History of Medicine Roundtable & Reception

Calling all graduate students and early career professionals working in history of medicine and public health in the NY region. Please join us for an evening roundtable and reception to gather, mix, and collaborate on the evening of Thursday, April 10, 2014.

Our program will begin at 6 pm with an introduction to The New York Academy of Medicine’s Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health and its resources, followed by a series of short presentations by professors, archivists, and curators in the New York City area, and an open table discussion about access to materials and opportunities for collaboration.

Please join us afterward for a wine and cheese reception and a tour of the Academy and its collection. RSVP to 212-822-7301 or smoloney@nyam.org.



The Healthful Art of Dancing

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

This is one of several posts leading up to our day-long Performing Medicine Festival on April 5, 2014, which will explore the interrelationships of medicine, health, and the performing arts. Register for the festival here.

Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick (1865–1918), best known today as a father of basketball, was an ardent physical education educator and promoter. In 1903, he became the New York City public schools’ first director of physical education, a position he held for 10 years. He may have been one of the busiest men in the city; while holding the position, he co-founded the Campfire Girls with his wife, founded several physical education associations, wrote five books, and served as president of the Playground and Recreation Society of America.1

The Healthful Art of Dancing

The Healthful Art of Dancing

In his 1910 book, The Healthful Art of Dancing, Gulick devoted a chapter to dance in education. Average New York City children, wrote Gulick, spent “Five hours a day in the schoolroom, and then the crowded, ill-ventilated tenement or apartment house, with perhaps a game of tag or hop-scotch or jump-rope in the midst of the hubbub and dirt of the street.”2 In 1905, a partnership with the Girls’ Branch of the Public Schools Athletic League allowed schoolgirls the same opportunity as boys: “Interesting and helpful recreation that would have a real part in their lives outside of school hours.”2

So began after-school folk dance classes for girls on city school rooftops, in gymnasiums, and in school basements. After one year of the program, 2,000–3,000 students were participating.2 Gulick paints an evocative picture:

These classes come after school. The roof playground, high above the chimneys and dangling clotheslines of the neighborhood, is a favorite place for them, unless the weather forbids. There is a piano up there that can be rolled out, and clean open air and sunshine—good things in New York—are all about.2

"The roofs of the New York Public Schools being used for dance," a photograph from The Healthful Art of Dancing. Click to enlarge.

“The roofs of the New York Public Schools being used for dance,” a photograph from The Healthful Art of Dancing. Click to enlarge.

He goes on to describe the students’ enthusiasm:

One has to see [the dances] to get an idea of the kind of spell they possess for the children—how every muscle of their bodies responds accurately and eagerly to the exhilarating, well-cadenced rhythm of the music; how the dancers move back and forth, gliding, hopping, or tripping, crossing and recrossing, now fast, now slow, according to some intricate scheme at which an outsider can only stare in wonder.2

"London Bridge," a photograph in The Healthful Art of Dancing. Click to enlarge.

“London Bridge,” a photograph in The Healthful Art of Dancing. Click to enlarge.

And this joy did not end at school:

The noisy, crowded street and the dingy tenement will be happier places because of the healthy, full-blooded rhythm that still pulsates through their bodies—and their souls, too; for it means that they have a new feeling about life; it is ‘the little white bird’ that is going to keep on singing in their hearts.2

On the Lower East Side? Visit the Luther Gulick playground and dance in his honor.


1. Winter, T. (2004). Luther Halsey Gulick: Recreation, physical education and the YMCA. infed.org. Retrieved February 25, 2014 from http://infed.org/mobi/luther-halsey-gulick-recreation-physical-education-and-the-ymca/

2. Gulick, L. H. (1910). The Healthful Art of Dancing. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company. Available at http://books.google.com/books/about/The_healthful_art_of_dancing.html?id=6o0ZAAAAYAAJ

Music and Medicine: Thoughts on a G-String

This is one of several posts leading up to our day-long Performing Medicine Festival on April 5, 2014, which will explore the interrelationships of medicine, health, and the performing arts. Register for the festival here.

