New Exhibit in the John Martin Rare Book Room

Syphilis and Paul Ehrlich:

an Historical Case Study

Treponema_pallidum

Sahachiro Hata, working in Paul Erlich’s laboratory in 1908, discovered the arsenic compound arsphenamine (later known as Salvarsan), which was the first effective treatment for syphilis. The disease, which is transmitted either sexually or congenitally, begins as a superficial affliction but can lead to serious complications including seizures, aneurysms, and deformation in its later stages.

Syphilis has haunted global history and culture for centuries. Scientists debate its arrival in the Americas, with the greatest evidence supporting the Colombian hypothesis arguing that Christopher Columbus’ crewmen brought syphilis back with them from the Americas. Several famous historical figures including Franz Schubert are thought to have contracted the disease. It has been treated in art by Albrecht Dürer and in the femme fatale (“poison woman”) literature of 19th century writers such as John Keats. It was the subject of questionable ethical practices in the Tuskegee syphilis study of 1932.

Treponema pallidum (pictured), the bacterium which causes syphilis, was not discovered until 1905. This discovery paved the way for Hata’s cure. The disease currently affects an estimated 12 million people with 90% of those cases being in the developing world. Since penicillin became widely available in the 1940s, syphilis can be treated effectively with antibiotics.

durer170px-Tertiary_syphilis_headhata

Images: treponema pallidum; Dürer’s “Syphilitic Man” (1496); bust of deformation in a patient with gummatous syphilis; Hata and Ehrlich.

Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room, July 2014: Nathaniel Highmore

Nathaniel Highmore (1613-1685)

Corporis Humani Disquisitio Anatomica

The Hague: Ex oficina Samuelis Brown, 1651.

[Image via Fisher Library Digital Collections, University of Toronto].

Nathaniel Highmore of Dorset, England was a British surgeon known for his 1651 treatise on anatomy, the first of its kind to give an accurate account of the circulatory system. Highmore studied at Oxford beginning in 1631, after which he practiced at Sherborne in Dorset. Corporis, the best-known of his several works, is divided into three sections corresponding to the abdomen, thorax, and head. Although the plates, drawn in the style of Vesalius, echo those of an earlier period, Highmore was responsible for a number of important advances. The most noteworthy of these are his descriptions of the sinus maxillaris (the largest nasal cavity, then known as the antrum of Highmore) and the mediastinum testes (the septum dividing the scrotum, or Highmore’s body).

To learn more about medical history, visit the John Martin Rare Book Room website.

Get to know Curator Donna Hirst at Iowa Now.

 

Elements of the Practice of Medicine

Notes from the John Martin Rare Book Room

June, 2014

RICHARD BRIGHT (1789-1858) and THOMAS ADDISON (1793-1860). Elements of the practice of medicine. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1839.

richardbright
This rare work represents a joint undertaking by two of the most famous physicians in nineteenth-century Europe. The preface describes it as “a work at once elementary and practical to which [teachers] might refer their pupils as a companion and assistant during the period of their studies.”

thomasaddison
Elements lists over sixty diseases and conditions and includes a lucid account of their histories, causes, prognoses, diagnoses, and treatments. Though the style is dated, the descriptions of the diseases excel in accuracy and conciseness. Originally issued in three parts from 1836 to 1839, the work is bound in  a single volume. The intended second volume was never published. Hardin has digitized 17 images from the book. See them here.

Text adapted from Donna Hirst, Curator, John Martin Rare Book Room.

Images: Respectively, Richard Bright, Thomas Addison. Credits: Wikimedia, prlog.org.

William Stewart Halsted, Father of American Modern Surgery: a retrospective

The University of Iowa History of Medicine Society invites you to hear:

Nicholas P. Rossi, M.D.

Nicholas P. Rossi, Emeritus Professor, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Iowa College of Medicine. Rossi will provide a fascinating look at the life and medical achievements of William Stewart Halsted, considered the father of modern American surgery.

Halsted, who lived from 1852-1922, was one of the “Big Four” professors who founded John Hopkins Hospital. Halsted was an early pioneer for anesthesia and for aseptic technique in surgery, including the use of rubber gloves. Halsted also led a fascinating personal life: he was addicted to cocaine and morphine (which were not illegal during his lifetime) and was considered eccentric by his students. Throughout his lifetime, he was responsible for several innovations and advances in his field, including:

  • Halsted’s law, which states that transplanted tissue will grow only if the host lacks that tissue
  • Halsted mosquito forceps, a type of hemostat
  • Halsted’s operation I, a procedure for inguinal hernia
  • Halsted’s operation II, radical mastectomy for breast cancer
  • Halsted’s sign, used to detect breast cancer
  • Halsted’s suture, a mattress suture for wounds which minimized scarring

Attend this lecture to learn how the major preceding events of Halsted’s time and character ushered in one of the great eras of modern medicine.

This event will be held on Thursday, February 27 from 5:30-6:30 pm in Room 401 at Hardin Library for the Health Sciences. Find out more here or contact the Rare Book Room with questions at 335-9154 or by emailing donna-hirst@uiowa.edu. Want to know more about this fascinating figure? Read about Halsted at Hopkins Medicine or see his documentary.