The red goggles shown above were used until the 1960s. What was their purpose?
The answer will be added to this post mid February.
The red goggles shown above were used until the 1960s. What was their purpose?
The answer will be added to this post mid February.
How rapidly does medical knowledge advance? Very quickly if you read modern newspapers, but rather slowly if you study history. Nowhere is this more true than in the fields of neurology and psychiatry.
It was believed that studies of common disorders of the nervous system began with Greco-Roman Medicine, for example, epilepsy, “The sacred disease” (Hippocrates) or “melancholia”, now called depression. Our studies have now revealed remarkable Babylonian descriptions of common neuropsychiatric disorders a millennium earlier.
Figure 1. A well preserved Babylonian cuneiform Tablet on Epilepsy.
Number 26 in a series of 40 medical “diagnostic” Tablets.
Reproduced by kind permission of the British Museum.
There were several Babylonian Dynasties with their capital at Babylon on the River Euphrates. Best known is the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty (626-539 BC) associated with King Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) and the capture of Jerusalem (586 BC). But the neuropsychiatric sources we have studied nearly all derive from the Old Babylonian Dynasty of the first half of the second millennium BC, united under King Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC).
The Babylonians made important contributions to mathematics, astronomy, law and medicine conveyed in the cuneiform script, impressed into clay tablets with reeds, the earliest form of writing which began in Mesopotamia in the late 4th millennium BC. When Babylon was absorbed into the Persian Empire cuneiform writing was replaced by Aramaic and simpler alphabetic scripts and was only revived (translated) by European scholars in the 19th century AD.
Figure 2. A bas-relief of a wounded lioness from the Palace of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh.
An arrow in the centre of the spine was observed to lead to paralysis of the hind legs,
but knowledge of the spinal cord and its functions did not exist.
Reproduced by kind permission of the British Museum.
The Babylonians were remarkably acute and objective observers of medical disorders and human behaviour. In texts located in museums in London, Paris, Berlin and Istanbul we have studied surprisingly detailed accounts of what we recognise today as epilepsy, stroke, psychoses, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), psychopathic behaviour, depression and anxiety. For example, they described most of the common seizure types we know today e.g. tonic clonic, absence, focal motor, etc, as well as auras, post-ictal phenomena, provocative factors (such as sleep or emotion) and even a comprehensive account of schizophrenia-like psychoses of epilepsy. Early attempts at prognosis included a recognition that numerous seizures in one day (i.e. status epilepticus) could lead to death. They recognised the unilateral nature of stroke involving limbs, face, speech and consciousness, and distinguished the facial weakness of stroke from the isolated facial paralysis we call Bell’s palsy. The modern psychiatrist will recognise an accurate description of an agitated depression, with biological features including insomnia, anorexia, weakness, impaired concentration and memory. The obsessive behaviour described by the Babylonians included such modern categories as contamination, orderliness of objects, aggression, sex and religion. Accounts of psychopathic behaviour include the liar, the thief, the troublemaker, the sexual offender, the immature delinquent and social misfit, the violent and the murderer.
The Babylonians had only a superficial knowledge of anatomy and no knowledge of brain, spinal cord or psychological function. They had no systematic classifications of their own and would not have understood our modern diagnostic categories. Some neuropsychiatric disorders e.g. stroke or facial palsy had a physical basis requiring the attention of the physician or asû, using a plant and mineral based pharmacology. Most disorders, such as epilepsy, psychoses and depression were regarded as supernatural due to evil demons and spirits, or the anger of personal gods, and thus required the intervention of the priest or ašipu. Other disorders, such as OCD, phobias and psychopathic behaviour were viewed as a mystery, yet to be resolved, revealing a surprisingly open-minded approach.
From the perspective of a modern neurologist or psychiatrist these ancient descriptions of neuropsychiatric phenomenology suggest that the Babylonians were observing many of the common neurological and psychiatric disorders that we recognise today. There is nothing comparable in the ancient Egyptian medical writings and the Babylonians therefore were the first to describe the clinical foundations of modern neurology and psychiatry.
A major and intriguing omission from these entirely objective Babylonian descriptions of neuropsychiatric disorders is the absence of any account of subjective thoughts or feelings, such as obsessional thoughts or ruminations in OCD, or suicidal thoughts or sadness in depression. The latter subjective phenomena only became a relatively modern field of description and enquiry in the 17th and 18th centuries AD. This raises interesting questions about the possibly slow evolution of human self awareness, which is central to the concept of “mental illness”, which only became the province of a professional medical discipline, i.e. psychiatry, in the last 200 years.
