Friday, October 02, 2009

Larrey letter gets company

We announced just over a month ago the donation by Dr. Donald Trunkey, M.D., of a manuscript letter from Dominique-Jean Larrey to the Historical Collections & Archives. Today, we received two more Larrey letters from Dr. Trunkey. One to Larrey's daughter, Isaure, was written at Edinburgh on 8 July 1826 and tells of his tour with his son Felix-Hippolyte through the British Isles visiting fellow physicians. The other, to an unnamed friend, was written on 23 October 1832 and is a breezy letter filled with household news and updates on his daily routine.

It never ceases to amaze me how letters of long ago can reflect concerns, delights, and observations on the human condition that resonate with modern readers, erasing the intervening years and setting us squarely into another place and time. Overwork! The horrors of remodeling! Who can't relate to that?Scans and translations are included here for easy reference. As always, queries are welcome.

At Edinburgh 8 July 1826

My dear Isaure, here we are since last night, in the capital of Scotland although we had stops in all the big cities we passed through we covered the great distance separating us from the Island with great speed. Our prompt departure was not watched without regret in Dublin and in the cities where we stopped, such as Liverpool, Chester and Glasgow. Nothing can compare to the consideration, care, and fond attention that all the principal physicians of all these cities lavished on us. It seemed as if they had been warned of our arrival in each of these places. Because hardly had we set foot in one of their hospitals, but a few minutes later, all the doctors, young and old, were assembled there. All the cities interested us greatly, both for the beautiful monuments they possess and by the high level of perfection attained by their factories--we saw some of immense richness which worked with admirable precision and order. Up to now, providence has sent superb weather to accompany us, and has kept us from accidents. Hyppolite is doing marvelously well, and now can be understood very well in English. We probably embarrassed ourselves the first few days. However, luck always helped us out, and with the help of my German and Italian we managed to get by.

My son has probably told you in much greater detail everything that we saw. Many things, no doubt, should have interested us, but some truly surprised us, and that alone made the trip worthwhile. We must also preserve the memory of the generous and friendly reception given us by all the doctors everywhere we went.

We have already wandered through a good part of this capital, which seems enormous to us, its streets like those of all the cities of England are of great beauty. There are also superb monuments, the palace of art is especially remarkable for its architecture, its beautiful lines and the natural history collection it holds. We saw some of the rarest animals there which are not at all in our museum in Paris, such as among others the white bear of the polar lands which Captain Darry brought back from his second trip to the Baffin Sea. It is approximately equal in size to the [missing text] elephant from Africa which is next to [missing text]. Hyppolite [sic] was happy to have seen this museum, and he'll tell you about it in detail.We still haven't seen but one young doctor which chance had us meet when leaving the inn. He had seen me in Paris, he insisted on taking us everywhere, but on our return to the inn, we found visiting cards from all the [persons?] of the city, and invitations for tomorrow and the day after. We are going to devote these two extra days to seeing everything of interest in this city that we haven't yet seen. We leave again for London on Monday, passing through several other notable towns I would like to see. We hope nevertheless to be in London the 15th or 16th at the latest. I am impatient to get your letters there, and to get news about everything that interests me. I believe that following my example, you will not have remained in the apartment during the remodeling you are having done. This stay would be dangerous because of the paint fumes. Watch yourself then, and keep your good health, don't forget.

Your best friend, who holds you dear, Larrey.

Dear friend,

Even though you haven't sent me any news, I will still send you what I've received from my son, who probably already left for Belgium, since it seems the army is supposed to be there starting today, the 22nd, to the first of Brumaire. I nevertheless believe that in combat, if this army were to have as many killed as wounded, there would be no deaths.

Everything is turning out well in general to make him happy, and circumstances favor his ventures and should fulfill his wishes.