Guest blogger Dr. Danielle Ofri, editor-in-chief of the Bellevue Literary Review, will moderate the closing panel discussion at the event. This essay was originally published in The Lancet and is reposted with permission.

By Danielle Ofri

Danielle Ofri. Credit: Joon Park

Danielle Ofri. Credit: Joon Park

The moment has finally arrived. After three years of sweating through etudes, scales, and Suzuki practice books, my teacher utters the words that every cello student yearns to hear: “It’s time to start the first Bach suite.”

It started on a lark, really, when I asked my daughter’s first violin teacher how to coax a child to practice. She casually commented that the best thing is to see a parent practice. I hailed the nearest taxi and promptly purchased a cello. I started lessons, applying the same brute-force approach I’d acquired in medical school—playing the assigned notes over and over again until they were seared in my memory like the Krebs’ cycle and the 12 cranial nerves.

I added cello to the chores of my life—caring for patients, teaching, writing, and editing. But over the three years, an unexpected transformation occurred. Far from being a chore or a parental device to influence my daughter’s propensity to practice, cello turned out to be something that I genuinely wanted to do each night, almost to the exclusion of all else. Newspaper reading shrunk to cursory glances. Phone calls were avoided. Medical journals slipped to the subterranean level of the reading pile. Journal subscriptions lapsed.

I still love my “day job,” taking pleasure in teaching students and connecting with patients, but I have to be honest that, at this point in my career, the sense of growth has remained at a relatively steady state. With music, however, the intellectual challenges develop in ways that are new and surprising to me. The trajectory of learning, of frustration, and of accomplishment for the beginning musician has more in common with the intellectual vibrancy of life as a beginning medical student. I find that I am more driven to enhance my musical skills than I am my medical skills, although I certainly don’t wish the latter to falter.

As I continued to pursue the cello in the evenings, hospital-corridor conversations during the day revealed musicians hidden in all sorts of unlikely clinical corners: the pathologist who played violin, the ER doctor who was an accomplished cellist, the clinic director who played saxophone, the student who’d flipped a coin between Juilliard and medical school, the anesthesiologist who studied flute at the Eastman School of Music before “retiring” to a more practical career, the pulmonary fellow whose legendary beer-chugging habits masked a prodigious violin repertoire. Was this just a matter of uncovering a common hobby by making the effort to look, or might there be some intrinsic connection between?

I knew there was a doctors’ orchestra here in New York City, and as I started poking around I learned that there were others in Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. There was also one in Europe, one in Jerusalem, one in Australia; even a World Doctors’ Orchestra.

Was this merely because most doctors grew up in middle-class homes conducive to music lessons? I searched other professions, and uncovered one lawyers’ orchestra in Atlanta. But I couldn’t find a single accountants’ orchestra, or architects’ orchestra, or engineers’ orchestra. There wasn’t any orchestra made up of Wall Street executives, computer programmers, government officials, or direct marketers.

There have been writings about the relation between medicine and the listening aspects of music, but nothing on the playing of music. Why do so many doctors pursue music? Why does the orchestra of doctors in Boston (the Longwood Symphony) receive audition inquiries on a daily basis?

Mark Jude Tramo, a neurologist, songwriter/musician, and director of The Institute for Music and Brain Science at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital, feels that “there is overlap between the emotional and social aspects of relating to sick patients and communicating emotion to others through music. Some would speculate that there is [also] an overlap between aptitude for science, which most premeds major in, and for music.”

Lisa Wong—violinist, pediatrician, and president of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra—speaks for the many who came to medicine after years dedicated to serious musicanship. “The music we create builds in us an emotional strength, sense of identity, and sense of order. Then it is given away—we play for others, we play in ensembles. We come to medicine and it is the same thing. The giving, the service—in music and medicine—is a natural connection.”

