessary political will . . . , and its effectiveness was compromised by . . . an increasing preference of wealthy governments for bilateral aid programs.”2 That seems where matters stand now, as we approach World AIDS Day, December 1. The story of the Special Programme on AIDS is a cautionary tale of the difficulties of grappling with a worldwide disease in a disjointed world.


1. Much of the history of the Special Programme on AIDS is found in two article by its founding director: Jonathan M. Mann, “The World Health Organization’s global strategy for the prevention and control of AIDS,” in AIDS—A Global Perspective [Special issue] Western Journal of Medicine 1987 Dec; 147:732–734; and Jonathan M. Mann and Kathleen Kay, “Confronting the pandemic: the World Health Organization’s Global Programme on AIDS, 1986–1989,” AIDS 1991; 5 (suppl. 2): S221–S229.

2.  Michael H. Merson, “The HIV–AIDS pandemic at 25—the global response,” New England Journal of Medicine 2006; 354:2414–2417 (June 8, 2006), quotation from page 2415.

Thanksgiving, 1914 Style

By Rebecca Pou, Archivist, and Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

Still working on your Thanksgiving Day food planning? How about recreating a menu published 100 years ago?

In The Calendar of Dinners: A Daily Blessing to the Housekeeper, author Kate S. Teetshorn recommends a meal for every day of 1914, including Thanksgiving. Each menu is accompanied by a recipe or two. Recipes for some of the Thanksgiving menu suggestions are found on other days of the year, but unfortunately, she doesn’t include recipes to go along with all the recommendations (know how to make hot butter thins? Please tell us. They sound delicious). 

November 26, Thanksgiving Day

Below are additional recipes she provides, some that sound appropriate to the holiday or similar to the recommended dishes, and a closing poem.


Hungry for more? Check out this pumpkin pie recipe from 1804. We bet it would go well with ginger ice cream, as Teetshorn recommends.

A Different Kind of Flush

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

It’s World Toilet Day, a day reminding us that one-third of the world’s population does not have access to a toilet and consequently faces serious sanitary challenges.1

Similar difficulties once faced places where toilets are now widespread. In much of the Western world, filthy urban streets, unregulated sanitation, and a series of epidemics marked the early 1800s. Things began to change at the end of the century, dubbed in Sitting Pretty: An Uninhibited History of the Toilet as “the golden age of toilets,” due in part to innovative toilet design, consolidated sewage systems, and a better understanding of disease transmission.2

Flushing the toilet was a loud business in the 1800s, one often plagued by insufficient water and unpleasant smells. These issues with water toilets led to Reverend Henry Moule’s invention of the earth closet in 1860.2,3

The most basic version of the earth closet was a seat above a bucket filled with “fine dry earth, charcoal, or ashes.” Pulling a handle caused fresh earth to fall into the bucket from above. More elaborate versions included closets on adjacent floors, connected via a chute in the wall.3

The inner workings of a basic earth closet.4

The inner workings of a basic earth closet.4 Click to enlarge.

Multistory Earth Closet

Earth closets on multiple floors, connected by a chute.4 Click to enlarge.

In an 1872 pamphlet in our collection, “Earth-closets and earth sewage,” author George E. Waring, a 19th-century champion of sanitation, advocated for the earth closet’s use. According to Waring, benefits included a lack of odors; the “complete and effectual removal of all the liquid wastes of sleeping-rooms and kitchens”; the collection of “manure worth . . . at least $10 per annum for each member of the family”; and disease prevention.4

Waring acknowledged the growing popularity of the water toilet, writing:

“The water-closet is the chief thing of which women living in the country envy their city cousins the possession. In country-houses, one of the first steps toward elegance is the erection of an expensive water-closet in the house, provided with a force-pump that is doomed to break both the back and the temper of the hired man; a tank and pipes which are pretty sure to be burst by frost every winter; the annual tax of the plumber’s bill; and, worse than all, a receptacle in the garden known as a ‘cess-pool,’ which usually has a private subterranean communication with the well from which drinking water is taken.”4

By contrast, wrote Waring, the “properly constructed” earth closet was odorless and absent “of the depressing, headachy effect that always accompanies the water-closet or night chair.” He also argued that outdoor privies, if they must exist, should become earth closets.4

Clearly earth closets clearly never gained the popularity Waring hoped they’d enjoy, although some use their cousin, the composting toilet, today. Whatever toilet you use, give thanks on World Toilet Day for its enormous public health benefits.


