Skip to Content
ublogo print

University at Buffalo Libraries

Robert L. Brown History of Medicine

History of Medicine News

Chart the future by exploring the past

ALHHS Rocks!

Posted on: |
View from the 28th floor of the American College of Surgeons

View from the 28th floor of the American College of Surgeons

Keith and I, the denizens of the History of Medicine Collection, attended the 2014 meeting of the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences (ALHHS) in Chicago on May 7th and 8th.   On Wednesday we had the opportunity to visit the International Museum of Surgical Science on beautiful North Lake Shore Drive. (  There we enjoyed the wonderful exhibits and were treated to a demonstration of a leg “amputation”!  That evening we attended a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant and had the opportunity to network and catch up with members of the group. The meeting itself was held on the 28th floor of the Amercian College of Surgeons.  Thursday morning’s panel discussion, “Medical Archives, Medical Museums, and Medical Schools” consisted of four presentations addressing topics ranging from how historical collections can support medical school curriculum and health sciences research to digitally displaying wet specimens and the resurrection of a medical museum.  Following the panel were brief presentations by members on projects and exhibits in their collections.  The afternoon session included updates from NLM’s History of Medicine Division and the Medical Heritage Library.  The keynote speakers, Dr. Daniel Garrison and Dr. Malcolm Hast, are co-editors of The Fabric of the Human Body, an annotated translation of Andreas Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica, a landmark work in the field of anatomy.  It took more than twenty years to complete the translation.  As always the program provided a wealth of useful and interesting information that can be put to practical use.  Congratulations to everyone involved in making this meeting fun and informative!


Nursing exhibit at the International Museum of Surgical Science

Posted in News | Comments Off

A Game of Medicine

Posted on: |
Game of Medicine- Poisons

Game of Medicine- Poisons

Are you a fan of Game of Thrones?  Then this is one exhibit you won’t want to miss!

On display in the Health Sciences Library Reference area on the first floor, the exhibit revolves around the theme of historical medical practices within George RR Martin and HBO’s Game of Thrones world.  The four panels on Maesters, Diseases, Medicines, and Poisons bridge the gap between how medical personnel and medicines are used in this fictional world versus their actual use in history.The exhibit was curated by Eugenia Liu, Jackie Coffey Scott, Pat Melfi, and Jesse Bellini, all  Graduate Student Reference Assistants at the library who are enrolled in the University at Buffalo’s Department of Library and Information Studies.  This undertaking offered the students first-hand experience with the research, material selection and the installation of a sizeable exhibit,  a task that’s not always as simple as it appears.  With the assistance of several staff members Eugenia, Jackie, Pat and Jesse did a fantastic job of bringing these four topics in Game of Thrones to life!



King Joffrey  Courtesy of HBO

King Joffrey
Courtesy of HBO

Posted in News | Comments Off

Serendipity Strikes Again!

Posted on: |

Movies and charitable institutions in Buffalo including the Erie County Home.

 A recent History of Medicine reference question about the Erie County Home and Hospital lead me to an unexpected and most interesting discovery. I found the term mentioned in an article in the December 21, 1923 issue of the Exhibitors Trade Review: The Business Paper of the Motion Picture Industry. This magazine was published from 1916 to 1926 under the editorship of W. Stephen Bush, a film critic and lecturer, and was targeted toward independent movie exhibitors all over the country and touched on all the issues that mattered to them including equipment and supplies, censorship, taxes, distributor contracts, piano accompaniment, and, most importantly, the films. (1)  Along with reviews of the movies suggestions were offered on how to creatively promote them in the community.  Included below are a few snippets from the Review that mention doctors, nurses and other health-related topics.  Enjoy!


Doctors, nurses and public health officials judge "perfect babies" at a theater in Dallas.

Doctors, nurses and public health officials judge “perfect babies” at a theater in Dallas.

Doctors at the movies.

Doctors at the movies.

Emergency room at the Rialto Theater in New York!

Emergency room at the Rialto Theater in New York!

Shea's Buffalo offered a nursery staffed by professional nurses where parents could leave their children while they saw a movie!

Shea’s Buffalo offered a nursery staffed by professional nurses where parents could leave their children while they saw a movie!


