Glasgow History of Medicine Seminars – Winter/Spring Programme 2017

We have an exciting programme lined up for our winter/spring 2017 Glasgow History of Medicine Seminars in partnership with the Centre for the History of Medicine (part of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at Glasgow University) – we hope you can join us!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017
Poles and Jews in Wartime Scotland: the Experience of Edinburgh’s Polish School of Medicine
Speaker: Dr Kenneth Collins (University of Glasgow and Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
A talk examining the relationships and tensions between poles and Jews at the Polish School of Medicine, based on archival records and testimonies.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017
Vitamins on Trial: Folic Acid as a Technology of Reproduction and Public Health
Speaker: Dr Salim Al-Gailani (University of Cambridge)
This talk examines the history of folic acid, its implications beyond reproduction, and the role of consumer activism in shaping public health policy.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Philanthropy, Patriotism and Paediatric Nursing: Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children through five objects
Speaker: Dr Iain Hutchison (University of Glasgow)
Taking five objects as focal points, Dr Hutchison will discuss the roles played by charity, emotion, patriotism and conflict, and by often under-valued nursing care during the hospital’s pre-NHS era.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Regulation and Resistance – a history of non-human antibiotic use in the US and UK (1949-2013)
Speaker: Dr Claas Kirchhelle (University of Oxford)
This presentation will examine the long history of antibiotic use in Western food production, the development of agricultural antibiotic use, and examine why regulations designed to curb bacterial resistance developed differently in the US and Europe.

The seminars take place at 5:30pm (tea/coffee from 5pm) in the library reading room at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. They are free to attend but please contact library@rcpsg.ac.uk or call 0141 221 6072 to book as places are limited.

Glasgow History of Medicine programme - winter/spring 2017

Glasgow History of Medicine programme – winter/spring 2017

 

 

Maister Peter Lowe and Glasgow

Our first event of 2017 will be an informal gathering in College Hall on Thursday 19th January to hear our Honorary Librarian, Mr Roy Miller, discuss our founder Maister Peter Lowe and the town of Glasgow, c1599.

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We will hear about the background of this intriguing man, his arrival in Glasgow from France in the 1590s, and what compelled him to petition King James VI to set up what became the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 1599. Lowe’s education and surgical training in France, and his writings on the practice of surgery, played a key role in how medicine and surgery developed in Glasgow at this early stage.

The event will take place in our College Hall, which features portraits of our founding members and of James VI. In addition, there will be a pop-up display of historical collections relating to our early history, for example our first Minute Book (1602 – 1688), rare copies of Peter Lowe’s 16th century surgical texts, and a pair of gloves belonging to the founder.

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Detail of first College Minute Book, summarising 1599 Charter (1602)

Our event is part of St Mungo Festival, now in its ninth year, which celebrates the life of St Kentigern, better known as St Mungo, patron saint of Glasgow. Find out more about the Festival and its programme of events at the St Mungo Festival Facebook page.

Here are the details of the event:

Date – Thursday 19th January 2017

Time – 12.30 – 1.30 with refreshments served afterwards

Venue – Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, 232-242 St Vincent Street, Glasgow G2 5RJ

To book – Email library@rcpsg.ac.uk or phone 0141 221 6072. This is a free event but places are limited.

Macewen on wounds

We have had a lot of interest in our collection of the papers of Sir William Macewen recently, particularly the material relating to his early position as Police Surgeon in Glasgow (1871 – 1875). This relatively small part of the collection represents a short, formative and under-researched part of his distinguished career. It nevertheless contains fascinating material that provides some insight into the early work of the great surgeon. The focus of this post is on Macewen’s treatment of and research on wounds during this period.

The Private Journal (of surgical cases) covering 1872 – 1875 contains notes on a wide range of Police Office cases. Possibly the most common type of case is the treatment of wounds, usually penetrating wounds caused by assault or accident (the example above shows notes and illustration of a head wound). