Brains, Brawn, & Beauty: Andreas Vesalius and the Art of Anatomy

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

For our October 18 festival, Art, Anatomy, and the Body: Vesalius 500, we exhibited items from the library’s collections showing the history of anatomical illustration. You can still visit the New York Academy of Medicine to view the exhibit in person on the ground floor. If you can’t make it, we offer a digital version below.

The exhibit on display at the new York Academy of Medicine.

The exhibit on display at the New York Academy of Medicine.

In 1543, Andreas Vesalius was a 28-year-old professor of surgery and anatomy at the University of Padua, one of Europe’s best known medical schools. That year, he published his most famous work, De humani corporis fabrica, translated as On the Fabric of the Human Body. Vesalius dedicated the work to Charles V; he subsequently received the appointment of physician to the imperial family.

Working from three images from the Fabrica—a skeleton, a figure of muscles, and an illustration of the brain—this exhibit shows the many ways Vesalius’ work built on past anatomists, and exerted its influence well into the future.

Images from great works in our collection, from Magnus Hundt’s 1501 Antropologium to Dominici Santorini’s 1775 Anatomici summi septemdecim tabulae, show the evolution of artistic style and scientific understanding. Some show examples of “borrowing” Vesalius’ images and placing them in new contexts.

Click an image to view the gallery.

The LaGuardia Report: Exploration of a Chronic Issue in American Drug Policy

On May 1 and 2, The New York Academy of Medicine and the Drug Policy Alliance co-hosted a conference, The LaGuardia Report at 70. Featuring more than 25 speakers, including historians, policy experts, political figures, and community organizers, the conference provided a forum to understand the state of marijuana regulation and enforcement in New York and to see the current debates in the context of over a hundred years of public policy fights around drugs and drug regulation in the United States.

For the conference, we created a small exhibit featuring facsimiles of materials from the New York Academy of Medicine’s Committee on Public Health Relations archive, as well as the original 1944 report. We are pleased to share the images with you on our blog.

LettertoMayor_merged_watermark

In 1938, at the request of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, The New York Academy of Medicine’s Committee on Public Health Relations formed a subcommittee to study marijuana use in New York City. As you can see in this letter to Mayor LaGuardia from the Academy’s president, James Alexander Miller, M.D., the subcommittee determined a more extensive study was necessary. They recommended two approaches, a sociological study of marijuana use in the city and a clinical investigation of its physiological and psychological effects. (Click to enlarge.)

In the sociological study, six police officers acted as social investigators. They ventured into places where marijuana might be available and socialized with people in order to find out who was using marijuana and how it was being distributed. Olive J. Cregan was one of the investigators. This page from her report describes some of her interactions, including one in a speakeasy that she called “the worst dive I have ever seen.” While they learned a great deal about marijuana use in the city, one of the study’s conclusions was that “the publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.”

In the sociological study, six police officers acted as social investigators. They ventured into places where marijuana might be available and socialized with people in order to find out who was using marijuana and how it was being distributed. Olive J. Cregan was one of the investigators. This page from her report describes some of her interactions, including one in a speakeasy that she called “the worst dive I have ever seen.” While they learned a great deal about marijuana use in the city, one of the study’s conclusions was that “the publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.”

This report from the clinical team gives a sense of the reputation marijuana had at the time of the study, a view that the study eventually countered. There was great concern about marijuana’s potential for addiction and its role in crime. The study found little basis for its bad reputation.   (Click to enlarge.)

This report from the clinical team gives a sense of the reputation marijuana had at the time of the study, a view that the study eventually countered. There was great concern about marijuana’s potential for addiction and its role in crime. The study found little basis for its bad reputation. (Click to enlarge.)

LaGuardiaReportTP_watermark

The LaGuardia report, formally titled The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York, was published in 1944.

Mirroring Medicine: Of Mice and Men

Medal issued to commemorate Louis Pasteur’s 70th birthday, 1892.

Medal issued to commemorate Louis Pasteur’s 70th birthday, 1892.

Medals, amulets, badges and prizes play many roles, whether acknowledging significant figures in their fields, commemorating events, or giving insights into beliefs about health. Over 275 medical-themed items from the collection of Dr. Ira Rezak, currently on display at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library at the Columbia University Medical Center, provide a rich and varied exploration of these roles. The objects in the exhibit range from a 70th birthday medal for Louis Pasteur (1892) to a 16th century German amulet used to ward off the bubonic plague, a Canadian medal from 1994 celebrating the role of white mice in medical science, and the New York Academy of Medicine medal by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, among many other medals representing medicine in New York.

Round medal with female figure, for New York Academy of Medicine.

Medal of the New York Academy of Medicine, 1928, by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth.

The exhibition, Mirroring Medicine, is drawn from Dr. Rezak’s medal collection, formed over 50 years, and one of the most important in private hands. Dr. Rezak is a NYAM Fellow and Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The exhibition is on view until January 11, 2013 and is open from 7am to 9pm on Lower Level 2 of the Columbia University Medical Center’s Hammer Health Sciences Center. Individuals without Columbia University or New York-Presbyterian Hospital identification should make arrangements to visit the show by emailing hslarchives@columbia.edu.

The Changing Face of Aging Across America

By Arlene Shaner, Acting Curator and Reference Librarian for Historical Collections

A photography exhibit by NYAM Fellow Jeffrey M. Levine, M.D., is on display through September 21, 2012 at the National Arts Club (15 Gramercy Park South). The exhibit, The Changing Face of Aging Across America, is the first stop in a year-long tour of these images, which will be shown in six teaching hospitals around the country.

3 women carrying a banner saying "Granny Peace Brigade"

Granny Peace Brigade in Times Square. Photo: Jeffrey M. Levine, M.D.

Dr. Levine is a gerontologist and wound care specialist with a longstanding interest in photography. He has studied at the Art Students League, the International Center for Photography and the School of Visual Arts. For the past two decades he has been documenting the experience of aging in America through photographs that celebrate the activities and communities of aging individuals, but also remind us of the many challenges faced by this population, our largest growing demographic.

Group of runners running in the Over 70 Race

Runners in the Over 70 Race on Fifth Avenue. Photo: Jeffrey M. Levine, M.D.

An earlier exhibit of Dr. Levine’s photographs, Aging Through a Physician’s Lens, was displayed in the Presidents Gallery at NYAM in 2009.