Reynolds EH, Kinnier Wilson J. Neurology and Psychiatry in Babylon. Brain 2014; 137: 2611-2619.
Dr. Edward H Reynolds MD FRCP FRCpsych
Department of Clinical Neurosciences, King’s College, London
Dr Finlay was a character based on a pre-NHS General Practitioner
There is another opportunity to hear the BBC Radio 4, 2-part series ‘Farewell Dr Finlay’ which charts the history and development of General Practice from the surgeon-apothecaries of the 18th and 19th centuries to present day general practice.
There are contributions from Martin Edwards (BSHM/RCGP), John Ford (Worshipful Society of Apothecaries), Julian Tudor Hart (GP researcher) as well as Professor Anne Digby (Oxford Brookes University), Bill Reith (RCGP) and others.
The programmes include information about surgeon-apothecaries, the importance of the National Health Insurance Act of 1911, the Dewar Committee of 1912 which led to the establishment of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service, the Beveridge Report of 1944, the Tredegar Medical Society, the GP Charter of 1965, fundholding, the change in out of hours care and much more.
The evolution of general practice has been shaped by resource issues, rising patient expectations and what work is carried out in general practice as opposed to the hospital.
Would you agree with Martin Edwards that ‘The history of medicine is the history of general practice’?
Dates for your diary:
Part 1 (General Practice up to the creation of the NHS): 9.02 pm, Wednesday 18th January 2017
Part 2 (General Practice since the creation of the NHS): 9.02 pm, Wednesday 25th January 2017
The original programme page for the series is still on the BBC website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07j7nty, although it won’t show the repeats until nearer the dates.
Dr Martyn Thomas
“Gentlemen – I have the honour to wish you a scientific Christmas and a drug-devouring New Year”
– Fred Reynolds, co-founder of the British Pharmaceutical Conference[i]
The concept of Christmas adverts feels very twenty-first century, particularly with the rise of emotionally intense adverts that use neuroscience to research how to effectively communicate with the consumer’s subconscious. Today it feels the real meaning of Christmas has lost out to excessive consumerist consumption, but the Victorian ‘nation of shopkeepers’ also used Christmas for commercial gain. The rise of consumer capitalism has been addressed by Brewer and Porter with the identification, from the 1850s onwards, of the growth of advertising, department stores, international exhibitions, consumer psychology and industrial design.[ii] There was a marked transformation in shopping in the Victorian era and it is possible to identify modern advertising techniques.
This wider marketplace is of great significance to the medical marketplace, particularly as the emergence of the chemist and druggist was part of the commercialisation of society. The world of medicine was a commercial venture and there is evidence found in the trade periodical The Chemist and Druggist that the pharmaceutical trade started to utilise the Christmas season for their own commercial gains. It was reported in the periodical by a critic that “Christmas always gives the chemist an opportunity to disguise the real nature of his mission, and bring himself in line with the festive spirit of the occasion.”[iii]
The late 1880s seemed to be a turning point for appropriating the Christmas season for commercial gains – with more references in The Chemist and Druggist to ‘Christmas prices,’ ‘Christmas Decoration,’ and ‘Suitable Christmas Presents.’ As ever, Burroughs Wellcome & Co were at the forefront of marketing, and promoted their products at “special Christmas prices,” or specifically as Christmas presents.
Figure 1 – Burroughs, Wellcome & Co Christmas advertisement[iv]
In the late 1880s Burroughs, Wellcome & Co produced a Medical Pocket Diary, which formed ‘a very suitable Christmas card for chemists to send to their medical patrons.’[v] Their ‘ABC Medical Diary’ was similarly marketed as a gift for the medical profession.[vi]
Fig 2 Burroughs, Wellcome ABC Medical Diary advertisement [vi]
The Christmas novelty can be found in the periodicals’ advertisements throughout the late nineteenth century but predominately for toiletries, perfume, or ‘scientific’ devices. Below are some adverts placed by manufacturers making explicit reference to the festive season as a means to promote their products to the retail trade:
Figure 3 – Perfumes were popular products sold in chemists’ shops.
“Chemists will find PETAL DUST the best selling line for the Christmas Season”
Figure 4 – A Beecham’s advert that includes a New Year’s puzzle and festive poem[vii]
Figure 5 – Blondeau et Cie used Christmas to promote their Vinolia products.
Retail chemists’ shops were encouraged to buy a specific amount in order to receive a “Christmas Gift” [viii]
Taking advantage of the Christmas season was not just a commercial opportunity for large manufacturing chemists. Smaller local chemists were also able to cash in.The Chemist and Druggist reported in December of 1896[ix] that:
“At this season of the year chemists are not behind their neighbours in attracting customers”:-
And listed a whole range of chemists marketing ploys:
Mr Herbert W. Seely, Southgate, Halifax, is presenting his customers with a pretty thermometer.
Mr F.G.da Faye, chemist and mineral-water maker David Place, Jersey, is distributing letter-racks gratis to his customers and giving one to every applicant.
The “Christmas Welcome” presented by Messrs. Fukker & Co., chemists, Norwich, is an original conception containing poetry, tales, conundrums, and other seasonable reading, interspersed with advertisements. It is a good idea well carried out.
Messrs. F.H Prosser & Co, pharmaceutical chemists Spring Hill, Birmingham, publish an almanac and price-list which extends to 184 pages plus insets. There are notes on domestic medicine, and, most wonderful of all, advertisements of a dozen local chemists.
Mr. J. L. P. Hollingworth, chemist and druggist, 21 New Street, Barnsley, and Cudworth, announces that to every person spending Is. and upwards at his establishment he will present a sixpenny Christmas Annual.
The Edme Malt extract Company (Limited), Mistley, wish the trade a very happy Christmas and prosperous New Year on a reply post- card — which to us is a new idea.
The Victorian era was also a time when shop windows and display cases became sophisticated advertising spaces to attract custom.
Figure 6 – A shop window, 1900 – Credit: Wellcome Library, London
The Chemist and Druggist evidently realised the importance of this phenomenon for the trade and published advice on how to create an attractive Christmas window.
“In the space between the stands and the window arrange neat boxes of perfumes, or anything suitable for presents; then bang from the top ” falling snow,” which may be made by small tufts of cotton wool attached deftly to fine white cotton, and woven together irregularly; … The side stands to be arranged with proprietary articles suitable for the season, as cough mixtures, etc. ….At the back of and over the doors scarlet chest-protectors might be fixed evenly, on which might be worked by pearl- coated pills, string together appropriately, “A Jolly Xmas!” [x]
Their advice seemed well received, a commentator on chemists’ shops in Dublin, Ireland remarked,
“The windows of a number of pharmacies are very neatly dressed with Christmas goods. I can see many instances where the craft have benefited by your valuable hints; an artistic arrangement taking the place of the odd medley which used to prevail”[xi]
With Christmas over a chemist reflected on the Christmas present-giving craze and looked hopefully towards a consumerist future:
“Before Christmas, we have been advising the trade to stock a certain class of goods suitable for presents, but surely it is a wise thing to have a good display of articles of this kind all the year through. In the matter of perfumes, for example, people are always wanting them. Birthdays come; presents are wanted then. Love is ever with us, and its path is strewn with perfume.”
Articles and advertisements from The Chemist and Druggist show that even in the nineteenth century Christmas was being exploited for commercial ends in the retail Pharmaceutical sphere- perhaps all a precursor to the extensive twenty-first century Boot’s Christmas Catalogue!
Only medical men could prescribe medicines under the 1815 Apothecaries Act- Chemists and Druggists were only allowed to supply these substances. So I will end with some Christmas humour from The Chemist and Druggist’s correspondence advice column, in which a chemist inquires,
“If I should meet with any accident on Christmas Day which should afflict me with headache on the morning of the 26th, may I without infringing the Apothecaries Act mix for myself a “short draught,” or must I apply to a duly qualified medical man?”[xii]
[i] The Chemist and Druggist, December 25th 1886, p.841
[ii] See: J. Brewer and R. Porter (1993) Consumption and the World of Goods (Routledge, London and New York) and N. Mckendrick, J. Brewer & J.H Plumb (1982) Birth of a Consumer Society: Commercialization of Eighteenth Century England (London, Europa Publications Limited)
[iii] The Chemist and Druggist, 26th December 1886, p. 913
[iv] The Chemist and Druggist, 22nd December 1888, p. ix
[v] The Chemist and Druggist, 24th December 1887, p.819
[vi] The Chemist and Druggist, 20th December 1890, p. 13
[vii] The Chemist and Druggist, 21st December 1889, p. iii
[viii] The Chemist and Druggist, 13th December 1890, p. 15
[ix] The Chemist and Druggist, 26th December 1896, p. 912
[x] The Chemist and Druggist, 22nd December 1888, p. 847-848
[xi] The Chemist and Druggist, 22nd December 1888, p. 841
[xii] The Chemist and Druggist, 15th December 1896, p. 514
The teaching of Medical History in Medical Schools has largely been a token gesture and with increasing pressure on the curriculum many have given up any attempt at formal teaching. Considering the scope of the subject and the practicality of producing a comprehensive teaching course, this is not surprising, And yet, most doctors feel that a knowledge of our medical past is important in our practice of medicine today. So how can we continue to enthuse and impart details of our medical heritage to our successors when it is more essential that they are exposed to the clinical skills of practising medicine.
