Infectious Madness, the Well Curve and the Microbial Roots of Mental Disturbance

3cfce0fe054a12627f41292ec26e6b22Today’s guest post is written by Harriet Washington, a science writer, editor and ethicist. She is  the author of several books, including Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Experimentation from Colonial Times to the Present. On Wednesday, March 15 at 6pm, Washington will discuss: “Infectious Madness, the Well Curve and the Microbial Roots of Mental Disturbance.” In this talk, based on her book Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We “Catch” Mental Illness, Washington traces the history, culture and some disturbing contemporary manifestations of this ‘infection connection.” To read more about this lecture and to register, go HERE.

“Mind, independent of experience, is inconceivable.” —Franz Boas

Psychological trauma, stress, genetic anomalies and other experiences that limit the healthy functioning of the mind and brain are widely recognized as key factors in the development of schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar disorder.  However, despite a plethora of examples and evidence of microbial disorders from rabies to paresis, infection has been slow to join the pantheon.  This aversion persists largely because the perceived causes of mental disorders have evolved not only with our scientific knowledge of medicine but also with our tenacious cultural beliefs and biases.  Instead, we have long clung to what  Robert Sapolsky calls a “primordial muck” of attribution that includes broken taboos, sin—one’s own or one’s forbears’— and even bad mothering.

Brueghel_dancingMania

Representation of the dancing mania by Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger.Source.

Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564–1636) painted the above representation of the dancing mania known as choreomania or St. Anthony’s Fire, which has seized a pilgrimage of epileptics en route to the church at Molenbeek. Such compulsive dancing was originally ascribed to satanic influence such as bewitchment, and later to a collective hysterical disorder, but is now ascribed to ergotism— the  infection of rye and other grains by the fungus Claviceps purpurea.  When people ate the tainted bread, their symptoms included compulsive dancing. Some have ascribed the mass hysteria of the Salem witch trials to ergotism.  Streptoccocal infections have also produced cases called Sydenham’s chorea.

Not all traditional “causes” of mental illness are confined to the past.  As late as the 1980s, the alternating rage, coldness and oppressive affection of domineering “schizophrenogenic mothers” was taught in psychology classes as the root of schizophrenia, just as Tourette’s syndrome initially was laid to poor parenting.

For Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We “Catch” Mental Illness, I interviewed scientists working on the effects of infections on mental health such as Susan Swedo, chief of the pediatrics and developmental neuroscience branch at the National Institute of Mental Health, who studies the role of Group A strep (GAS) infections in children in rapid-onset cases of obsessive compulsive disorder, anorexia, and Tourette syndrome. Other visionary researchers, such as E. Fuller Torrey, executive director of Maryland’s Stanley Medical Research Institute, and Robert Yolken, director of developmental neurovirology at Johns Hopkins University, have for decades investigated the role of microbes in mental illness and have traced the path of viruses such as influenza, herpes simplex and Toxoplasma  gondii, among other microbes, in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

There are a myriad of ways in which infections cause or encourage mental disease. In order to suit its own need to reproduce within the stomach of a cat, the unicellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii changes the behavior of rodents — and incidentally, use it to gain entry. This seems strange, but changing the behavior of a host to suit its own needs is a common stratagem of parasites. The Cordyceps fungus, for example, manipulates an ant in the Amazon into climbing a tree where the fungal spores can be more widely disseminated. The spore- bearing branches extend from the corpse of the ant pictured below.

Ant1

The Cordyceps fungus manipulates an ant in the Amazon into climbing a tree where the fungal spores can be more widely disseminated. The spore-bearing branches extend from the corpse of the ant.Photograph © Gregory Dimijian, MD.

Infection, redux

“Everything has been thought of before, but the problem is to think of it again.” —Goethe

There is a long, all but forgotten history of infectious theories of mental illness. In his 1812 psychiatry text Medical Inquiries and Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind, for example, Benjamin Rush, MD, included a first detailed taxonomy of mental disorders, each with its own physical cause. He cited disruptions of blood circulation and  sensory overload as the basis of mental illness, and he treated his patients with devices meant to improve circulation to the brain, including such Rube Goldberg designs as a centrifugal spinning board, or to decrease sensory perceptions, such as a restraining chair with a head enclosure.

Restraining Chair

Pictured here is the “tranquilizing chair” in which patients were confined. The chair was supposed to control the flow of blood toward the brain and, by lessening muscular action or reducing motor activity, reduce the force and frequency of the pulse.Photograph © 2008 Hoag Levins.

