Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Anatomy Class, 100 years ago


When was the last time you were in the anatomy lab? Was it all steel tables, bright lights, and floor drains?

In 1909, the anatomy lab at the University of Oregon Medical School was a dimly-lit, third-floor room where students and faculty worked quickly on poorly-preserved cadavers. Some wore aprons but many did not; none wore gloves. There was no air conditioning. As Esther Pohl Lovejoy, an 1894 graduate, later remembered, “the place was buzzing with blowflies.”

This early photograph helps us visualize that space. We can date this image with some certainty to 1909 because a kind soul has penciled on the reverse, “John Hughes, 2nd from right.” Hughes was a 1913 graduate of the school who first matriculated in 1909; anatomy was taught then in the first and second years, as it is today. None of the other participants is identified. At that time, Edmond J. Labbe was professor of anatomy; Louis A. Shane was demonstrator. We have photos of Labbe, but he cannot be identified in this scene.

Ten years after this photograph was taken, a new school building opened on Marquam Hill, with improved laboratory facilities. The old building at 23rd and Lovejoy burned down in 1919.

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