Graduations and Congratulations

By Lisa O’Sullivan, Director

Graduation season is quickly approaching, which means students in medicine, nursing, and the allied health professions will soon be celebrating their accomplishments with family and friends. To help celebrate, we have designed a new collection for our online shop featuring medical symbols.

Some of the symbols of health and medicine are relatively new historically, while others have a long and complex history.  Perhaps the most persistent symbol of medical care is the caduceus, the snakes coiled around a staff. The origins of the symbol go back to the classical world, where Asclepius, the god of medicine, was generally depicted carrying a staff with a snake coiled around it.  Asclepius’s staff was gradually replaced by the caduceus, which shows two snakes entwined around each other and a central staff.[1]

Blue Cadu chocolates

An elegant caduceus drawn by renowned obstetrics pioneer, maternal health educator, and Academy Fellow, Dr. Robert Latou Dickinson.

Asclepius’s daughter, Hygieia, was the goddess of health, cleanliness, and sanitation. Hygieia was often symbolized by a snake drinking from a bowl , and was shown in sculptures and images with a serpent entwined around her. Her chalice and bowl remain a potent symbol of pharmacy around the world.[2]

Bowl of hygieia china cup

This Hygieia mug was made using an image of the brass inlay from the lobby floor of The New York Academy of Medicine.

The stethoscope, invented by René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laënnec in 1816, only took on the binaural form familiar today in the mid-19th century after much experimentation. The double stethoscope, which allowed the physician to listen to the sounds of the body with both ears, relied on the incorporation of flexible materials such as rubber and gutta-percha to become truly practical.[3]

Scalpel & Stetho totebag

The scalpel and stethoscope” was a late 19th century monthly magazine for “the surgical and medical professionals, and all kindred branches.”

Some version of a professional oath in which health professionals pledge to conduct themselves along strict ethical lines is a standard feature in most medical graduations. The most common and well-known of these is the Hippocratic Oath. The Oath is commonly dated to the fourth century BCE. Its original form was modified in Christian Europe in the medieval period, and has been in use in one form or another ever since, becoming particularly prevalent in the post-World War II era.[4]

Oath Notebook

 An early 20th century illustration of the Hippocratic Oath.

You can find these and other symbols on a range of products in our online shop’s Graduation Collection.  All proceeds from the Library shop support the preservation of the Library’s collections and its public programming in history, the humanities and the arts.

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References:
[1] O’Sullivan L. Snakes in Medicine: Slippery Symbolism.  Books, Health and History. The New York Academy of Medicine, 29 Aug. 2012.
[2] History of the Bowl of Hygeia award. Drug Topics 2002;19. 
Accessed 6 Apr. 2017.
[3] Blaufox MD. An ear to the chest : an illustrated history of the evolution of the stethoscope. Boca Raton : Parthenon Pub. Group; 2002, pp41-62.
[4] Hulkower R. The history of the Hippocratic Oath: outdated, inauthentic, and yet still relevant. Einstein Journal of Biology and Medicine. 2016; 25(1):41-44

12 Gifts for the Medical History Buff in Your Life

By Emily Miranker, Project Coordinator

Search no further for one-of-a-kind gifts for the medical history buff in your life: the Library’s online shop has you covered with over 3,000 products to choose among. Find a few of our favorites below. And take an extra 15% off as our holiday gift to you: use code ZAZZLETHANKS at check out.

  1. This sturdy tote bag with a vintage advertisement for Tolu’s Rock and Rye cough tonic – good for what ails you. And groceries.

rockandrye-tote

  1. Our skeletal musicians give a whole new meaning to death metal. They might be from 1779; but our headphones are totally 21st century with a 20hz – 20,000hz range, built-in answer button and microphone to seamlessly take calls, and vegan leather padding.

gamelin-skeletal-musician-headphones

  1. This cheery orange fruits and leaves lunchbox includes a large sandwich container, two small containers and an ice pack. Dishwasher safe and BPA-free. Mangia!

culpeper-lunchbox

  1. Speaking of eating, food goes great with wine. These wine charms featuring skulls by 16th century Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius go great with glasses of wine.

vesalius-skulls-wine-charms

  1. Since red wine is good for your heart, admire this panel of an exquisite engraving of an anatomical heart by Scottish surgeon Charles Bell on your wall while you sip.

bell-heart-engravingw-with-close-up

  1. Keep your life in order with this desk organizer, the illustration of one of several poems gathered by Hugo Erichsen to “amuse the busy doctor in leisure hours.”

desk-caddy

  1. This flask is from a New York-based surgical supply company’s turn of the century catalogue. Chemistry-lovers, you’re welcome.

gold-flask-locket

  1. Never be too far away from a good book with this rather cellular-looking red marbled book endpaper wallet.

marbled-paper-wallter

  1. Take ‘digital’ back to its roots of actual fingers with this artificial hand by French surgeon Ambroise Paré on your laptop case.

atrifical-hand-laptop-case

  1. Just in case you feel naked without your actual stethoscope around your neck: this tie.

stetho-tie

  1. Once upon a time, your garden was your pharmacy. Peonies were used to treat spasms and cramps, gout, headaches, and fatigue. Caffeine is more popular for fatigue now…

peony-travel-mug

  1. Baby, it’s cold outside! Magnify your warmth by snuggling up with these microscopes.

microscopes-throw-pillow

Lastly, for the person who really and truly has everything already—or more likely just has no space—give the gift of membership to our Friends of the Rare Book Room, the people and programs that explore and support the books where all these remarkable images come from. All proceeds from the shop support the library’s collections’ preservation and public programming, and all Friends memberships are tax-deductible. Happy Holidays!

holiday-rabbit_aldrovandi