Posted in News | Comments Off

A View Inside: The Establishment and Contents of the UB Museum of Radiology and Medical Physics

Posted on: |

FRIENDS OF THE HEALTH SCIENCES LIBRARY PROGRAM ALERT!  On Thursday, May 29, from 6:30 to 9:00 pm, the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection will be hosting the Spring 2014 Friends of the Health Sciences Library Program. This year’s presentation will be in Abbott Hall, Room B15 and is entitled “A View Inside: The Establishment and Contents of the UB Museum of Radiology and Medical Physics”, given by UB faculty members Daniel Bednarek, PhD, Professor of Radiology and Benjamin Kutas, RT, Radiology Instructor Emeritus. The event will include a tour of the Radiology Museum, also located in Abbott Hall’s lower level (Room B20). Refreshments will be served in the Robert L. Brown Collection after the presentation and tour.  Come and enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at a fascinating collection of items of historical significance to radiology and medical physics dating back as far as 1896.  For further information, please see the invitation below.  We hope to see  you on May 29th!

Posted in News | Comments Off

Dr. David Hosack and the Elgin Botanical Gardens

Posted on: |
Dr. David Hosack Courtesy of NLM History of Medicine Images

Dr. David Hosack
Courtesy of NLM History of Medicine Images

Dr. David Hosack was born in 1769 in New York City.  Although he began studying the arts at Columbia College, now a branch of Columbia University, he also began studying medicine there during his first two years with Dr. Richard Bayley.  While studying under Bayley in early 1788 at New York Hospital, a mob formed outside, as the illicit obtainment of cadavers from graveyards left medical teaching scandalous and disliked. After a medical student taunted the crowd by waving the arm of one of the corpses out of a window, a riot ensued and Hosack, trying to protect the laboratory, was hit on the head with a heavy stone.  After this incident he transferred to Princeton College where he completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1789.  Subsequently Hosack returned to Columbia to continue his medical studies and gained clinical experience working at the New York City Alms House.  He then went on to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where he studied with, among others, the eminent Dr. Benjamin Rush with whom he actually lived. It was there that he received his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1791. After practicing in New York for a time, Dr. Hosack traveled to Edingurgh and London to further enhance his professional knowledge, particularly in the subject of botany.  After returning to New York he was served as Professor of Botany and Materia Medica at Columbia College while maintaining a successful private practice. One of Dr. Hosack’s numerous claims to fame was the fact that he attended the dying Alexander Hamilton following his duel with Aaron Burr in 1804.  David Hosack died on December 22, 1835 as the result of a stroke, or apoplexy as it was then called.

In 1801 Dr. Hosack purchased just over 19 acres of land in the vicinity of today’s Rockefeller Center for $4,807 in order to create the Elgin Botanic Gardens which opened in 1804. The Gardens consisted of thousands of species of plants including “numerous plants which are here associated in scientific order, for the instruction of the student in Botany or Medicine.” (1)  The Gardens also contained one spacious green-house, two hot-houses and a pond for aquatic species.  Over the next decade he invested a sizeable sum of money to maintain and improve the Gardens and by 1810 the financial burden had become too great.  Dr. Hosack proposed to New York State that they purchase Elgin to benefit physicians and medical students throughout the state.  New York did purchase the land with funds to be raised by a lottery but paid the doctor $28,000 less than the appraised value.  The garden was placed in the hands of the Regents of the University (now known as SUNY Board of Regents), and was eventually abandoned, fell into decay and was later sold to raise funds for Columbia College.



(2) Lives of Eminent American Physicians and Surgeons of the Nineteenth Century.  Samuel Gross, ed. 1861, 289-337. Written by Alex Eddy Hosack, MD, son of David Hosack

Botanic Garden of the  State of New-York (formerly Elgin Botanical Garden)  from  Brian Altonen, MPH, MS

Botanic Garden of the State of New-York (formerly Elgin Botanical Garden) from
Brian Altonen, MPH, MS

Posted in News | Comments Off

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

Posted on: |


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.

Posted in News | Comments Off

First Lottery for the Promotion of Medical Science

Posted on: |
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

Posted in News | Comments Off

A Recap of our Wonderful, Recent Explore Buffalo Event

Posted on: |

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

Posted in News | Comments Off

Connections Students Debate

Posted on: |
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!




Posted in News | Comments Off

“Master of Sex” visits the University of Buffalo

Posted on: |
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




Posted in News | Comments Off