Michael Lasserson, a British double-bass player, retired family physician, and founder of the European Doctors’ Orchestra, speaks from the perspective of the dedicated amateur. Although he was raised in a family of professional musicians, it was clear rather early on that he was headed for medicine rather than the stage. But, “music never lets you go,” he says. And it is more than just a hobby to make one a happier doctor. “It is a means whereby one is lifted away from the essential loneliness of clinical decision-making and action, into a world of a common enthusiasm and endeavor as the group searches for the beauty of sound [and] the composer’s intent, and those few hours have what can only be described as a healing function.”

There is also the risk-taking that offers parallels between medicine and music. It takes a certain amount of fortitude to slice open a patient’s abdomen with a scalpel. No less is required to take on Mahler’s seventh or the late Beethoven string quartets. “We hurl ourselves with suicidal courage against the commanding heights of the repertoire,” Lasserson says, hoping just to “touch the hem of that greatness”, though he acknowledges that sometimes, for the amateur, “miming skills will come to the fore.”

I debate this every night as I approach that single precious hour of energy after all the childcare has been completed and before exhaustion forces me to bed. Do I read that groundbreaking clinical trial that will surely impact my practice? Do I work on that unfinished book chapter? Do I read the newspaper and catch up on world events? Do I organize the entropy of my desk? Do I exercise for 30 minutes as I routinely exhort my patients to do?

Unfailingly, the answer is “none of above.” No matter how tired I am, no matter how much neuronal lint has accumulated throughout the day, I tighten the hairs on my bow and dig the end-pin of the cello into my rutted carpet. As I start to work on my assigned music for the week, I find myself focusing ever more narrowly on a single page, a single line, a single measure—even a single note.

Temperamentally, this is the exact opposite of life in the hospital, in which I feel pelted by ringing phones, needy patients, impossible schedules, irritating bureaucracies, and a cacophony of meaningless minutiae. It is a glorious relief, instead, to struggle for—and occasionally achieve—precisely the right note. But then, there is a step even beyond that. The note doesn’t have to merely be right—it also has to be beautiful.

Beauty is not something that gets much shrift in medicine. Other than the experimental design of a classic study that might be referred to as “elegant,” there isn’t much in medicine that falls into the category of beauty. Beauty is inherently unpragmatic—it doesn’t enhance efficiency, increase productivity, earn a grant, or cure a patient. Maybe it is this lack of beauty that drives doctor–musicians to struggle to draw some into their lives via music.

But perhaps there is indeed something in medicine that is related to beauty. After all, medicine is about life—the wriggling, sensual, bodily aspects of being alive. This is not something that can be said about engineering, law, or accounting. Although being alive—and being sick—can frequently be unpleasant, it never ceases to be miraculous. That miraculousness—and the privilege of doctors to be part of it—is a beauty in itself.

Willa Cather once said, “Novelists, opera singers, even doctors, have in common the unique and marvelous experience of entering into the very skin of another human being.” The beauty of entering the very skin of another human being is how many musicians describe the emotional experience of playing music. And for many, it is the striving to achieve that—almost more than the attainment—that offers the most pleasure. As we physicians strive to achieve the best for our patients in the messy, corporeal world of clinical medicine, we work to enter that very skin of another human being, and perhaps—with luck—we can touch the hem of that greatness.

Touching the hem is about all I can aspire to, but that’s enough. I’m willing to grovel for that. The sheet music of the first Bach suite appears straightforward—two pages of evenly spaced notes in the key of G. No intricate timing, no double-sharps, no key shifts, no clef shifts, no fancy ornamentation. But as anyone who as ever tussled with Bach knows, that simplicity is ruthlessly deceptive. “One measure at a time,” my teacher has instructed me. “It needs to be completely memorized. Expect to put in about a year on this.” This is said without irony.

Week after week, month after month, I tiptoe gingerly through the music. The melodic phrases are simultaneously simple and horrifically complex. But when I’ve survived a measure and can play several notes in sequence, the beauty is astounding—the type of beauty that really does take the breath away. I haven’t made it to the hem yet, and may never. But that’s okay. It’s all in the reaching.

Music as a Means of Discipline

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

This is one of several posts leading up to our day-long Performing Medicine Festival on April 5, 2014, which will explore the interrelationships of medicine, health, and the performing arts. Register for the festival here.

