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Robert L. Brown History of Medicine

History of Medicine News

Chart the future by exploring the past

New Exhibit! Life and Limb: the toll of the American Civil War

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Visit the Life and Limb exhibit now on display through May 24th in the HSL Lobby on the first floor, and also enjoy the civil war instrument display in the adjacent lighted display case, courtesy of our History of Medicine collection.  (Visitors welcomed in History on the lower level.)

The perspectives of surgeons, physicians, and nurses are richly documented in the history of Civil War medicine and the instruments used to treat the wounded.   Glimpses of the heroism and brutality of battlefield operations and the challenges of caring for the wounded during wartime are revealed. Yet the experiences of injured soldiers during the conflict and in the years afterwards are less well-known.

More than three million soldiers fought in the war from 1861-1865. More than half a million died, and almost as many were wounded but survived. Hundreds of thousands were permanently disabled by battlefield injuries or surgery, which saved lives by sacrificing limbs. Life and Limb: The Toll of the Civil War explores the experiences of disabled Civil War veterans who served as a symbol of the fractured nation and a stark reminder of the costs of the conflict.

History of Medicine Instruments on Display

(explore our Digital Instrument Collections via the links)

Post-mortem Instrument Set
ca. 1870
Used for post-mortem examinations.  Manufactured by Luer.

Amputation Saw
ca. 19th c.

Clamp Tourniquet
ca. 1850
Used during surgeries to compress blood flow to arteries near bony depressions.

Cupping Set with Scarificator
ca. 1850
Cupping glasses created a vacuum when heated and cooled at room temperature. They were used to draw blood to the surface of the skin. The scarificator would be used to open the skin so that ‘bad blood’ would be removed from the body during the cupping process.

Surgical Kit
ca. 19th c.
Kit contains a variety of surgical tools. Manufactured by Tiemann & Co. of New York.

Feeding Boats
Late 18th c. – early 19th c.
Used to feed infants or the infirm.

Hot Water Bottle (Bed Warmer)
Late 18th c.
Filled with hot water, used to warm a sick room bed.

Trephine – Conical Crown
Late 19th c.
Used to burr a hole in the skull and to relieve inter-cranial pressure.

Chain Saw
ca. 1860
Used to remove fragments of the skull during surgery.

The six panels of this exhibition was developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.  Curated by Manon Pary, Ph.D.
The display case contents were curated by Keith Mages and Linda Lohr, History of Medicine, HSL.

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First Lottery for the Promotion of Medical Science

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Lottery Tickets 1815

Lottery Tickets 1815

Recently the Buffalo History Museum generously donated two New York State lottery tickets dated 1815 to the History of Medicine Collection.  These two small pieces of ephemera sparked curiosity that prompted a search of New York State history that lead to some intriguing information involving lotteries, Dr. David Hosack, Alexander Hamilton, and botanical gardens in New York City.   Printed on the tickets was the following:

” State of New York Medical Science Lottery.” “This ticket will entitle possessor to such prize as shall be drawn to its number, in the First Lottery for the PROMOTION OF MEDICAL SCIENCE, agreeably to an act of the Legislature of this State, passed March 12,1810.  Subject to a deduction of 15 per cent.”  New-York, March, 1815.

As it turns out, the seemingly intended purpose for establishing such a lottery was stated in the Public Laws of the State of New-York on March 12, 1810 as follows:

“WHEREAS the medical society of the city and county of New York the common council of the said city the governors of the New York hospital the medical society of the state of New York and divers respectable citizens are deeply impressed with an opinion that the botanic garden established and owned by David Hosack of the said city physician at a place called Elgin near the said city may become a great public benefit by being applied to promote medical science in this state and under the influence of this opinion they have strongly recommended it to the legislature to purchase the said botanic garden in behalf of the state And whereas the legislature as well from a respect to the said recommendation as from a persuasion that the said botanic garden in the hands of the state will essentially conduce to the advancement of medical knowledge are desirous that the said purchase may be made….”

Once the deed for the garden was in the hands of the Secretary of State, the money to be paid to Dr. Hosack was to be raised by a lottery overseen by a group of managers and

“…the said managers as often as they shall receive five thousand dollars from the sales of tickets shall deposit the same for safe keeping in one of the banks established within this state … after drawing of each class of the said lottery shall forthwith pay the net amount or avails of the class so drawn to the said David Hosack towards satisfaction of the consideration money expressed in the deed above mentioned.”

Interested in knowing more about Dr. Hosack and what happened with his botanical garden and the lottery?  Stay tuned for Part II!

Elgin Botanic Gardens

Elgin Botanic Gardens

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A Recap of our Wonderful, Recent Explore Buffalo Event

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Tour participants learn more about the contents of the Edgar McGuire Historical Instrument Collection on display in the Library's lobby.

Tour participants learn more about the contents of the Edgar McGuire Historical Instrument Collection on display in the Library’s lobby.

This past Thursday, March 20th at 7:00pm, we were thrilled to have collaborated with local tour group Explore Buffalo to provide a behind-the-scenes tour of Abbott Hall and the R.L. Brown History of Medicine Collection. In our rush to prepare for the event, we neglected to publicize it here on our blog, so as a sort of mea culpa, we wanted to take a moment to provide some post-event perspectives!

Overall the night was a big success, with about 20 community members participating in the event. To ensure everyone had adequate time to explore the building, collections, and to ask questions, we split the group into two. After a brief overview of the building and the Collection, including the Edgar McGuire Historical Instrument Collection, half of the group ventured up to the stately main reading room and the hidden gem that is the James Platt White room. In these rooms, our colleague Pam Rose gave a detailed history of the buildings architectural history, pointing out the Kittinger Company fireplace and the chandeliers which originally hung within the now-demolished Albright Mansion.

Detail of the fireplace in the Library’s Main Reading Room

In the James Platt White Room, tucked away in private area on the library’s third floor, I displayed several books that I hoped would be of interest to the group. Included among those resources highlighted were William Hunter’s Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus (1774), Barton Cooke Hirst’s three volume set of Human Monstrosities (1861), and of course our copy of Vesalius’s De Humani Corpus Fabrica (1570) and associated anatomical images. After briefly discussing the history of these books, participants were free to look through each and ask any questions they may have had regarding the building itself, or of the anatomical works on display.

As Pam and I were busy on the upper levels, Linda Lohr was providing the other half of the group with an overview of the Library’s history, highlighting our oldest book (a 1493 pharmacopeia from Benedictus de Nursia), Roswell Park’s death mask, and some of the more titillating components of the Edgar McGuire Historical Instrument Collection, including tooth keys, leech jars, and our compound magneto- electric machine.

After all of this, the good folks from Explore Buffalo served wine and craft beer, cheese, crackers, and delicious desserts. Participants were also free to explore the Collection at their leisure during this time. We’d like to send a big thanks to Brad Hahn and Explore Buffalo for promoting and arranging this fantastic event. We are already looking forward to future collaborations, and next time, we promise to announce it here on our blog!!

- Keith

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Connections Students Debate

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The Debate Team

The Debate Team


On Monday, January 13, 2014, Liz Stellrecht and Linda Lohr were privileged to attend a stimulating debate on the topic: “Resolved: End of Life Care should be rationed” at the VA Hospital presented by students involved in the Erie 1 BOCES:Connections Health Related Careers program. As described by Erie 1 Boces, “This 1-year “New Visions” program gives honors-level high school seniors the opportunity to observe careers in many allied health areas through a mentor relationship with a practicing professional. This 4 credit program includes Anatomy, Physiology and Disease, Health Core/Internship, English 12 and Social Studies: Participation in Government & Economics. Each of these 1 credit courses is integrated into the curriculum. Students spend three hours each day at a designated hospital site taking course work and observing all aspects of health careers.” The two hospitals involved are Veterans and Millard Fillmore Suburban. Guided by Christine Tillman, the enthusiastic instructor of this group, the students did an excellent job of presenting their points and their hard work and research was most evident.

Christine and her students, past and present, have had a “connection” with the Health Sciences Library as well.  Over the past years Christine’s students have come to the library to learn basic research skills from a librarian, most recently Liz Stellrecht, who instructs the students on how to locate and evaluate quality health sciences literature using UB Libraries’ resources. Following the instruction session, the students spend time in the History of Medicine Collection exploring old books and medical instruments.  Christine was most kind in publicly acknowledging the help provided to the students by the Health Sciences Library and hopefully this wonderful relationship will continue in the future!




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“Master of Sex” visits the University of Buffalo

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Dr. Masters speaking to medical students.

Dr. Masters speaking to UB medical students.

On March 19, 1971 Dr. William Masters of Masters and Johnson fame delivered the Annual Harrington Lecture at the UB School of Medicine.  According to the Buffalo Physician, “There was standing room only for the medical community and laity overflowing three auditoriums and Capen Hall corridors.”  Dr. Masters was professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University and also the director of the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation (later renamed the Masters & Johnson Institute), both in St. Louis.  Although no official title was mentioned, the theme of the lecture was “sex is a perfectly natural function.” He discussed the fact that it had taken him two years to get permission to do research on sex at Washington University and that when he got that permission in 1954, he wasn’t sure where to start.   He found only one book in the library, Dickinson’s “Atlas on Human Sexuality” and he had to get special permission to borrow it from the reserve shelf. Dr. Masters soon began working with professional prostitutes and it was during this time that he asked his research assistant, Virginia Johnson, to join his research team as an “interpreter” of the female perspective.    Later on the two co-authored the books “Human Sexual Response” and “Human Sexual Inadequacy.” 1 In 2013 the Showtime Channel debuted a series based on Masters and Johnson entitled “Masters of Sex.”

1 The Buffalo Physician. Summer 1971 Volume 5, No.2 pp. 21-24

Courtesy of Showtime Network

Courtesy of Showtime Network




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Stick ‘em Up and Say “AH”!

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Stick ‘Em up and say “AH!”


Burton Pistolite

In January 1946, John A. Korengold received a patent for his “Combined Medical Hand Light and Tongue Depressor.”  Korengold was the founder of the Burton Manufacturing Company, later known as Burton Medical Products, in 1928 in Chicago, Illinois.  The company was named after Korengold’s nephew, Burton Korengold. Following its merger with Jan-Dor and TransElectronics, over the next 65 years Burton Manufacturing Company’s product line ranged from medical/dental lighting to power supply and support defense equipment. (1)  Korengold’s invention actually resembled a small pistol and which most likely resulted in the name “The Burton Pistolite”.   According to information on the box, the instrument is described as “The Modern Medical Hand-Light…Providing Controlled, focused Precision Illumination”.  There are several attachments including a tongue depressor and a laryngeal mirror that are used to perform various examinations of the tongue, the larynx, pharynx, and frontal sinuses.  Come and see this interesting item up close and personal in the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection!

(1) node_id=1537891&tabidx=corporate&company=Burton+Medical+Products%2C+Inc.

Patent Application for Pistolite
















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Open Wide and Say “AH!”

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Laryngo Phantom ca. 1900

Laryngo Phantom ca. 1900

Meet the History of Medicine Collection’s resident Laryngo Phantom.  You might well ask “what is a Laryngo Phantom and what was its purpose?” It was actually used by medical students and practicing physicians in the nineteenth century to learn how to properly use the laryngoscope to examine the throat before working on actual patients.  One model invented by a Dr. Isenschmid of Munich was described on page 26, Volume 2 of the 1885 Medical Times and Gazette, as having “…a mouth of thin metal with a tongue and uvula made of red velvet”. French Otolaryngologist Dr. Baratoux  designed yet another model.  Our Phantom bears more of a resemblance to one designed by Dr. Goguenheim as pictured in the Matthieu instrument catalog of 1885.  Dating from about 1900, it is made out of plaster and the reverse side depicts the structures of the larynx and uvula.




Baratoux's Phantom

Baratoux’s Phantom


Goguenheim's Laryngo Phantom, 1885

Goguenheim’s Laryngo Phantom, 1885 Matthieu Catalog














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Dr Simon Flexner and Polio

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Although here in the Western world it is commonly believed that polio has been eradicated, the World Health Organization has confirmed an outbreak of polio in Syria. The 2.5 year-long conflict in that country has created optimal conditions for the spread of communicable diseases and has disrupted routine immunization programs. Health workers have warned that the unsanitary conditions in which many of the millions of displaced Syrians live are breeding grounds for diseases such as polio, which is transmitted through contaminated food or water supplies. With as many as 4,000 refugees fleeing the country every day, the risk of the disease spreading is particularly serious. (1) Public health officials have speculated that a possible source may have been jihadi fighters traveling to Syria from Pakistan which, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, are the only countries where the disease is still endemic. (2)  With its reemergence then, the question comes to mind: will polio ever be completely wiped out? If we look to history, Dr. Simon Flexner, then Director of Research in the Rockefeller Institute, in his address to the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences in 1916 stated his opinion that “infantile paralysis [or polio] will continue to reappear in sporadic cases because it has become too firmly entrenched to ever to be eradicated.” (3) Indeed, with this most current reemergence in Syria, Flexner’s words seem as sage as ever.

Polio Map: Washington Post, Oct 29, 2013

Simon Flexner:  Isolated the polio vaccine for laboratory study

Simon Flexner:
Isolated the polio vaccine for laboratory study














Works Consulted:

(1)   World Health Organization confirms polio outbreak in Syria, Loveday Morris and Karen DeYoungThe Washington Post. October 29, 2013

(2)   U.N. Confirms an Outbreak of Polio in Syria. Nick Cumming-Bruce, The New York Times, October 29, 2013

(3)   Polio may reappear.  Editorial. Buffalo Sanitary Bulletin.  New Series Vol. XI (11) 1916. P. 124

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History and the Future Meet

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History of Medicine Exhibit

History of Medicine Exhibit

On Thursday October 10, 2013, the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection was honored to be a part of the Special Celebration to commemorate the new Medical School Groundbreaking on Thursday, The event was held at the gleaming new UB Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) on Ellicott Street where guests were treated to an impressive view of the city.  The 2013 Distinguished Medical and Biomedical Awards Ceremony was preceded by cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as well as a musical presentation by a choral group known as the “Docapellas”.  Dr. Joseph Chazan received the Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award and Dr. Kenneth Jacobson received the Distinguished Biomedical Alumnus Award.  The James Platt White Society also held its Donor Recognition program.


History of Medicine Exhibit

History of Medicine Exhibit

The History of Medicine Collection’s exhibit, which displayed an assortment of print materials, photographs and artifacts documenting the Medical School’s history, attracted the interest of faculty, alumni and students.  One of the key items was a building block from the School’s second building located at Main and Virginia in the city.  This was the first building constructed and owned by the School.  Our sincere thanks go out to Eric Alcott, Senior Associate Dean of Medical Development and Alumni Relations, Jennifer Britton, Lani Jandreau and all those involved in this wonderful event, for making a place for the History of Medicine!


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