When you write to him, suggest he go see M. Dair for me in Brussels, to ask that he please remember me to King Leopold--on the matter of the advances I'd made to the ambassador. I am also sending you a letter from M. Revillon announcing his upcoming arrival in Paris with his wife. I am also sending you a letter from [Z?]. I did as he requested for his nephew. Isaure would do well to urge Hippolyte to write to M. Desgenettes and Fauche on the occasion of his nomination to the Val de Grace, one of the most advantageous and honorable posts of all the hospitals in Paris--it's the one held by M. Begin for nearly 20 years.

I'm sorry you locked up the portraits of the Turk and myself, because the gallant M. Nouene, who brought these pictures, made a useless trip. If you have a chance, send me the key to the room where you locked them up, and I will have them hung.

I am going to send for about ten wooden tracks to take advantage of the good weather--and if it keeps up until Sunday, I will be able to come see you--with this in mind, I wouldn't mind finding some animal to hunt, I'll bring my rifle--

I have secured some favors for M. [S?] Lacroix.

I really wish someone would return the furniture from the room Hippolyte rented in town, it's useless to pay the rent--anyway, I hope to find him one in Mornay or Luxembourg, so when you arrive you should stop paying for this spot--

My tasks at the hospital have gradually increased, and I haven't been able to given myself even a quarter hour to take care of my cough which also worsens daily with my jobs at the Conseil de Sante, the [?] institute.

I can't write to Hippolyte now, send him my love. With find regards from your dearest friend, Larrey. 23 October 1832.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Mystery photo: Sigma Phi Sigma

Ok, so what the photograph depicts is not a mystery: it's clearly labeled "Sigma Phi Sigma Iota Chapter House." The mystery is: when; where; and why was it tucked into the 1911 text The administration of nitrous oxide and oxygen for dental operations by Frederick Hewitt in the History of Dentistry Collection? The book, of course, lacks any other provenance--no signatures, no bookplates, no stamps.

Poking around on the web, we see that a modern organization called Sigma Phi Sigma is the "National Morticians Fraternity." Perhaps the owner of this photo wasn't a very skilled dentist, or was moonlighting after clinic hours? A more tantalizing possibility is raised by the history of the Oregon State University chapter of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, which notes that
Our chapter first started in 1913 as a local Fraternity called the Orange Club. After which it became part of the Sigma Phi Sigma Fraternity until World War 2. During the war, the majority of Sigma Phi Sigma men joined the war effort and the Fraternity dissolved, upon returning from the war, the Sigma Phi Sigma men at Oregon State found Phi Kappa Psi to embody the same principles they had practiced and petitioned for membership. After a few years, they were finally established as the Oregon Beta Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi in 1948 in a ceremony that initiated all living and willing Sigma Phi Sigma Alumni of the chapter into Phi Kappa Psi.
Was our dentist (and let's assume he was a dentist, given the book's subject) an early member of this OSU fraternity? Until we get more information, this little snapshot will be placed into the Historical Image Collection under Places > Fraternity Houses.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Class distinctions, pre-1901

A recent focus on collection assessment at the OHSU Library has re-energized our efforts to conduct a more systematic survey of the historical book collections here in Historical Collections & Archives.

Being librarians, we tend toward the use of standardized data for comparisons, and in the case of subject assessment like to rely on classification numbers (the schema by which books are usually arranged on library shelves--although the History of Medicine Collection is shelved by author, but that's the topic of another post.) Being medical librarians, we like to use the National Library of Medicine Classification scheme.

Unfortunately for medical special collections, NLM classification didn't come into use until the 1940s which means that, unless you had money for a massive reclass project at some point, most of your older books have either class numbers from different schema or no class numbers at all. Ours are a mixture of Library of Congress class and no class (which is no judgment on the book's content, just a statement of bibliographic fact).