From van de Wall, W. (1924). The utilization of music in prisons and mental hospitals, its application in the treatment and care of the morally and mentally afflicted. New York: Published for the Committee for the Study of Music in Institutions by the National Bureau for the Advancement of Music.

Willem van de Wall.2

In the 1920s, Willem van de Wall, a Dutch-born professional harpist and choral director, began promoting the therapeutic use of music in prisons, hospitals, and other institutions.1

In the pamphlet “Music as a Means of Discipline,” van de Wall discussed his successes in prisons, along with this caution:

Never forget that the use of music as an energy awakener call of earnest deliberation, besides psychological and musical insight. If applied indiscriminately it might cause the boiling over of seething temperaments and create havoc through conjuring individual and social crises. If utilized sagaciously, however, it will soothe and transform the lower emotional trends into currents of loftier endeavor and expression.3

Van de Wall carefully chose well-known folk and traditional tunes (including “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Stars of the Summer Night,” “A Perfect Day,” and “The Missouri Waltz”), sang them with groups of prisoners, and discussed the texts “for teachings about socially ethical principles.” And he clearly laid out the limitations of his work: “Can music do it all? No. Can it do a part? Yes. What part? That of inspiring, starting and supporting.”3

As described by van de Wall, the results were often astonishing. In terms of individual inmates, “Many a detained soul confessed to me that our weekly choral group was the first constructive affair in which he had participated since school days.”3 And at the institutional level:

I go to a penal institution where it would be absolute folly to bring the entire population together for any other group expression than community singing. One song of thirty-two bars of music lasting one minute and a half accomplishes more than all the keepers and matrons and disciplinarians and all the other ‘arians’ together.3


“Group from the extra-recalcitrant, psychopaths, and borderline criminal insane listening to a phonograph demonstration to correct singing methods.”2 Click to enlarge.

Later in his career, van de Wall shifted his focus to music therapy with a broader audience, including those without special behavioral or physical needs.1 As he wrote:

“Music is a great unseen friend accompanying us from our cradle to our grave, always expressing for us, caressing us with, our dearest emotions of life.”3


1. Clair, A. A., & Heller, G. N. (1989). Willem van de Wall: Organizer and innovator in music education and music therapy. Journal of Research in Music Education, 37(3), 165–178. doi:10.2307/3344667

2. Van de Wall, W. (1924). The utilization of music in prisons and mental hospitals, its application in the treatment and care of the morally and mentally afflicted. New York: Published for the Committee for the Study of Music in Institutions by the National Bureau for the Advancement of Music.

3. Van de Wall, W. (192?). Music as a means of discipline. Reprinted from the Proceedings of the 53rd Annual Congress of the American Prison Association.

Author’s Night – The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience

Perry N. HalkitisPlease join us on Wednesday, March 19 at 6 pm to hear NYAM Fellow Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, MS, MPH, discuss his latest book, The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience. The book has just been named a finalist for a 2014 Lamda Literary Award in the biography/memoir category. To RSVP, e-mail Donna Fingerhut.

Dr. Halkitis had several motivations for writing this book, as he explains:

First, I wanted to create a historical document of the unique experiences that these men—the men of the AIDS Generation—lived through—people who lived through the darkest moments of the epidemic in the first two decades of AIDS. Second, I wanted to demonstrate the resilience of my generation of gay men and move away from research that is based on deficit models that are too often evident in the literature.  In fact, somehow the men of the AIDS Generation survived and thrived. It would be simple to say it was pure luck that they remained healthy long enough for the development of antiviral therapies. But I believe what I learned from these stories is that there is something greater at work here. These men were able to attend and care for the whole selves—social, biological, and emotional selves—which empowered them to get through to 1996, the turning point of the epidemic, and which is demonstrative of resilience and not deficit. Third, the way that the men of the AIDS Generation managed the disease helps to inform how we can work with all people who are living with HIV and other people living with challenging chronic diseases.

