About Author: Ed Holtum

Posts by Ed Holtum


Tour John Martin Rare Book Room, Wednesday, April 8 at noon

A Tour of and introduction to the  John Martin Rare Book Room is once again part of the “Gem Series” offered by UI Human Resources Learning & Development unit.  The tour is free and open to any UI faculty or staff member and will feature a “hands-on” introduction to some of the more fascinating books in the collection.  There is still time to register for this spring’s session on Wednesday, April 8 from noon to 1:00 in room 446 (Rare Book Room) in the Hardin Library.  For more information and registration click on the “Gem Series” link.  Be sure to choose the April session. 


UI Student to present history of eugenics in the Midwest

One of the most controversial episodes in the history of public health was the late 19th and early 20th century eugenics movement.   Relying on faulty science and nationalist bigotry, eugenicists sought to identify and retain “superior” human genetic stocks while restraining the spread of “inferiors.” Midwestern states, including Iowa, acted to limit reproduction of their population¹s “degenerate” elements by legislating involuntary sexual sterilization of the “feeble-minded” and habitual criminals. These states also attempted to retain the “favorable” members of society through the Country Life Movement, which sought to prevent urban migration by making farm life more attractive to rural young people.  Kathryn Gaskill, Honors Candidate the Department of History, will provide insight into this dubious movement in her presentation to the UI History Medicine Society, “ A ‘More Perfect’ Nation; The Midwest’s Role in the Eugenics Campaign to Eradicate Degeneracy.” Ms. Gaskill¹s lecture will take place Tuesday, March 24 from 5:30 to 6:30  in room of the University Main Library.  The session is open to the public.. For additional information, contact Edwin Holtum at 319-335-9154.


News from the John Martin Rare Book Room – Activities of Daily Living

Activities of Daily Living–

While fads and fancies in health and medicine come and go, the underlying essentials of wellbeing, including, rest, nutrition, exercise, and moderation have gone unchallenged for millennia.

One of the more popular works outlining keys to basic fitness is the Tacuini sanitatis by the eleventh century Iraq physician, Ibn Butlān (d. ca. 1068). Before the age of printing, Ibn Butlān’s writings were incorporated into stunning illuminated manuscripts.  However, the early printed editions are attractive in their own way.

This 1531 edition, for instance, shows the early use of tabular formatting to codify items such as trees, foods, and flowers. However, its most charming feature is the fanciful set of miniature woodcuts showing everyday activities involved in the maintenance of health.

Ibn Bultān practiced in Mossul, Egypt, Constantinople and Antioch where he entered a monastery and converted to Christianity.

The John Martin Rare Book Room also includes facsimiles of early brilliantly colored codices based on Ibn Butlān’s texts.



Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room – Birthing in the 16th Century

Birthing in the 16th Century

Jakob Rüff (1500-1558) was not the first physician to write a birthing manual for midwives but his book, De conceptu et generatione hominis, first published in 1554 in both Latin and German was certainly one of the most famous and widely used. Lithotomist, surgeon, obstetrician and playwright, was the town physician of Zurich where his book was obligatory reading for anyone delivering a child in the canton.

To modern eyes, the crude woodcuts used to illustrate the position and placement of the fetus appear somewhat whimsical but the anatomical drawings of the reproductive organs (many based on Vesalius) are often quite accurate.

Rüff covers every aspect of labor, delivery, and postnatal care, including advice for treating the newly pregnant:

“Before all things let them be of a merry heart, …them give their endevour to moderat joyes and sports …them use moderate exercise, let them not leape, or rise up suddenly, let them not runne also, neither dance nor ride, neither let them lace or gird in themselves hard or straight, or lift up any heavie burden with their hands.”

All images from 1580, Frankfurt edition. Book is available for view in the John Martin Rare Book Room.


Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room


The simple image of a crooked tree splinted to a wooden pole is one of the most recognizable symbols in medicine. Its first appearance was as an engraving in Andry de Bois-Regard’s 1741publication, L’orthopédie; ou, “L’art de prévenir et de corriger dan les enfans, les difformités du corps*

*Orthopaedia: or the Art of Correcting and Preventing Deformities in Children.

In naming his book, Andry (1658-1742) coined the word “orthopaedics.”

Born in Lyon, Andry was a physician and administrator at the College of Medicine in Paris but was eventually forced to resign as dean because of his spiteful and irascible nature. Much of his scorn was directed at the barber-surgeons of his day whom he forbade to operate unless in the presence of a physician.

Andry’s earlier and somewhat curious work on worms in humans (a book also in the Martin collection) while earning him the title of the “father of parisitology” in some circles, also prompted his detractors to label him the “worm man.”

L’orthopédie is more overview than original. It includes sections on surface anatomy, postural and limb deformities and abnormalities of the head. The accompanying engravings give the work an added measure of charm.