Paresis, an infectious mental disorder

In 1857, Drs. Johannes Friedrich Esmark and W. Jessen suggested a biological cause for paresis: syphilis. Many researchers started to view paresis as the tertiary stage of syphilis, which often attacked the brain indiscriminately, and they began referring to it as neurosyphilis. This theory held out hope that if syphilis was ever cured, paresis could be too.

Nineteenth-century asylum keepers, however, persisted in viewing paresis as wholly mental in character. The long-standing insistence on divorcing physical illnesses from mental ones had to do with religious philosophy and culture but also with the politics of the asylum, which remained a battleground between physicians and religious and philosophical healers.

Matters were complicated by the fact that most physicians, despite the evidence that paresis was the mental manifestation of a physical disease, continued to treat paretics with the same ineffectual therapeutics given other mentally ill patients. Traditional treatments such as “douches, cold packs, mercury, blistering of the scalp, venesection, leeching, sexual abstinence, and holes drilled into the skull [trephination]” continued—without positive results. Even when toxic mercury-based treatments for syphilis were replaced by Paul Ehrlich’s safer, more effective arsenic-based Salvarsan (also called arsphenamine and compound 606), it was not used against paresis.

But in June 1917, Professor Julius Wagner-Jauregg of the University of Vienna Hospital for Nervous and Mental Diseases undertook a radical approach. He had noticed that some paretic patients improved markedly after contracting an infectious illness that gave them fevers. He decided to fight fire with fire by turning one disease against another: he sought to suppress the symptoms of paresis by infecting its sufferers with malaria.

Before Wagner-Jauregg won the Nobel and Freud forged the future of psychiatry, a paradigm shift had already taken place that transformed science’s approach to the nature of disease. It is the very framework that supports the role of infection in mental illness—germ theory. Developed by Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch, germ theory posits that specific microbes such as bacteria, viruses, and prions (infectious proteins) cause illness.

For more on this fascinating topic, join Harriet Washington on Wednesday, March 15 at 6pm.  More information can be found here

“Feminist Futures” Class Review

By Audrey Sage Lorberfeld, Digital Technical Specialist

For three hours each Monday evening, January 30 through February 20, the Academy hosted a Brooklyn Institute for Social Research class called Feminist Futures, for which I was lucky enough to be the staff liaison. My classmates ran the gamut from PhD students to artists to professors to web developers to librarians and archivists. Our professor, Danya Glabau, guided us through the intellectual history of the intersection of science studies and feminist theory. Professor Glabau’s syllabus included the writings of such luminaries as Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, Evelyn Fox Keller, and Emily Martin. To complement these readings, the Academy was able to provide some of its own treasures as well.

One such item was the Traité d’osteologié, published in 1759 with text by the Scottish anatomist Alexander Monro and illustrations supervised by Marie Geneviève Charlotte Thiroux D’Arconville.  D’Arconville studied anatomy at the Jardin Du Roi and translated Monro’s earlier text into French for this volume. Although her name does not appear anywhere in the text (her plates were published under the protection of Jean-Jacques Sue, a member of the French Royal Academy), it is generally accepted that d’Arconville is the hand behind the gorgeous images. Among her plates are incredible depictions of male and female skeletons that display features associated with each gender. She renders the male skeleton as large and statuesque and places him in front of a backdrop of Classical architecture. Her female skeleton, on the other hand, is more petite and stands in a less assertive position. Noticeably, her rib cage is extremely narrow while her wide hips and pelvis are very emphasized. There is speculation that the image of a narrow rib cage is meant to associate the skeleton with upper class women who usually wore corsets.

monro-sue_traitedosteologie_1759_watermark

Female skeleton from Traité d’osteologié (1759)

Paired with this item for a unit titled “Feminist Objectivity” were Donna Haraway’s “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Karen Barad’s “Meeting the Universe Halfway: Realism and Social Constructivism Without Contradiction,” and Michelle Murphy’s “Immodest Witnessing: The Epistemology of Vaginal Self-Examination in the U.S. Feminist Self-Help Movement.” Among other topics, we guessed at what our authors might have thought of today’s quantified-self movement and whether or not data about the self could be categorized as an extension of that self. Further, we asked: what happens to this paradigm when you engage with its exponential commodification? Could self-awareness excuse the self from the ‘wrong type’ of objectification? We also spent a significant part of the class analyzing what Haraway’s idea of “seeing from below” might mean in our current political climate.[1] We queried, is it possible to adopt Haraway’s type of situated knowledge and avoid being ableist?

ffimage_edited

“Feminist Futures” class taking place at the Academy.Image source: Suzanne Schneider, Director of Operations and Core Faculty at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research.