Dr. Halkitis is professor of applied psychology and public health and population health (Steinhardt School and Langone School of Medicine), director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies, and associate dean for academic affairs (Global Institute of Public Health) at New York University. He is also an affiliate of NYU’s Center for AIDS Research and Center for Drug Use and HIV Research. Dr. Halkitis has conducted HIV behavior research for the last 20 years, examining HIV in relation to other health problems.

Women’s Courage: Clara Barton in Peace and War

By Paul Theerman, Associate Director, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

When the battleship Maine blew up in Havana Harbor, February 15, 1898, Clara Barton was within earshot:

The . . . work of that fifteenth day of February held [us] busy at our writing tables until late at night. The house had grown still; the noises on the street were dying away, when suddenly the table shook from under our hands, the great glass door opening the veranda, facing the sea, flew open; everything in the room was in motion or out of place—the deafening roar of such a burst of thunder as perhaps one never heard before, and off to the right, out over the bay, the air was filled with a blaze of light, and this in turn filled with black specks like huge spectres flying in all directions. . . . A few hours later came the terrible news of the “Maine.”1

Clare Barton. From The Red Cross in Peace and War, 1899.

Clare Barton. From The Red Cross in Peace and War, 1899. Click to enlarge.

Barton (1821–1912) was doing what she did best: ministering in the midst of catastrophe, bringing aid and comfort, “always going where suffering humanity most needed her.”2 The list of her engagements is a roll call of later 19th-century history. In addition to Cuba (1898) were the battles of Second Bull Run and Antietam (1862), the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), the Johnstown Flood (1889), Russian famine relief (1892), the Armenian massacres (1895–1896), and the Galveston hurricane (1900), among others. What better time to remember her achievements than Women’s History Month and Red Cross Month?

During her extended stay in Europe from 1869–1873, she became acquainted with the Red Cross movement, which she brought back to the United States and formalized with a charter for the American Red Cross in 1881. Yet although she headed this organization until 1904, she remained in the field from her early 40s until she was almost 80.

Humanitarian work brought her to Cuba. Spanish policy established camps to control the discontented rural Cuban population beginning in 1895. These turned into disastrous places of human suffering, and in January 1898 President William McKinley formed a President’s Committee for Human Relief (also known as the Central Cuban Relief Committee) for the camp sufferers, or reconcentrados. The Committee included a Red Cross representative, Barton’s nephew, Stephen E. Barton. By shedding this duty, Clara was free to go to Cuba, to enter the field, in her words, “simply as a willing assistant . . . an individual helper in a work already assigned.”1 She was anything but! Barton was on the ground in Havana assessing the situation starting February 9. As part of her fact-finding mission, two days before the explosion of the Maine, she lunched aboard the ship with its captain.2 On the day after the explosion, she wired McKinley, “I am with the wounded”—as indeed she was.2

"I am with the Wounded." Originally printed in The Christian Herald and reprinted in The Red Cross at  in Peace and War. Click to enlarge.

“I am with the wounded.” Originally printed in The Christian Herald and reprinted in The Red Cross in Peace and War. Click to enlarge.

Though she was devoted to impartially aiding human suffering, Barton’s efforts in Cuba got swept into the maelstrom of politics. Spanish authorities resisted her investigations, and her reports of the reconcentrados’ suffering helped push the United States into war. Her relief efforts were then caught up by that war: back from Cuba by March, she tried to return on April 25 with relief supplies, but war had been declared two days before. Her ship, the State of Texas, was held at Tampa; providing food and medicine to Cuba was the last thing that the belligerent American government now wanted.

A photo montage of Barton's return to Cuba and time on the ship The State of Texas. From The Red Cross in Peace nad War. Click to enlarge.

A photomontage of Barton’s return to Cuba and time on the ship the State of Texas. From The Red Cross in Peace and War. Click to enlarge.

Barton with Keenan, a close-up from the State of Texas montage.

Barton with Keenan, a close-up from the State of Texas photomontage. Click to enlarge.