Notes from the Rare Book Room – Bleeding by the Numbers

Pierre Louis’ 1835, Recherches sur les effets de la saignée dans quelques maladies inflammatoires, et sur l’action de l’émétique et des vésicatoires dans la pneumonie is one of the less impressive looking books in the John Martin Rare Book Room, but it was instrumental in laying the foundation for what we now term, “evidence based medicine.” For over 2000 years the practice of bloodletting (phlebotomy) was a mainstay of therapeutics. In fact it is difficult to identify a disease for which this practice was not recommended at some time. Bleeding had its roots in the classical Hippocratic/Galenic medical paradigm which held that the cause of illness was the result of an imbalance of humors (blood, phlegm, bile, and black bile). Just as important as the volume of blood removed was the site of the bleeding; some of the earliest medical illustrations depict the most appropriate bleeding points for various ailments. When Pierre Louis (1787-1872) placed the practice under statistical scrutiny, using “la methode numerique” he was thus swimming against the tide of centuries of tradition and authority. In Recherches sur les effets de la saignée…, Louis measured the effectiveness of bloodletting in pneumonia in 77 previously healthy patients and came to the general conclusion that bloodletting had no benefit and was even deleterious in certain groups. Just as importantly, Louis lays down in a few simple sentences the rationale large scale evaluation and in so doing paves the way for the modern clinical trial:

“Let us further remark that the objection made to the numerical method, to wit, the difficulty or impossibility of forming classes of similar facts, is alike applicable to all the methods that might be substituted. It is impossible to appreciate each case with mathematical exactness, and it is precisely on this account that enumeration becomes necessary. By so doing, the errors (which are inevitable) being the same in the two groups of patients subjected to different treatments, mutually compensate each other, and they may be disregarded without materially affecting the exactness of the results”

Louis’ methods and conclusions were lambasted by the medical establishment and it was several decades before bloodletting stopped for good and statistical analysis found its way into mainstream medical thinking.


Classics Professor to Discuss Greek & Roman Impressions of Doctors

On Thuesday, November 18 (5:30 -6:30) The University of Iowa History of Medicine Society will hear a presentation by Craid Gibson, PhD, UI Associate Professor of Classics, speak on “Medical (Mal)practice in Greek and Roman Rhetoric.”  Greek and Roman education made use of short essays and speeches to train students who needed credentials for the learned professions.  Doctors turn up surprisingly often in these fictional exercises. In this presentation Professor Gibson brings together many of the texts involving doctors to discuss how and why ancient education found the figure of the doctor useful rhetorically, and what these texts might tell us about popular perceptions of doctors in ancient times.
The presentation will be held in the Information Commons West, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences. The Public is invited.


UI Professor to discuss history of health reform in U.S.

Prepare to vote using insider knowledge!

This is your chance to quickly review the history of Health Care Policy interactions with U. S. Elections and what the two current Presidential candidates’ proposals will potentially mean for health care in the U.S. in the next four to 8 years.

Professor of History Colin Gordon’s second book, Dead on Arrival: The Politics of Health in Twentieth Century America is a history of health care policy in the United States across the twentieth century. Please plan to join the University of Iowa History of Medicine Society, Tuesday evening, October 28th, as Professor Gordon presents, Raising the Dead?  History, Health Reform and the 2008 Election.”  Professor Gordon will provide a brief background on health care policy and its interaction with Presidential politics, prior to facilitating what we hope will be a lively discussion by all those in attendance.

Date and Time:  5:30 to 6:30, Tuesday, October 28th

Place: Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, Information Commons, 2nd floor. 

For more information, see:  http://hosted.lib.uiowa.edu/histmed/index.html

Come, learn, discuss, opine!


Notes from the Rare Book Room — The Nuremberg Chronicle

While the production of the Guttenberg Bible in the mid 15th century constitutes the most important milestone in the history of printing, the happy marriage of moveable type and mechanized illustration is best represented by the 1493 book, Liber Chronicarum, more popularly known as the Nuremberg Chronicle. The University Libraries is fortunate to have not one but two copies of this splendid work, both of them in Latin (A German version was published later the same year). The first is located in the Special Collections Department at the Main Library while the second resides in the John Martin Rare Book Room. The text (a seven part history of the world) is the work of Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514), a German physician and scholar, while the hundreds of woodcuts come from the workshop of Michael Wolgemut (1434 – 1519), a German printmaker. 
Birth of Adam

Birth of Adam

It is probable that many of the illustrations were the work of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) one of the most important artists of the renaissance. Because wood-cut blocks (like metal type) employ a raised printing surface (unlike engravings), the metal type and the wood blocks can be set in the same printing chase. The impressions made using this arrangement allow text and illustration to be shown side-by-side. The Nuremberg Chronicle contains over 645 distinct illustrations (with many illustrations used more than once), including a variety of biblical scenes, stylized cityscapes, iconic genealogic trees, battle depictions, and maps (the New World being conspicuous by its absence). The Hardin Library’s copy is available for examination in the rare book room.


Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room — More Than Mickey Mouse

view-master-smallest2.jpgVisitors to the John Martin Rare Book Room are often bemused when they spot a View-Master resting on one of the bookcases. If you’re under the age of sixty-five you probably owned one of these devices along with several View-Master reels depicting far-off countries, cartoon characters or comic book heroes rendered in 3-D. But why a viewer in the rare book room? In 1962, Dr. David L. Bassett, anatomist from the University of Washington, working with William Gruber, the inventor of the View-Master created the “Stereoscopic Atlas of Human Anatomy” — over 1,500 slides of three-dimensional color images of human dissection. Nearly fifty years later the 25 volume collection remains a marvel of relatively simple technology that still elicits gasps of wonder from viewers as they behold in stark clarity the “in-depth” photographs of body structures and cavities. Each of the slides is accompanied by commentary written by Dr. Bassett (the lone dissector) and a line diagram that labels all of the structures. mandible-small.jpg The Hardin Library is fortunate to own a complete set of this amazing work which is beginning to arouse the curiosity of anatomists interested in using high-tech solutions to bring 3-D to desktop computers. In the meantime the marvelous handiwork of Mr. Gruber and Dr. Bassett is at your disposal.
You can read about and view more images of Dr. Bassett’s work here.