Friday, September 28, 2007

John Raaf Day 2007

It's that time of year again, and we've got neurosurgery on the brain: tomorrow is the 17th Annual John Raaf Day, sponsored by the Department of Neurological Surgery here at OHSU. This year's talks, on surgery of the spine, will be delivered by neurosurgeon Volker K.H. Sonntag of the University of Arizona at Tuscon.

When we blogged about last year's Raaf Day, we concentrated on the eponymous neurosurgeon; this year, with the recent opening of the Rosenbaum Library in the Department of Neurology and the subsequent arrival of 600 classic neurological texts from the Becker Library of Washington University in Saint Louis, it seems more fitting to concentrate on some of the nearly 150 early neurology books here in the History of Medicine Collection.

Our earliest (1672) is Thomas Willis' De anima brutorum, donated by surgeon, bibliophile, and OHSU alumnus William Garnjobst, M.D. Willis is widely considered the father of neuroanatomy, an area in which our medical school has been particularly strong over the course of its history. Olof Larsell, an early faculty member and author of The Doctor in Oregon, was internationally known for his work on the anatomy of the brain and nervous system.

Eighteenth-century developments in neurology are represented by two texts in our collection: George Cheyne's The English malady, or, A treatise of nervous diseases of all kinds (1733) and Alexander Monro's Observations on the structure and functions of the nervous system (1783). This Monro, number two in a three-generation series of medical Alexander Monros, was a noted Scottish anatomist, countryman to Cheyne. (Was it all the rain that affected British nerves? If so, I think we have the makings of a theory about why OHSU has been the site of so much neurological research.)

Our collection is well nigh replete with nineteenth-century neurological classics, from the Bells (John and Charles) to the other Cheyne (John) to Charcot, Cuvier, Flourens, and Andral, Brown-Sequard, Gowers, Retzius, a little Ramon y Cajal--and this last, "a little Ramon y Cajal," points to the literal limit of the History of Medicine Collection: the date restriction of 1901. Many classic works in the neurosciences remain in the general collections, simply because their authors (from Cushing to Larsell and beyond) lived and worked in the 20th century. If you add those books to our count, we have more than 4,000 core titles in the neurosciences. How many do you suppose Google Books has? If only they had the handy MeSH subject headings that our books have, I might be able to determine an answer...

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