One of my favorite quotes from this part of the course was “rational knowledge does not pretend to disengagement.”[2] I took this to mean that pushing for a type of feminist objectivity that highlights seeing from below and/or something Barad calls “agential realism” does not mean that you are disengaging from your subject.[3] Rather, it means that you are striving towards a feminist typology of embodiment that focuses its recuperative energies on welcoming emotions and relationships as data, all the while keeping in mind that “no knowledge is innocent.”[4] This was a very powerful idea to me as a woman working at the Academy in a nexus of technology, history, and public service.

We rounded out the class with a viewing of Crania America, a book published in 1889 by Samuel George Morton, a famed phrenologist. Included in his tome are illustrations of different race’s skulls along with commentary on their corresponding mental abilities. He describes his project as demonstrating that  “a particular size and form of brain is the invariable concomitant of particular dispositions and talents, and that this fact holds good in the case of nations as well as of individuals.”[5] He goes onto say that:

A knowledge of the size of the brain, and the proportions of its different parts, in the different varieties of the human race, will be the key to a correct appreciation of the differences in their natural mental endowments, on which external circumstances act only as modifying influences….[5]

As you can imagine, this item generated a passionate conversation. Highlights included discovering that the roots of cybernetics (a field which began in WWII) come from the ancient Greek adjective κυβερνητικός, meaning ‘good at steering’ (n.b. the militaristic and authoritative implications); the theory behind Chela Sandoval’s term “US third-world feminist”; and the layered irony within our assigned texts regarding authority and boundaries.

morton_crania-americana_1889_watermark

Skull from Crania America (1889)

While this course was challenging, we made sure to keep the conversation approachable and friendly. This litmus test of a Brooklyn Institute for Social Research-The New York Academy of Medicine Library collaboration solidified our belief that:

Together [our two institutions] can make the histories, presents, and futures of science and technology relevant to the lives of work adults, supporting the development of knowledge and interest in these crucial aspects of our complex and ever-changing society. (Professor Glabau)

We hope you join us next time!

References:

[1] Haraway D. Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies. 1988; 14(3): 575-599. (Quote on p.583).
[2] Haraway D. Simians, cyborgs, and women: the reinvention of nature. New York: Routledge;1991. (Quote on p. 196).
[3] Barad K. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Realism and Social Constructivism without Contradiction. Feminism, Science, and the Philosophy of Science. 1996;256: 161-194. (Quote on p.179).
[4] Warren K, Cheney J. Ecological Feminism and Ecosystem Ecology. Hypatia. 1991;6(1): 179-197. (Quote on p. 191).
[5] Morton S. Crania americana. Philadelphia: London, J. Dobson; Simpkin, Marshall & Co;1839. (Quote on p. 274).

The Marrow of Tragedy: Disease and Diversity in Civil War Medicine

Today’s guest post is written by Dr. Margaret Humphreys, Josiah Charles Trent Professor in the History of Medicine at Duke University. She is the author of Yellow Fever and the South (Rutgers, 1992) and Malaria: Poverty, Race and Public Health in the United States (Johns Hopkins, 2001), Intensely Human: The Health of the Black Soldier in American Civil War (2008) and Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War (2013). On Tuesday, February 21 at 6pm, Humphreys will give The John K. Lattimer Lecture: “The Marrow of Tragedy: Disease and Diversity in Civil War Medicine.” To read more about this lecture and to register, go HERE.

In a memorable scene from the movie Gone with the Wind, Southern belle, Scarlett O’Hara, picks her way through the battle-wounded men lying on the ground near the train station in Atlanta, frantically seeking Dr. Meade to help her with her sister-in-law Melanie’s imminent delivery.  Meade brushes her off and turns to a screaming soldier, telling him that his leg would have to come off, and without anesthesia.  The man’s screams echo as Scarlett heads back to Melanie’s bedside.  This cinematic portrayal of Civil War medicine reflects a wide belief that there was no anesthesia at that time.  Indeed, it was said that the war occurred “at the end of the medical middle ages.”  (This quotation is widely attributed to Union Surgeon General William Hammond, but without citation).

atlanta

Scene from Gone with the Wind (1939).