1. What is World Toilet Day? (n.d.). World Toilet Day. Retrieved August 29, 2013, from

2. Horan, J. L. (1998). Sitting pretty: an uninhibited history of the toilet. London: Robson.

3. Wright, L. (1960). Clean and decent: the fascinating history of the bathroom & the water closet, and of sundry habits, fashions & accessories of the toilet, principally in Great Britain, France, & America. New York: Viking Press.

4. Waring, G. E. (1872). Earth-closets and earth sewage. New York: Orange Judd and Co.

Three Days in Baden-Baden: On the Enchantments of Soviet Biography

Johanna Conterio, a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Harvard University specializing in modern Russia, wrote today’s guest post.

It is notoriously difficult to find biographical information about people who lived in the Soviet Union. Personal papers, the kind that historians of the United States rely on, are rarely found in state archives in Russia. Russian intellectuals historically tried to keep their materials out of state archives, associating these with policing rather than with preservation—reasonable enough, as archives were mainly acquired during police raids! But that does not mean that biographical information is impossible to find. When getting into a story in the Soviet past, certain names keep coming up, and information comes from unexpected places. A person may have written an article. If their position is given in the byline, one can figure out where they worked and perhaps find the archive of that organization, or a published history. One checks the stacks for books and brochures they have written. Perhaps they gave a talk at an international conference and left a trace in conference volumes. The more one learns, the more curious one becomes about the course of a life in the past, at first seen only in fragments.

Nikolai Ivanovich Teziakov

Nikolai Ivanovich Teziakov

I first encountered Nikolai Teziakov in a source from the Central Scientific Medical Library in Moscow. In 1923, he published a small book, Health Resorts in the Russian Socialist Soviet Republic. When the librarian delivered the book, I was surprised to find that it was in German and had been published in Berlin (in the card catalogue, the title was given in Russian).1 I had it photocopied and didn’t think about it again for some time. But as I continued my research, I started to see the name Nikolai Teziakov again and again. He was the second director of the Main Health Resort Administration, the state organ that organized Soviet health resorts, and part of the People’s Commissariat for Public Health. He worked during the Russian Civil War (1918-1922) in rural Saratov, 500 miles southeast of Moscow, heading the regional health department fighting infectious diseases and setting up sanatoria for tuberculosis patients. But some very basic questions about who he was remained unanswered. Was he a member of a political party? How did he progress from rural physician in Saratov to top official in Moscow? What was his family background? Where did he study medicine? Did he ever travel abroad? And what did he look like?

Some basic information comes from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, and I’ve filled in some more details. Nikolai Ivanovich Teziakov was born in 1859 into a peasant family in a village outside of Sverdlovsk, in the Ural Mountains. He finished secondary school in 1879, and studied medicine in Kazan, finishing in 1884. Teziakov was enormously active in public health in Russia before the October Revolution of 1917. Following the cholera epidemic of 1892-1893, he became a sanitary physician and began to collect statistics and conduct epidemiological research. He worked to lower the rates of infant mortality through the organization of free day care for agricultural families, and to fight infectious diseases through disinfection and immunization. He was also active in training medical workers in the new field of hygiene. He attended the famous International Hygiene Exhibition in Dresden in 1911. While working in Kherson province, he wrote about the increasing rates of landlessness among the peasantry. His statistics were used by Lenin in his work On the Development of Capitalism in Russia. During the years of the Civil War, he wrote the slogan “Health Resorts for the Workers!” He was convinced that health resorts were important for the improvement of the health of the workers, an opinion shared by Lenin and Commissar [Minister] of Public Health, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Semashko, powerful patrons of Soviet health resorts, who oversaw the development of the first health resorts for workers in Europe. He died in 1925 at age 65.