It will perhaps be of interest to hear how we are approaching this problem in Sheffield University Medical School. At the very beginning of the MB ChB programme students undertake a 6-week ‘Student Selected Component on the History of Medicine’ in which they choose one essay title from a list of 270 that span the history of medicine from Ancient Egypt to the present day. The primary purpose of this assignment is to encourage students to develop their generic skills in information searching and synthesis, critical analysis, academic writing, the use of referencing systems and the avoidance of plagiarism. The history of medicine was chosen as the focus for this assignment as a topic that is hopefully of interest to all medical students at the very start of their careers, giving them a chance to consider medicine’s roots as they embark on their journey to become its future.
Over the past three years, history of medicine exhibitions have also been displayed in the medical school foyer. This started with ‘Sheffield Cares for the Wounded’ in 2014, commemorating the role of Sheffield doctors in a field ambulance on the Western Front in World War One as well as those caring for the wounded returning to Sheffield. Apart from the history of their own medical school, students learnt about the evacuation techniques developed then and refined today. This was followed by more focussed exhibitions on ‘Blood Letting’ dealing with leaches, cupping and scarification and more recently with ‘Inoculation and Vaccination’. Such exhibitions require a secure, alarmed, display cabinet which was obtained with financial support from the Medical School and Sheffield’s Charitable Trusts and which, although initially expensive, now enables us to borrow documents and precious artefacts from private and public collections as well as facilitating display of items from our own Medical School’s past history.
We think this dual approach is one way of keeping alive the study of the History of Medicine in our medical schools. Although requiring enthusiastic volunteers and financial support, it is, we think, more likely that attractive exhibitions such as these will more easily capture the interest of the average medical student than didactic teaching.
Derek R. Cullen , Consultant Physician Emeritus
Julian L. Burton, Senior Teaching Fellow, Academic Unit of Medical Education.
The UK Medical Heritage Library (UKMHL) is now available as an open access collection via the Historical Texts service: https://ukmhl.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk
The collection has been produced through a three year project funded by Jisc and Wellcome Library to digitise over 15 million pages of 19th century published works. Encompassing over 65,000 publications, the subject areas covered are broad and include topics such as consumer health, sport and fitness, food and nutrition as well as medicine and medical practices, providing a valuable resource for study in the medical humanities and beyond.
A range of visualisations have also been created to help researchers explore the data in various ways.
The UKMHL collection is currently in a separate Labs area of the Historical Texts service, but it will also be added to the main service (http://historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk ) in 2017. So, for institutions that subscribe to Historical Texts, it will be cross-searchable alongside the existing Early English Books Online (EEBO), Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) and 65,000 texts from the British Library 19th Century collections. The collection will continue to be freely available to the general public as well though.
Image link: https://data.ukmhl.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ukmhl-b21273832&index=ukmhl&pageId=ukmhl-b21273832-117 (publication is in the Public Domain)
Service Manager (Historical Texts and Journal Archives, JISC)
©Royal College of Physicians, photography by Mike Fear
When I was asked by the Faculty of History and Philosophy of Medicine and Pharmacy at the Society of Apothecaries whether I would consider programming an entirely new 3 day course in pharmacy history, I jumped at the chance. Working with my co-course director, Dr Stuart Anderson, we had the opportunity to shape a mini course from scratch. But what to include from an enormous history with a very broad reach? And would anybody be interested in attending?
We decided firstly to focus on British pharmacy history, although the course began with a very brief overview of the global story up to 1500. We were keen to include various strands in the programme including the pharmaceutical industry, the growth of the pharmacy profession and (as I’m a museum curator) plenty of access to original sources. We also decided on a multi-venue approach to appeal to delegates and make the most of the wonderful resources in London.