In my book, Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War, I begin from a different perspective, recognizing that there was such a thing as “good medicine” and “bad medicine” during the War.  Medical care could be effective, and it could make a difference in disease and injury outcomes.  For example, chloroform and ether anesthesia meant most surgery occurred with the patient unconscious (although Confederate surgeons did run out of these supplies in desperate circumstances, such as the siege of Atlanta near the end of the war).

Alarming as the notion of amputation completely without anesthesia, are the revealing mortality rates from disease at this point in the war. Put simply, for every one white Union soldier who died of disease during the War, a little over two black Union soldiers died, and almost three Confederates succumbed.[i]

hospital-scene

Image source: Getty Images.

How can we account for these differences?  A major factor was the quality and quantity of food, a core ingredient of the modern concept of “social determinants of health.”  White Union troops also received better hospital care, calling on part of the strong social networks of the folks back home and their political impact.  The Union hospital system was much better funded, with full access to important medicines, such as quinine, opiates, and anesthetics; and the technology of cleanliness, which included clothing, soap, and disinfectants.  Nursing care was key, as well, with northern hospitals staffed by volunteer nurses, while those in the south were often civilians or slaves challenged by lack of formal training as well as lack of resources.

To learn more about Civil War medicine, join us on Tuesday, February 21 at 6pm. Register HERE.

sanitary-commission

Image source: Harper’s Weekly, April 9, 1864.

 

Note:

[i] Actual numbers, per 1000, were 63, 143, and 167, respectively.

Aldrovandi’s Quadrupeds, and #ColorOurCollections: Day 4

fb-cover_828x315_nyam9-aldrovandi_quadrupedum_1621_931_watermark

It’s the fourth day of #ColorOurCollections, a week-long special collections coloring fest we’ve organized on social media. Check out all the coloring books at colorourcollections.org.

A set of charming four-footed beasts from the quadrupeds volume of Ulisse Aldrovandi’s (1522-1605) multi-volume  natural history encyclopedia is our choice for today’s coloring sheets.

Aldrovandi grew up in Bologna as the privileged son of a noble family.  His father, Teseo Aldrovandi, served as secretary for the Senate of Bologna and his mother was a first cousin of Pope Gregory XIII.  From an early age, Aldrovandi displayed a restless intelligence, studying mathematics, law and philosophy before finally earning a degree in medicine and philosophy from the University of Padua in 1553.

By the time he earned his degree, Aldrovandi had already developed a passionate interest in natural history.  A popular teacher, he taught philosophy and other subjects at the University of Bologna before he was appointed the first professor of natural sciences in 1561.  Aldrovandi’s interest was sparked by personal encounters with other major figures in the world of 16th century natural history, including the ichthyologist Guillaume Rondelet and the botanist Luca Ghini. While Ghini failed in his attempts to garner support for the establishment of a botanical garden in Bologna, Aldrovandi was successful, founding the garden with the support of the Senate in 1568 and serving as its director for almost 40 years.  He also travelled widely, often with students, to collect plants  and natural history specimens.

Over the course of his lifetime, Aldrovandi assembled a natural history museum of 18,000 specimens, as well as an extensive herbarium.  Only four of the thirteen volumes of his magisterial Storia Naturale were published during his lifetime; the others appeared posthumously over a period of decades.  He left the museum collections, his library, his unpublished manuscripts, drawings, water colors and the wood blocks that were meant to be used to illustrate the encyclopedia volumes to the city of Bologna when he died.  A portion of the specimen collections can be visited today in the Istituto delle scienze at the Palazzo Poggi, while the manuscripts, watercolors, and wood blocks are available for study in the library at the University of Bologna.

If you like Aldrovandi’s majestic beasts, you’ll love the following coloring pages from our participating institutions.

We’re mesmerized by Dittrick Medical History Center‘s beautiful Anatomy of an Horse (1683) by Andrew Snape.

dittrick-coloring-book-2017-3

Enjoy coloring the many details of University of Strathclyde Glasgow‘s regal lion from Michael Maire’s Atalanta Fugiens (1618).

strathclyde_colouring-book-2017

Finally, here is the legendary manticore for your coloring delight. The Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History adds a bit of whimsy with Historie of foure-footed beastes(1658) by Edward Topsell.

othmerlibrarycoc2017coloringbook

Check back in tomorrow for the last day of #ColorOurCollections!