Only on June 20 did the ship follow the American fleet as it set out to engage the Spanish, and only in mid-July did it enter Santiago harbor, leading the American flotilla, with Barton “standing on the forward deck, . . . queenly and majestic.”2 She pushed to get her nurses access to the war wounded on both sides, organized relief aid delivery to Santiago, and established soup kitchens, clinics, and orphanages. As journalist George Kennan observed: “I did not happen to see any United States quartermaster in Cuba who, in the short space of five days, had unloaded and stored fourteen hundred tons of cargo, given hot soup daily to ten thousand soldiers, and supplied an army of thirty-two thousand men with ten days rations. It is a record, I think, of which Miss Barton had every reason to be proud.”2

"A Group of Red Cross Sisters." Photo taken by Barton and published in The Red Cross in Peace and War. Click to enlarge.

“A group of Red Cross sisters.” Photo taken by Barton and published in The Red Cross in Peace and War. Click to enlarge.

By all accounts Barton was both a master logistician and a compassionate presence in the face of human suffering. Doing so—being so—was a point of pride and identity for her, the touchstone of her feminism. This was shown even some six years before Cuba. Barton gave voice to “women’s ministering presence” in a poem, “The Women Who Went to the Field.” Composed for a November 18, 1892 Washington banquet of the Woman’s Relief Corps (an auxiliary group of the Civil War veterans organization, the Grand Army of the Republic), Barton celebrated the female battlefield nurses of America’s terrible war. Indeed, being at the battlefield was the point, as she lifted up an ideal of women’s courage, while caustically calling into question common assumptions about women and battle:

The women who went to the field, you say,
The women who went to the field; and pray
What did they go for? Just to be in the way!
They would scream at the sight of a gun, don’t you see?

They might pick some lint, and tear up some sheets,
And make us some jellies, and send on their sweets,
And knit some soft socks for Uncle Sam’s shoes,
And write us some letters, and tell us the news.
And thus it was settled by common consent,
That husbands, or brothers, or whoever went,
That the place for the women was in their own homes,
There to patiently wait until victory comes.

But the Civil War experience put the lie to these assumptions:

But later, it chanced, just how no one knew,
That the lines slipped a bit, and some ’gan to crowd through;
And they went,—where did they go?—Ah! where did they not?
Show us the battle,—the field,—or the spot
Where the groans of the wounded rang out on the air
That her ear caught it not, and her hand was not there;

What was women’s role in battle?

And these were the women who went to the war:
The women of question; what did they go for?
Because in their hearts God had planted the seed
Of pity for woe, and help for its need;
They saw, in high purpose, a duty to do,
And the armor of right broke the barriers through.
Uninvited, unaided, unsanctioned ofttimes,
With pass, or without it, they pressed on the lines;
They pressed, they implored, till they ran the lines through,
And that was the “running” the men saw them do.

That is, women ran into battle, not away!

And then she tied women’s courage to the Red Cross movement:

And what would they do if war came again?
The scarlet cross floats where all was blank then.
They would bind on their “brassards” and march to the fray,
And the man liveth not who could say to them nay;
They would stand with you now, as they stood with you then,—
The nurses, consolers, and saviors of men.2,3

Hers was a noble vision, founded on the battlefields of Bull Run and Antietam. Barton found a nursing and consoling role for women at those battlefields. She also found a logistical role for women in relief organizations, but for her, the presence of women in battle—her own presence in battle—remained defining. That presence was contentious in her time; today, the debate continues over whether to draw the line between men’s and women’s roles in battle. Yet one wonders, with Barton, whether the issue of women’s courage lies at the bottom of this debate.


1. Barton, C. (1899). The Red Cross in peace and war. Washington, D.C.: American Historical Press. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/cu31924074466842.

2. Pryor, E. B. (1987). Clara Barton: Professional angel. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

3. U.S. National Park Service. (n.d.). The Women Who Went to the Field – Clara Barton National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service). Retrieved March 11, 2014, from http://www.nps.gov/clba/historyculture/fieldpoem.htm.

What Things are Good and Holesome for the Braine

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

It’s Brain Awareness Week, a week-long effort to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. Which got us thinking: What kind of advice did people get about taking care of their brains hundreds of years before the advent of brain imaging?