But it is Teziakov’s German connections that emerged as an intriguing story, told through the official journal published by the Main Health Resort Administration, Health Resort Affairs [Kurortnoe delo], in the New York Academy of Medicine’s rich collection of Soviet medical journals.  Teziakov’s Berlin publication was meant to be a conference paper, originally to be presented at the 38th German Balneological Congress in 1923 in Aachen.2 He travelled to Germany in 1923 for the conference, but due to the French occupation of Aachen (these were eventful years in Europe!), the conference was abruptly cancelled. Nonetheless both the director and the secretary of the German Balneological Society gamely hosted him and his small Soviet entourage for ten days in Berlin. Add two new names to the historical index: Eduard Dietrich and Max Hirsch.

Teziakov was eager to see the health resorts of Germany. Together with the Soviet physician [S. V.] Korshun and a German secretary, Binger, and carrying with them a letter of introduction from Dietrich, from April 12 to 30 Teziakov visited the German health resorts Baden-Baden, Wildbad, Bad Homburg, Bad Kissingen, Wiesbaden, Bad Nauheim, and Bad Eichhausen.3 Upon his return to Moscow, Teziakov published two detailed accounts of his travels in Health Resort Affairs. Although he was impressed by the beautiful parks and gardens, clean streets, and brilliant architecture of the German baths, Teziakov was disappointed to find that these were only accessible to what he called the “grand bourgeoisie,” and deplored what he called the “commercial” organization of health resort care. Exceptions to this rule were a few charitable organizations that he visited during his three days in Baden-Baden, but Teziakov called these “pathetic.” He contrasted German with Russian medicine: “Medical help at the health resorts is in the hands of private physicians, united into unions. The organization of state or public, municipal health care such as we, Russian physicians, understand it, does not exist.”4 Teziakov’s reports were republished in a brochure for a mass audience, and reviewed by Commissar Semashko on page one of the newspaper Izvestiia. Reprising a common theme among the new Soviet leaders, Semashko wrote that the country needed to combine “German” technology and “iron discipline” with the Soviet approach to social questions. “What a fantastic order we might then establish in health resort construction,” he wrote.5

The German balneologists were also interested in developments in the Soviet Union. The director of the German Balneological Society, Eduard Dietrich, was invited to the Soviet Union in 1924, as a delegate to the Fourth All-Russian Balneological Congress in Moscow (although it remains unclear whether he attended).6 The Society’s secretary, Max Hirsch, developed an ongoing fascination with Soviet balneology and health resorts. He wrote a number of articles about Soviet balneology in the German press in the 1920s, particularly in the Journal for Scientific Balneology [Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Bäderkunde]7 and provided reports on various balneological conferences and proceedings to Health Resort Affairs. Hirsch’s relationship with the Soviet Union had begun, and was continued by further meetings with Teziakov in 1923 and 1924, when Teziakov returned to Germany to attend the balneological congress. Of Jewish heritage, Max Hirsch emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1933, fleeing his native Germany via Czechoslovakia. My next task is to find out what happened to him when he arrived in the USSR. Through detective work in the journals, I’ve learned not only more about Teziakov’s career, but discovered the surprising interplay of German and Soviet public health in the 1920s and 1930s, mirroring political developments of those decades.

1. N.J. Tesjakow, Das Kurortwesen in der Russischen Sozialistischen Räterepublik (Berlin: Verlagsbuchhandlung von Richard Schoetz, 1923)

2. Balneology is the science of baths or bathing, especially the study of the therapeutic use of thermal baths.

3. N.I. Teziakov, “Po germanskim kurortam (12-30 apr. 1923 g.)” Kurortnoe delo 1 (No. 6, 1923): 19.

4. N.I. Teziakov, “Po germanskim kurortam (12-30 apr. 1923 g.)” Kurortnoe delo 1 (No. 6, 1923): 30.

5. Izvestiia, August 3, 1923.

6. Christine Böttcher, Das Bild der Sowjetischen Medizin in der ärztlichen Publizistik und Wissenschaftspolitik der Weimarer Republik (Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus-Verlagsgesellschaft, 1998), 52-53.

7. This journal is also held in the collections of the New York Academy of Medicine Library.

We Recommend . . .

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

This is part of an occasional series of blogs featuring research tips from NYAM librarians.

Are you looking for online sources on public health statistics, consumer health, or the history of medicine? Look no further than our recommended resources list.


A screenshot of our Recommended Resources page.

The featured resources I use most frequently include the NLM Drug information Portal and Drugs@FDA, listed under the Public and Consumer Health tab, which provide a wealth of information on drugs and supplements.

Looking for information on a health care provider? Try the New York State Physician’s Profile (if you are in New York) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Hospital Compare, both listed under the Hospitals and Doctors tab.

I also often use County Health Ratings and Road Maps from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, listed under the Statistics tab. The tool allows you to find public health data at the state or county level, with measures including teen birth rate, adult smoking, and health care costs (among many others).

The list also includes sources for statistics on specific diseases (listed under the tab Statistics on Diseases), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s NCHHSTP Atlas, an interactive tool for accessing HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, tuberculosis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis data.

We update the list quarterly (most recently on November 4, 2013), so make sure to come back to see what’s new.

A Ceroplast at NYAM

In today’s guest post, the artist Sigrid Sarda tells us how historical collections inform her work. Visitors to our Festival of Medical History & the Arts may have seen her moulages in person, and be sure to visit her blog for information on exhibitions and more of her fabulous work.

Earlier this year, I began researching the collections at the Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health. I am an artist/ceroplast, which means wax modeler. The resources I discovered at the Center have been of great inspiration to my work.

Sigrid Sarda, "MRSA," 2013. Wax, Human Hair, Life-size.

Sigrid Sarda, “MRSA,” 2013. Wax, Human Hair, Life-size.

First, let me tell you about myself. For over 30 years I was a painter. Due to the death of my father and the psychological aftermath I experienced, I ceased painting. In its place, the obsession of the wax figure came into being. Since I was completely self-taught and only worked in this medium for a few years, it was necessary to learn more about its technique and history. Having always had a fascination with religious icons, the body (particularly skin), diseases, and later on death, as well as incorporating human remains such as teeth, bone, and hair in my work, I realized I needed a better understanding of the aesthetics and techniques of wax used in creating these life-size figures and medical moulages.

While exhibiting a waxwork in New York City, I met up with Lisa O’Sullivan, director of the Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health at NYAM, and Arlene Shaner, reference librarian and acting curator for historical collections. After discussing the exhibited piece and my ambitions working in wax Dr. O’Sullivan invited me to explore NYAM’s collections. This was an opportunity not to be missed!

Upon arriving at NYAM, I was directed to the 3rd floor of the massive Romanesque building where Arlene welcomed me. Delightful, funny, and knowledgeable, she made me immediately comfortable in the surroundings of the library and excited to view the books housed in the collection. She checked out my waxwork, we geeked out on ceroplasts, and spoke about other artists whose work dealt with death such as Joyce Cutler-Shaw.

On my second visit, filled with anticipation, I found myself greeted by marvelous books and an actual anatomical wax moulage of a diseased infant. After the initial perusal of my work, Arlene knew what was needed for my research: anatomical images and techniques, and had the books waiting for me in the formidable reading room. As a bonus she brought out the works of M. Gautier D’Agoty, the 18th-century French artist and anatomical illustrator. I pored over both heavily illustrated and non-illustrated books for hours, amassing information for future waxworks. There is truly nothing like the feel of a beautiful book in your hands. The library has become quite the addiction, what with the wonderful staff and superb collection!

Below are images from D’Agoty and various books consulted at NYAM, and above is one of my wax moulages.