Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Two significant additions to the History of Medicine Collection

The unseasonable rain cannot dampen our spirits here today: we have received two lovely new items for the History of Medicine Collection, and both are in beautiful marbled boards. (My great aunt was a fantastic marbler of Easter eggs, and with the early spring weather out there, I can almost imagine it is still March....)

The first of these is Carl Wernicke's landmark text on aphasias, Der aphasische Symptomencomplex (Breslau: Cohn & Weigert, 1874). Of the three types of aphasia described in the essay, one now bears his name: Wernicke's aphasia is considered a "fluent" aphasia, which results in sufferers often uttering long sentences which have no meaning or syntax. Wernicke first described sensory aphasia and localized the parts of the brain responsible for its symptoms. This is the only book by this important neurologist (so far!) in the OHSU collections, and the only copy of this work now held by the Oregon-Washington academic library consortium, the Orbis Cascade Alliance.

The second work is another classic of neurology, written by the 19th-century physiologist Marshall Hall, Synopsis of the diastaltic nervous system (London: Mallett, 1850). OHSU also holds Hall's Lectures on the nervous system and its diseases (Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, 1836), but the Synopsis is new to both us and everyone else in the consortium. In this Croonian lecture, delivered before the Royal College of Physicians, he summarized much of what he had discovered during the course of his long career in neurophysiology. Hall, who had coined the terms "reflex action" and "spinal shock," had nevertheless seen several of his papers rejected by the Society over the years. In a preface to the small publication, he writes:
To treat fully of the infinite number of topics, which are here laid before the reader in mere outline, would occupy a considerable volume; and for such a volume, in the present condition of the profession, there would not be found readers; for--'Monographs do not sell'--that is, are not read. The present cheap, elementary, and compilative state of medical literature, will exclude, for a time, all original works. This Synopsis has been printed at my own expense.
I think we can safely assume that, were he alive today, Hall would have been a great champion of open access publishing...

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