Day 1 at the Wellcome Trust and Library included sessions on alchemy, business history, and law and ethics, but also a very popular session from Peter Homan demonstrating various dispensing techiques and introducing us to prescription registers from the Library collection as historical sources. Day 2 was at the Royal College of Physicians with lectures on the pharmacopoeia, pharmacognosy in the 19th century, and delftware drug jars. Delegates were then treated to a tour of the RCP’s medicinal garden, and a chance to get up close to a selection of their rare books. The day ended with a tour of the new Royal Pharmaceutical Society Museum. The final day was at Apothecaries’ Hall with an account of their history, an exploration of their manufacturing operations, and a tour of the current building. The final afternoon comprised a lecture on the development of the pharmacy profession in the 19th and 20th centuries, and two sessions on the growth of the pharmaceutical industry.
It was an incredibly rich and packed 3 days with some excellent speakers, all of whom had written their lectures especially for the course, and some fantastic visits and source-based sessions. And the 37 delegates were, thankfully, suitably inspired and impressed. Typical feedback has been “the combination of talks, visits and displays was well balanced, refreshing and stimulating” and “the event was excellent and covered such an interesting range of material and locations.” Maria Ferran, Faculty Coordinator, has already received enquiries about running the course again, which is extremely pleasing. If you might be interested in attending a future course, contact Maria email@example.com
Records digitised by the Wellcome Library, which cover more than a million medical professionals, are now available for searching online. The data collections include:
Medical Directories 1845-1942
Queen’s Nursing Institute Roll of Nurses 1891-1931
Dentist Registers 1879-1942
Medical and Dental Students Registers 1882-1937
Physiotherapy and Masseuse Registers 1895-1980
Roll of the Indian Medical Service 1615-1930
The Midwives Roll 1904-1959
More information can be found at: ancestry.co.uk.
The evening began with a plug for the 2017 BSHM 27th Congress at Surgeon’s Hall, Edinburgh 13th – 16th September. The four themes of the Congress are “Women in Medicine” , “Scotland’s contribution and influence”, “Apothecaries and their successors”, “Art and photography in medicine”. Full details www.bshm.org.uk/congress
The Poynter Lecture is the annual lecture organised by the British Society for the History of Medicine which this year was delivered on 12th October at the Wellcome Collection. Dr Frederick Noel Lawrence Poynter (1908-1979) was Librarian then Director of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. He was a medical historian and wrote several books and articles specialising in Tudor Medicine. He was also active in professional societies, being President of the British Society for the History of Medicine in 1972 and Secretary-General of the International Academy of the History of Medicine.
Dr Sam Alberti
The auditorium takes over 150 people and I estimated there were over 90 attending. The talk “Finding patients in the Medical Museum” was given by Sam Alberti whom I met when he organised a series of lectures at the Royal College of Surgeons where he was the Curator of the Hunterian Museum. Six months ago he became Keeper of Science and Technology in the National Museums of Scotland. Iain Macintyre, President of BSHM introduced Dr Alberti.
The patient objectified but the doctor remembered
The lecture began by discussing the trends in medical museums, giving a historical perspective richly illustrated by historical examples such as Barts, the Wellcome Museum and the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité (founded by Rudolph Virchow) amongst many others. Medical museums were at their peak in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Dividing Museums into “Wet or Dry” he suggested that each had a different trajectory. Museums in that era showed anonymised specimens as examples of disease, often with the patient’s story removed. He showed examples of the Hunterian Museum area devoted to Lister with instruments he designed and some given as gift that he would have been too critical of to use. Patients became objectified. Medical Museums commemorated the Doctor, not the patient (eg Lister, Jenner, Fleming). Dr Alberti pointed out that Henry Wellcome collected massively to represent the patient experience. Over 100,000 of the items he amassed went to the Science Museum and patients were well represented.
Finding the patient
The Science Museum Galleries are being renovated and new medical galleries will open in 2019. Dr Alberti used the example of the Dittrick Museum in Ohio as a museum with a more narrative approach and heritage function.(http://artsci.case.edu/Dittrick/). The Charité in Berlin is his favourite museum. Situated in the old hospital wing each museum bay contains a “bed” each showing the case of a patient.
