Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, July 2013

GASPAR SCHOTT (1608-1666). Physica curiosa, sive mirabilia naturae et artis libris XII. comprehensa, quibus pleraque…Wurzburg,] 1697.

Schott was the author of several works on mathematics, physics, and magic. His most interesting work is the “Magia universalis naturæ et artis”, 1657-1659, which contains a collection of mathematical problems and a large number of physical experiments in optics and acoustics. He published “Pantometricum Kircherianum”; “Physica curiosa”, a supplement to the “Magia universalis”; “Anatomia physico-hydrostatica fontium et fluminum”, and a “Cursus mathematicus”. “Physica Curiosa” is a large compendium of pictures and stories regarding monsters, physical abnormalities, and bizarre animals. Rather than a work of original scholarship Schott’s book, like many others of its kind, attempts to gather together as much as is commonly known on a topic. Many of the descriptions of animals and creatures repeat apocryphal accounts as if they are fact, and perpetuate belief in unicorns, satyrs, and other mythical beings”.



Univ. of Iowa College of Medicine Historical Photographs

University of Iowa College of Medicine Historical Photograhs are now available through the Iowa Digital Library.  The collection includes 194 images from 1844-2010.  The collection is a composite of several collections held at the Hardin Library including two boxes of lantern glass slides from ca. 1910.  The original slides are now housed in the University Archives.  Work to document and compile these images has been active in the Rare Book Room since 2012.  It is with great pleasure that we can now make these images broadly available.

Donna Hirst, Curator
John Martin Rare Book Room   June 26, 2013
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Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room

Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room,  June 2013

STEVEN BLANKAART (1650-1702). Anatomia reformata, sive Concinna corporis humani dissection… Leiden, 1695.

Blankaart, Dutch pharmacist, physician, and anatomist, initially practiced pharmacy and later medicine in Amsterdam. He studied medicine and philosophy at Franeker where he graduated in 1674. He was a prolific writer and was the first to edit and publish a medical journal in Holland. Blankaart is also known for his use of the injection technique to study the details of blood vessel distribution. This technique was first suggested by Leonardo da Vinci and later used by such prominent anatomists as Graaf, Swammerdam, and Ruysch. Blankaart first published this popular anatomical text at Leiden in 1687. In this comprehensive work, he cited nearly seventy authors whose works he had consulted. The finely engraved plates in this profusely illustrated work attest to Blankaart’s keen observational powers.  A plate depicts some of the apparatus used in the embalming process.


Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, May 2013

ADDISON (1793-1860). On the constitutional and local effects of disease of the supra-renal capsules. London: S. Highley, 1855.

Possessed of rather rude demeanor, Addison nevertheless had a large practice. He was a brilliant lecturer and diagnostician and one of the most respected physicians at Guy’s Hospital, devoting himself almost wholly to his students and patients.

The present work is one of the truly remarkable medical books of the nineteenth century and has long been among the principal desiderata for medical book collectors. Addison describes here for the first time two chronic diseases of the adrenal gland: Addison’s disease and pernicious anemia (Addison’s anemia), the most important primary disease of the blood.

The work is supplemented by several fine hand-colored lithographs. Addison’s discoveries were never widely recognized by his contemporaries, yet today they are regarded as fundamentally significant in the study of the endocrine glands and the treatment of pleuriglandular diseases.

History of Medicine Dinner-Thomas Hager to speak

The University of Iowa History of Medicine Society Dinner, April 26, 2013, 6:oopm-9:30pm

Thomas Hager will speak on The First Miracle Drug: How the Discovery of Sulfa Saved the President’s Son, Put a Nobel Prize Winner in Jail, and Changed Medical History.

The media called it “the miracle of miracles,” a wonder drug that conquered diseases, saved millions of lives—among them Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr.—and single-handedly launched the era of antibiotics. No, it was not penicillin. The miracle came a decade earlier in the form of sulfa, an off-the-shelf, unpatentable dye-making ingredient that fundamentally changed the practice of medicine.

Sulfa shifted the way new drugs are developed, approved, and sold; reshaped the relationship between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry; and spurred the creation of today’s drug laws. Today sulfa is almost forgotten. But Thomas Hager, author of The Demon Under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctor’s Heroic Search for the World’s First Miracle Drug brings it back to life, detailing the heyday of sulfa, its rise and fall, and the lessons it still teaches about the interplay between research, government, big business, and the art of healing.

Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, 2013

Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room    March 2013

GASPARE ASELLI (1581-1626). De lactibus sive lacteis venis. Milan: Apud Jo. Bapt[ist]am Bidellium, 1627.

Aselli was born at Cremona, studied medicine at Pavia receiving degrees in medicine, surgery, and philosophy. He spent his professional career as a surgeon in Milan performing many anatomical and physiological experiments including those that led to his rediscovery of the lymphatic vessels. The lymphatics had been described earlier but no one had been successful in identifying their functional significance. Aselli wrote many unpublished notebooks and papers to record his work on medical subjects including surgery, therapeutics, recurring calculi, anal fistulas, and poisonous drugs. The latter was important because it was the first time drugs had been classified by their clinical effects and toxic actions. While vivisecting a dog to demonstrate the recurrent nerves and diaphragm, he discovered a network of mesenteric vessels that contained a milky white fluid. He had uncovered the mesenteric lymphatic vessels which he called the lacteals. After repeated experimentation, he concluded that they lead into the liver which was believed to be the central organ of the venous system. It remained for Pecquet to correct Aselli’s misconception when he discovered the thoracic duct in 1651. The woodcuts are treated in a very spirited manner and in colored chiaroscuro. The wood blocks are the earliest anatomical illustrations in color printing.


Kathy Fait to speak on “The History of the State Hygienic Laboratory at the Univ of Iowa”

Kathy Fait,  Librarian, State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa

 “The History of the State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa”   Thursday, February 28, 2013 5:30-6:30  Room 401, Univ. of Iowa Hardin Library for the Health Sciences

In 1904, some of the most common health concerns for Iowans were also some of the most deadly.  Typhoid fever, tuberculosis, rabies and diphtheria all were tested at the State Hygienic Laboratory during its first year in operation.  Today, the state agency tests for a long list of reportable diseases; examines samples of air, water and soil; “fingerprints” and helps track foodborne illnesses; screens newborn babies for metabolic diseases; identifies influenza and other communicable diseases to the DNA level; and helps public health agencies at both the national and state level to keep people safe.

This presentation chronicles the Hygienic Laboratory’s evolution from diphtheria to Salmo-nella, and the stories behind the testing.

Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, February 2013

SAINT HILDEGARD (1098-1179). Physica. Strasbourg, 1533.

Hildegard, called Hildegard of Bingen, was eight years old when her family placed her in a nearby Benedictine convent where she subsequently became a nun. She founded and was Abbess of a convent near Bingen, Germany.  Hildegard’s writings are primarily mystical and theological; however, she also wrote several medical works. Her medical knowledge was acquired by reading, observation, and her duties in the convent which included care and treatment of other nuns as well as travelers and villagers. Hildegard shows how clergy of the time practiced medicine. She included time-tested formulations, numerous folk remedies, and her observations of diseases and cures. She lists the therapeutic merits of over 200 plants, 50 trees, and 20 precious stones. She includes the medicinal value of varieties of fish, birds, animals, reptiles, and metals. She was aware that lead and brass were poisonous and that iron and copper were valuable constituents of tonics. The wood-block illustrations have little relationship to her textual material. The blocks depict a seated patient surrounded by physicians and an attendant and a traditional wound-man.