 

Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal, and #ColorOurCollections: Day 2

fb-cover_828x315_nyam

Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal has quite a curious publication story.  We’ve transformed six images from this stunning eighteenth-century botanical first published in 1737 in London into coloring sheets.

blackwell_melon_colored

Blackwell’s melon, colored by library staff member, Emily Miranker.

Aberdeen-born Elizabeth Blackwell (1700-1758), the daughter of a successful merchant, married her cousin Alexander Blackwell at age 28.  Though trained in reading Greek and Latin, Alexander practiced as a physician in Aberdeen, without appropriate permissions. The couple relocated to London when his right to practice medicine in Aberdeen was challenged.  In London, Blackwell opened a printing shop—again without the proper credentials, and again with less than stellar results.  When he couldn’t pay his business debts, he was installed at the city’s Highgate Prison.

Elizabeth, by then a mother, needed to find a way to support her family.  The printer’s shop she operated with her husband had made her a savvy observer of the book marketplace.  She realized that a new high quality herbal including New World species didn’t yet exist.  She took a room next to the Chelsea Physic Gardens, which exhibited some of the new American plants.  Later, she ferried the finished drawings to the prison at Highgate, where her husband supplied the Latin and Greek names of the plants and their uses. Some American plants, like sassafras, native to Virginia, were given only the English and Latin names.

Alexander also offered counsel on the plants’ medicinal uses.  The text accompanying sweet gum, here, “sweet cistus of candy” attests that it “Stays Vomiting” and that “the Fume of it Comforts the Brain” (we’re hoping that these same effects can be said about the practice of coloring these images).

blackwell_watermarkblackwell3Elizabeth was not only responsible for the drawings themselves, but did the engravings of the drawings on copper plates for printing.  In many copies, she hand-colored every single plate.  The images were first published at a rate of four a week, beginning in 1737, but through her own connections and market-savvy, she soon secured a book deal.  With the profits, Elizabeth was able to secure Alexander’s release from Highgate Prison, though their reunion was temporary (later he was put to death in Sweden for treason, though that is another story).

This week, we’re grateful that our own copy of Blackwell’s Curious Herbal is gloriously pristine so that we could transform them into a bouquet of coloring sheets.

In need of color specifics?  Blackwell’s text gives vivid, precise descriptions of the hues of her selected plants.  Great Bindweed (v.1, plate 38), which blooms in the late summer, has leaves that are “a willow green” with “Flowers white,” while her Female Piony possesses “leaves a grass green and flowers a fire crimson.”

femalepiony_text_watermarkblackwell5

We leave it to you imaginative colorists to fill in these pages in any range of glorious hues you like!

While we’re on a plant theme, let’s take a look at some beautiful coloring pages from participating institutions.

nybg-coloring-book

New York Botanical Garden includes this lovely sunflower in their coloring book. Source: Basillius Besler, Hortus Eystettensis (1613).

williamscollege_dehistoriastirpiumleonhartfuchs1542

Williams College Libraries includes this ready-to-color image from Leonhart Fuchs’ De historia stirpium (1542).

Don’t forget to check out more coloring books at colorourcollections.org!

#ColorOurCollections: February 6-10, 2017

Get your crayons and colored pencils ready, we’re gearing up to #ColorOurCollections again! This year’s library social media coloring extravaganza will happen February 6th-10th. During that week, libraries, archives, special collections, and other cultural institutions around the world will share coloring sheets based on materials in their collections.  You will find these posts on social media with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections, as well as on our new website, colorourcollections.org.

Last year, more than 210 libraries and cultural institutions participated, representing 7 countries (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand). Institutions, let’s make it even bigger this year. If you work in a library or special collection, join us in this fun initiative! Find out how to participate here.

If you can’t wait and want to sharpen those coloring skills, try your hand at one of our new coloring sheets. This illustration of 26 notable women comes from the pamphlet Famous women of the world published by the Pepsin Syrup Company, circa 1920.

capturecoc

 

Winter/Spring 2017 Catalog: Events with a Unique Perspective

library-programming-winter-spring-2017-thumbWelcome to The New York Academy of Medicine Library’s Winter/Spring 2017 cultural programming.  Today we launch a new season of events with a unique perspective on the history and culture of medicine and health, and what they mean for the future.