A home remedy guide from our collection provides one answer. Like many tomes of its day, the book has a long and descriptive title: A Rich Store-House or Treasury for the Diseased: Wherein, are Many Approued Medicines for Diuers and Sundry Diseases, Which Haue Been Long Hidden, and not Come to Light Before This Time; Now Set Foorth for the Great Benefit and Comfort of the Poorer Sort of People That are not of Abillitie to Go to the Physitions.

How-to guides were very common and often reprinted during the Renaissance.1 A Rich Store-House is no exception; our library houses the first edition from 1596 (shown here), the fifth edition from 1612, and the eighth and final edition from 1650. A Rich Store-House is likely modeled after the work recognized as the first home remedy guide, Thesaurus Pauperum, a guide to medical treatments published in the 13th century written by Petrus Hispanus, or Peter of Spain, who went on to become Pope John XXI.2

So what does A Rich Store-House have to say about the brain? It offers two lists, “A Rule to knowe what things are good and holesome for the Braine” and “These Thinges are ill for the Braine.” Some of the items, like washing hands often, walking, sleeping, and eating and drinking in moderation, are still considered wise advice today. Others, like not listening to much music or singing or not eating onions and garlic, have not aged quite as well.


1. Katz, W. A., & Katz, B. (1998). Cuneiform to Computer: A History of Reference Sources (Google eBook) (p. 415). Scarecrow Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=Q0e58w8n88MC&pgis=1

2. Geshwind, M. (1997). A rich storehouse of medicines for diverse and sundry diseases, an Elizabethan “Treasurie for the poorer sort of people”. Journal of the History of Dentistry, 45(1), 17–22.

Item of the Month: Jacques Gamelin’s Nouveau recueil d’osteologie et de myologie

By Lisa O’Sullivan, Director, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

This is one of several posts leading up to our day-long Performing Medicine Festival on April 5, 2014, which will explore the interrelationships of medicine, health, and the performing arts. Register for the festival here.

Skeleton Musicians from Jacques Gamelin

O Quanto ci deve dare pensiere (O, how it should give us thought). Table 5. Click to enlarge.

The musical skeletons featured in our Performing Medicine design look cheerful enough. However, the text beneath the flautist’s feet, “O Quanto ci deve dare pensiere,” or “O, how it should give us thought,” makes it clear that they are a memento mori, reminding viewers of the inevitability of death. The skeletons come from Jacques Gamelin‘s Nouveau recueil d’osteologie et de myologie (A New Collection of Bones and Muscles, Drawn from Life).

Artists studying anatomy, title page, v.2.

Artists studying anatomy, title page, v.2. Click to enlarge.

The Nouveau recueil d’osteologie et de myologie is an opulent and eccentric work, published in Toulouse in 1779 and paid for with financing from Gamelin’s patron, Baron de Puymaurin, and an inheritance from Gamelin’s father. The volume’s 41 full-page engraved plates and ten etchings are by turns witty and fantastical while maintaining a high level of accuracy and anatomical detail. Jacques Gamelin trained as a painter and engraver and designed the work to be of use to artists as well as anatomy students. The first section of the book is dedicated to bones, the second to muscles, and throughout the book allegorical scenes and tableaux highlight warfare, battles, and death.

Local authorities in Toulouse gave Gamelin access to the corpses of executed criminals, and he produced sketches based on his dissections. He then worked with two engravers, Jacques Lavalée and an artist known only as Martin, to produce prints from these drawings (“Lavalée Inc. 1778” and “Gamelin fec.” (Gamelin fec[it] – or Gamelin made it) are both found on the musical skeleton image). Production of the 200 copies of the volume, which took two years, bankrupted Gamelin, and many copies were subsequently pulped.

Skeleton figure responding to Trumpet call on day of resurrection

Surgite mortui, et venite ad judicium (Arise, ye dead, and come to the judgment). Table 6. Click to enlarge.

Find more information at Gamelin’s Marauding Skeletons and Écorché Crucifixions and Princeton’s Graphic Arts blog. More images from the book can be found on the National Library for Medicine’s Historical Anatomies on the Web.