Having been in his position in the National Museums of Scotland for just six months he recognises that it exhibits “Science and technology with some medicine”. But the museum has incorporated examples of patient experience of bio medicine and the impact of technological change. He showed a small case study of asthma which focused on the experience of having asthma. Illustrated by a rugby player who lives with asthma Dr Alberti reflected that it is all very well what you can do with disability but there is a fine line exemplified by a patient who said “just because I have prosthetic leg I don’t want to use it to run a marathon”
He showed some older prosthetic arms that were offered to those affected by Thalidomide but they were too clumsy and some individuals chose not to wear them. “Better without” they reckoned. Returning to some historical examples in museums he pointed out that some are not anonymised, like the Irish Giant Charles Byrne whose skeleton is in the Royal College of Surgeons. He showed an embroidery from 1848 by Charlotte Waite who was one of the first children to be operated on using chloroform. Also in the Hunterian is a severe scoliotic spine now accompanied by an audio by the historian Ruth Richardson who suffers from the same condition. Dr Alberti says there is need “to reunite human remains with patients”. Incorporating art and photography in this endeavour, he showed an example of a laryngeal specimen taken from an opera singer and photoshopped to lie over her neck. The exhibition Re-Framing Disability at the Royal College of Physicians consists of portraits which depict disabled men and women of all ages and walks of life, many of whom earned a living exhibiting themselves to the public. The hidden histories behind the portraits are examined. (see https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/news/re-framing-disability-portraits-royal-college-physicians )
“Disability in a box”
Dr Alberti referred to “Cabinet of curiosities” . Rather than term for the precursor of museums (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_of_curiosities) he was referring to “Cabinet of curiosities how disability was kept in a box” which was in 2014. Full details can be found at http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/rcmg/projects/cabinet-of-curiosities. A more recent series where art merged with museum was “Exceptional and Extraordinary” . This project invited four artists to explore behind the scenes of eight of the UK’s most renowned medical museums and, in collaboration with experts in medical history, disability and museums, produced a series of thought-provoking new commissions that examine our attitudes towards difference and aim to stimulate debate around the implications of a society that values some lives more than others. (see http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/rcmg/projects/exceptional-an and http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/documents/e-e-all-performances-final).
In “Transplant” there is collaboration between artists Tim Wainwright and John Wynne and the transplant surgery unit at Harefield Hospital. It began in 2006 with a year-long residency at Harefield Hospital where the artists recorded and photographed patients, staff and the hospital environment. The project eventually developed into a series of photographic and sonic works, exhibitions and publications.
See http://www.transplantproject.com/ for full details.
War, Art and Surgery
“War Art & Surgery” exhibited at the RCSEng which was a contemporary response by the Artist Julia Midgley to surgeon artist Henry Tonks’ WW1 pastel portraits of facial reconstruction. A YouTube video is available. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyFV67kthnk.
The lecturer reflected on comments by soldiers that soldiers’ deaths make news more than the rehabilitation of the injured. One contrast between war injuries 100 years ago and the present is the rising proportion of limb losses from IED’s. He pointed out that capturing narrative is easier historically. The exhibition “Life Support” (see http://www.nms.ac.uk/national-war-museum/whats-on/life-support/) is about the support systems and the medical treatment. Curators worked with the soldiers words on the labels. The voices of the personal are there, but Dr Alberti pointed out co-curation can be risky. He asked if we are making the soldier a victim …. the hero versus the cripple. A clinical support network had to be in place. He finished by saying that the perspective of clinicians, nurses and ancillary staff need to be incorporated but the role is in the patient. The Science Museum currently has the exhibition “Wounded” which he recommended.
The lecture finished with the words “it is an exciting time to be visiting medical museums”.
All in all it was a thought provoking evening.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Wellcome Trust, a project is ongoing to catalogue the records of the Glasgow Public Health Department and its predecessor authorities. Work is finished on the departmental records themselves and an item-level list of this important collection is available for the first time.
The Public Health Department’s work lent itself to statistical analysis and they produced a wealth of reports, the most important being the annual reports of the Medical Officers of Health. These date from 1863 and include sections on population; causes of deaths by age and district; infectious diseases; and the work of the hospitals and reception houses amongst others. They are supported by files of raw data used to compile the reports along with weekly and fortnightly returns of mortality statistics (1844-1973); and returns of infectious diseases (1920-1973). There are reports on specific events such as the typhoid outbreak in 1880 and the influenza epidemic in 1957 and records relating to particular areas of the Department’s work such as smoke registers and files on the inspection of shipping.
The project has not stopped with the records of the Department, however. Acknowledging the complicated history of health functions in Glasgow, current work is to re-catalogue the Police records. In the 19th century policing the city was seen as much more than a crime-fighting operation. Records of the Board of Police and its committees date from 1800 and cover such subjects as health, hospitals, cleansing, and sewage disposal.
Similarly, those burghs absorbed into the city had public health functions and their records will also be re-catalogued, including a substantial amount of previously unavailable material.
For further information contact Alison Scott, Project Archivist: firstname.lastname@example.org