The upcoming season includes talks by prominent authors, historians and artists. Highlights include science writer Harriet Washington on the role of microbes in mental health (March 15), historian Lisa Rosner on the controversial history of vaccine advocacy starting in the 1700s (April 6), food journalist Sarah Lohman on garlic’s journey from a tuberculosis remedy to a food seasoning (June 5), and science writer Mary Roach on her new book GRUNT: The Curious Science of Humans at War (June 12).

Legacies of War: Medical Innovations and Impacts,” our special 2017 event series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the American entry into WWI, will explore how the experience of war has prompted medical innovation, including surgical techniques, prosthetics, ambulances, and trauma care. Speakers will also address the impact of conflict on the minds and bodies of soldiers and civilian populations, past and present. This series commences On February 21, with Prof. Margaret Humphreys (Duke University) speaking on “The Marrow of Tragedy: Disease and Diversity in Civil War Medicine.”

ladieshomejournal_nov-1918_cover_watermark

To ensure the sustainability of our programs, we have added a nominal fee for our events. A number of events throughout the year remain free due to the generosity of our sponsors. Discounts continue to be available to our valued Friends of the Rare Book Room and Academy Fellows and Members, and we welcome students to attend for free.

Download the Winter/Spring 2017 programming catalog for more details. To register, click the names of events in the catalog, or visit www.NYAM.org/events.

We look forward to seeing you throughout the year.

Image sources:

Event Announcement: The Roles of Physicians in 19th Century Polar Exploration

Our Friends of the Rare Book Room have traveled from Louis XIV’s Paris to early twentieth century Ellis Island.  On Wednesday, February 1, we invite you to join us for the Arctic.  In this special Friends event, Dr. Douglas Kondziolka will discuss his collection of Arctic and Antarctic polar exploration books, maps, and letters from the era of the late eighteenth century through the early twentieth century. Dr. Kondziolka is a member of the neurosurgery faculty at New York University as Professor and Vice-Chair for Clinical Research.

Dr. Kondziolka’s focus on the Arctic was stimulated first by his Canadian father’s tenure with the US Air Force at their Canadian base in the Arctic in the 1950s, and later by the popular historian Pierre Berton and his book “The Arctic Grail.” Dr. Kondziolka’s collection, which began in 1994, was fostered by several trips to the arctic to visit important exploration sites. The collection documents the important steps in Arctic discovery, both for a Northwest Passage to Asia, and to the North Pole itself.

Dr. Kondziolka’s collection tells the story of a cast of unique characters, and among them many physicians, who dared to venture into lands unknown.  A few of these individuals are highlighted below:

Alexander Mackenzie
Alexander Mackenzie was the first European to travel overland to the Pacific Ocean, proving that there was no way to get there entirely by water.  His publication was received by Thomas Jefferson, who spurred him to send Lewis and Clark to “solve the American West.”

kondziolka

Elisha Kent Kane
A few decades later, the Americans joined in the search for the North Pole. A bored physician, Elisha Kent Kane, was the first successful American polar explorer. His book became the #2 best seller during the Civil War, just behind The Bible.

Charles Francis Hall
Spurred by Kane’s adventures, a Cincinnati newspaperman, Charles Francis Hall, ventured up to the Arctic.  He was the first to go native, and brought Inuit back to New York to rave reviews. On his last voyage, despite being able to reach far up the coast of Greenland, his men mutinied and poisoned him, preferring to make their way back home.

4

We hope you will join us on February 1 for this special event. Click here to register.

Friends of the Rare Book Room are invited to come at 6:00pm to look at selected books with the speaker in the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room prior to the talk. This event is part of our series for Friends. To join the Friends please click here.

Become a Friend of the Rare Book Room

Auld Lang Syne, traditionally played at the start of a new year, begins with a question: “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?”  The song that follows is generally thought to be a call to remember long-standing friendships.

As we begin 2017, please consider joining the Friends of the Rare Book Room. Whether you have come to the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room to use some of our 550,000 books and manuscripts, have stopped by for a tour or speaker event, or enjoy our digital offerings, we consider you part of the New York Academy of Medicine Library community.

Friends’ support ensures the ongoing vitality of the Library and its collections. Friends help underwrite the Library’s public programs and outreach activities; the acquisition, conservation, and cataloging of remarkable historical materials; and digitization of our key Library treasures.