School Breakfast Week: “Take Time for School Breakfast”

By Danielle Aloia, Special Projects Librarian

Starting the day with a hearty, healthy breakfast allows your body to maintain the physical and mental agility needed to function without fatigue during the course of the day. Today, the Food Research and Action Center recognizes that “school breakfast participation is linked with increased food security, improved health outcomes, and numerous educational benefits, particularly for low-income children.”1

In 1790, Germany began the first school feeding program on record. In the early 1900s, the U.K. and several other European countries passed bills to enact school lunch programs. The following table shows the nutrition requirements for school children in Switzerland, Germany, and England circa 1900:2

Recommended nutritional requirements.2 Click to enlarge.

Recommended nutritional requirements.2 Click to enlarge.

The U.S. was late to follow, not passing legislation for a school lunch program until the 1940s. However, U.S. researchers had previously looked at the nutrition status of school aged children. In 1906, a Dr. Lechstecker in New York City examined 10,707 children and found that 439 had no breakfast and 998 had just coffee or coffee and bread. In 1908, of 10,090 children studied in Chicago, 825 suffered from malnutrition.2

In the 1940s, West Virginia surveyed students from various cities about their eating habits. They found that poor breakfasts were the biggest problem. By 1947 the state established the Good Breakfast for Every Man, Woman, and Child program with the slogan “Start the Day the Good Breakfast Way.”3

Some of the findings reported by West Virginia School Children’s Diet Study.3 Click to enlarge.

Some of the findings reported by West Virginia State Nutrition Committee.3 Click to enlarge.

In 1966, the Child Nutrition Act enacted The School Breakfast Program (SBP) as a pilot project. “During the first year of operation, the SBP served about 80,000 children at a federal cost of $573,000.”4 In fiscal year 2007, “the participating schools served . . . 1.7 billion breakfasts at a federal cost of $2.2 billion.”5 Current research shows that “10.8 million low-income children participated in the School Breakfast Program on an average day in school year 2012-2013, an increase of more than 310,000 children from the previous year.”6 And “for Fiscal Year 2012, the School Breakfast Program cost $3.3 billion, up from $1.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2005.”1

Today’s programs must meet the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, which provide evidence-based nutrition standards. The government will implement new guidelines in 2015 under the Federal Rule Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program. “This rule requires most schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat- free and low-fat fluid milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat and trans-fat in meals; and meet the nutrition needs of school children within their calorie requirements.”7

ChooseMyPlateChoose MyPlate is an easy way for people to adhere to the dietary guidelines set out by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and the Dept. of Agriculture.

Breakfast is not just for school children. Remember to take time for breakfast no matter your age.


1. Hewins J, Burke, Mike. School Breakfast Scorecard: 2012-2013 School Year. Washington, DC: Food Research and Action Center (FRAC); 2014. http://frac.org/pdf/School_Breakfast_Scorecard_SY_2012_2013.pdf. Accessed January 31, 2014.

2. Bryant, Louise Stevens. School Feeding; Its History and Practice at Home and Abroad. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company; 1913. Access at: https://ia700505.us.archive.org/3/items/schoolfeedingits01brya/schoolfeedingits01brya.pdf

3. State of West Virginia. Start the Day the Good Breakfast Way: A Statewide Nutrition Program Sponsored by The West Virginia State Nutrition Committee September 1947-August 1948. State of West Virginia; 1948.

4. USDA Food and Nutrition Service website. http://www.fns.usda.gov/sbp/school-breakfast-program. Accessed February 10, 2014.

5. National Research Council. School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2010. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12751&page=1. Accessed on: January 31, 2014.

6. The School Breakfast Program:  Fact Sheet. Washington, DC:  USDA Food and Nutrition Service; http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/SBPfactsheet.pdf. Accessed February 11, 2014.

7. Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Fed Regist. 2012;77(17):4088-4167. To be codified at 7 CFR §210 and 220. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-01-26/pdf/2012-1010.pdf. Accessed on: January 31, 2014.