That said, analysis of the existing class assignments reveals some strengths in the local collections and vividly illustrates the late start made by some of medicine's bigger specialties:

WB (practice of medicine): 291 titles
W (general medicine): 175
WP-WQ (obstetrics/gynecology): 146
WU (dentistry): 146
WO (surgery): 142
QV (pharmacology, materia medica): 135
QS (anatomy): 99
QT (physiology): 91
WL (nervous system): 81
WC (communicable diseases): 65
QZ (pathology): 57
WW (ophthalmology): 51
WS (pediatrics): 42
WR (dermatology): 34
WM, BF (psychiatry): 33
WE (musculoskeletal): 30
WI (digestive): 30
WA (public health): 29
WV (otolaryngology): 26
WJ (urogenital): 24
WF (respiratory): 24
QU (biochemistry): 21
WG (cardiovascular): 15
WY (nursing): 9
QW (microbiology): 7
WT (geriatrics): 5
WX (hospitals): 3
WD (systemic/metabolic): 2
WH (hemic/lymphatic): 2
WN (radiology): 2
WK (endocrine): 1
QX (parasitology): 1

Prior to the 20th century, much of the medicine that was practiced was what we would taoday call "general practice" or "family medicine"--which explains why so many of the early books cover the broadest possible scope and fall into the "W" and "WB" classes, with a heavy dose of OB/GYN for births.

Given the fact that the vast majority of these works were donated, rather than purchased, it's interesting to see the concentrations in neuroscience and even ophthalmology, reflecting the university's long history of research in these areas. And of course, our spectacular History of Dentistry Collection, created in a labor of love by faculty from the School of Dentistry.

The recent change to the pre-1901 cut-off for inclusion in the historical collections was made to secure the landmark works in those areas of medicine, like radiology, which have developed since the turn of the century. As medicine grows, so do we!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New addition to Gross Collection

We've just made our first addition to the fine collection of works by Samuel D. Gross, M.D., donated last December by Richard Mullins, M.D., professor of trauma surgery at OHSU.

A manual of military surgery; or, Hints on the emergencies of field, camp, and hospital practice illustrated with woodcuts, was by Gross' own admission the most commercially successful of his books. The text was pirated by the Confederacy, and an unauthorized version was printed in Richmond, Virginia in 1862. Because of its great popularity and heavy use in wartime situations, many surviving copies are in poor condition. OHSU has just obtained a rather nice copy of the second edition, published by J.B. Lippincott & Co. in Philadelphia in 1862. The woodcuts include images of instruments used for traumatic wounds as well as a sketch of a litter specially designed by Gross for use on battlegrounds.

A copy of the first edition of this work has been digitized and made freely available by Thomas Jefferson University.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Harold Noyes and friends

One of the many pleasant outcomes from this weekend's open house for alumni of the OHSU School of Dentistry was--just as we had hoped--the identification of unnamed persons in some of the photographs from the Historical Image Collection. The dentist providing gentle care to two young girls in this image was identified as former Dean Harold J. Noyes, D.D.S., M.D. This represents the first known print photograph of Noyes in our collection (that tells you how far we have yet to go in capturing dental history!)

Noyes (1898-1969) became the first dean of the University of Oregon Dental School after it joined the Oregon State System of Higher Education, serving from 1946 to 1967. He was also former chair of the Division of Dental and Oral Medicine at the University of Oregon Medical School. Noyes was instrumental in planning the Marquam Hill facility into which the dental school relocated in 1956.

Born in 1898 in Chicago, he received his BS and DDS from the University of Illinois College of Dentistry (1928), his MD from Rush Medical College (1933), and his PhD from the University of Chicago (1923). During his lifetime, he and his father, Frederick B. Noyes, were considered two of the nation's top orthodontists. Among his many honors, Noyes served as president of the American College of Dentists and the American Association of Dental Schools; was a member of the board of the American Fund for Dental Education and Omicron Kappa Epsilon; and was past editor of Angle Orthodontist.

And a news clipping from the Biographical File, published in the Oregonian on Dec. 11, 1945, gives us the random fact that Noyes came to Oregon with a starting salary of $8500. One wonders what the average salary for a dentist in private practice was in 1945....