As thanks for being a Friend, you will be entitled to discounted prices to special lectures, programs, excursions, and receptions, including private viewings of the collections. Below are a few of the many exciting events we have planned in 2017.

1/11:      Private tour of the Morgan Library Literary Collections

Open to all Friends of the Rare Book Room members; advance registration required.  Just a few spaces left so act quickly!

A special behind-the-scenes exclusive visit to Morgan Library & Museum for a guided tour of the museum’s literary collection and meeting with John Bidwell, Curator of Printed Books and Bindings.

fluddr_integrum_winds_1631winthrop_watermark

1/28:      “How a Colonial Family Read: The Winthrops and Their Books”

Speaker: Anthony Grafton, Henry Putnam University Professor of European History, Princeton University

When John Winthrop and his family left England for Massachusetts, they brought books, in quantity, and they went on buying more. This lecture will use evidence in the Winthrops’ copies of their books to show how four generations of male and female Winthrops read, and track the story of an early American family over time.

2/1:        “The Role of Physicians in 19th Century Polar Exploration”

Speaker: Douglas Kondziolka, NYU Vice-Chair for Clinical Research

Douglas Kondziolka collects arctic and antarctic polar exploration materials; this talk will focus on the story of the many physicians, who dared to venture into lands unknown.

3/30:      “Anomaly and Imagination”

Speaker: Rosamond Purcell, artist and photographer

Acclaimed photographer Purcell has been interested in fantastical imagery from early modern books for much of her career. Descriptions and images of conjoined twins, one-eyed giant cyclops, and dog-headed cannibals appear in manuscripts and books. In medical collections, their biological counterparts are preserved as effigies in wax and as skeletons of conjoined twins, giants and dwarfs. This talk will cover ideas about hybrid beings, the illusion of the monstrous and the fluidity of natural forms.

dickinson_birthatlas-page-001forfriendslecture_watermark

4/13:      The Annual Friends of the Rare Book Room Lecture: “Art in the Service of Medical Education”

Speaker: Rose Holz, historian of medicine and sexuality at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln where she serves as the Associate Director of the Women’s & Gender Studies Program and Director of Humanities in Medicine.

Professor Rose Holz examines the life of Dr. Robert L. Dickinson, gynecologist, investigating the hugely influential Birth Series sculptures he created in 1939 with fellow artist Abram Belskie. The Birth Series both shaped modern gynecological education for aspiring practitioners and educated lay individuals in matters of pregnancy and reproduction and gave rise to new understandings of pregnancy radically different from those that held sway in the 1800s.

friends

For more details about Friends programs throughout the year contact frbr@nyam.org.

Happy New Year from the New York Academy of Medicine Library!

Images:

Getting to Know GreyLit: National Network of Libraries of Medicine Grant Recipients

T229_logo_gl18he New York Academy of Medicine hosted the 18th International Conference on Grey Literature: Leveraging Diversity in Grey Literature (GL18) on November 28 – 29, 2016.  The Academy received a professional development grant from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) to help support attendance at the conference.  Five grant awardees, students and information professionals, were chosen to attend the conference for one or both days.  Post-event, the awardees stated that the conference had a remarkable impact on their understanding of grey literature.

In their own words, awardees describe their experience at the GL18 conference:

Jennifer Kaari
Library Manager | Mount Sinai

I was interested in attending the 18th International Conference on Grey Literature because like so many librarians, I often find that grey literature is a missing piece of the research process. I was struck during the conference by how apt diversity was a theme for a grey literature conference. Grey literature is a wildly diverse arena, from the many formats and publication types that fall under the umbrella to the wide range of fields that generate and use grey literature. Many of these were represented in the conference, from the law to nuclear science to community initiatives.

As highlighted by the presentations on the Indigenous Law Portal and LGBT communities, grey literature can also give a voice to communities that may be left out of traditional scholarly publishing. I came away with the understanding that leveraging grey literature is essential to ensuring that these voices are included in research and the policy decisions that result.

Perhaps most importantly for my personal development, I left the conference with a bright new idea about a topic in grey literature to research in the upcoming year. I’m looking forward to attending future conferences- hopefully as a speaker! Thanks to the NN/LM for this wonderful opportunity.

Sharon Whitfield
Emerging Technologies Librarian | Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

The 2016 Grey Literature conference, titled Leveraging Diversity, had at least one presentation of interest to everyone.  The presentation topics ranged from open access to LGBT+.

As this was my first GreyLit conference, I was surprised to find a very welcoming community of researchers, librarians and professionals who all were invested in researching, reporting and making grey literature accessible.  During the first day, I found the presentations inspiring. The presentation showed how grey literature impacted the various constituencies at each institution and the importance of making the literature available to the populations.

On the second day, the conference had more of a practical application by addressing open access and researchers’ needs. An example was the Data Science Panel. The Data Science panel, which included two librarians and a researcher, addressed research needs that are occurring at my own institution.  The panel provided new technologies that I am currently exploring for institutional adoption.  Yet, it was hearing the importance of access to grey literature and datasets by the researcher, which really help me to understand the role the library should be playing to support researchers at my own institution.

poster-session-21

Poster session at GL18. Photo by Danielle Aloia.

Cheryl Branche, MD, MLS
P/T Adjunct Reference Librarian | Health Professions Library Hunter College, CUNY Brookdale Campus

On Tuesday, November 29, I viewed the engaging poster presentations and discussed the posters with the presenters, who hailed from France, Italy, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, and the United States. Three posters interested me:

  • Policy Development for Grey Literature Resources: An Assessment of the Pisa Declaration
  • Grey Literature in Transfer Pricing: Japan and Korea
  • WorldWideScience.org: An International Partnership to Improve Access to Scientific and Technical Information and Research Data.

During the Tuesday afternoon session, Debbie Rabina presented an ongoing long-term study, which identified the information needs of incarcerated people and demonstrated their willingness to write to agencies for information. The late afternoon session included a presentation entitled: The GreyLit Report: Understanding the Challenges of Finding Grey Literature.

On Wednesday, November 30, I joined the GreyLit: Intro and Search Strategies session. It was a hands-on learning session focused on finding grey literature. It was very interesting.

The conference was quite stimulating, informative and useful and I look forward to adding the new techniques to my armamentarium to seek, find…and explore more grey literature.

Alyssa Grimshaw | Drexel University
Library Services Assistant IV / MSLIS Student | Cushing/Whitney Medical Library / Drexel University

The 18th International Conference on Grey Literature was an exceptionally eye-opening experience. In regards to grey literature I consider myself a novice, but found this conference enlightening, as it clearly illustrated the benefits of promoting and utilizing grey literature within the library system.

The conference started out strong with the Keynote Address by Taryn Rucinski. Rucinski was very energetic and informative, discussing all of the literature found within the law grey literature. I was truly flabbergasted to discover that one can find expert testimony on a large wide array of different subjects in the legislative proceedings on government websites. This is just one example of the many exceptional ways to utilize grey literature.

The conference also helped me uncover a great resource – The Grey Literature Report! The New York Academy of Medicine publishes this report bi-monthly and takes all of the obscure grey literature and makes it easily searchable!  I particularly enjoyed the international aspect of the conference because it allowed me to learn a little more about how other countries use and preserve grey literature. I believe this to be incredibly important because in order for libraries to grow and develop they should be able to learn from, and interconnect with, one another. Each day of the conference was filled with valuable information and great tips that I intend to bring back to my library and apply in order to help our patrons!

altmetrics

Joachim Schöpfel at GL18. Photo by Danielle Aloia.

Kate Nyhan, MLS
Research and education librarian for public health | Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale University

Attending one day of #GL18 at #GreyLitWeek at the New York Academy of Medicine – thanks to generous professional development funding from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine – I learned a great deal about what I don’t know. Of course, when it comes to grey literature, ignorance is a common state indeed.

  • Students and even a few eminent researchers I’ve spoken with aren’t quite sure what “grey literature” is.
  • Information professionals don’t always know the information ecosystem of grey literature’s producers and aggregators.
  • Medical librarians might not even be aware of the diverse types of grey literature that could be relevant to biomedical and public health questions – such as the governmental administrative materials that are generated by legislative, litigation, and regulatory processes. (Read “The Elephant in the Room” by excellent speaker Taryn Rucinski of Pace University Law School for more details)
  • Finally, organizations that generate grey literature sometimes seem not to know the first thing about the preservation and discovery of information – even when they are desperately trying to disseminate their high-quality, free, information products.

Thanks to the excellent talks, posters, and discussions at GL18, the unknown unknowns of grey literature are starting to become known unknowns for me. I choose that phrase to acknowledge that I’m still a novice at, say, retrieving government administrative materials, or even hard-to-find theses and dissertations – but now I’m a novice with better tools!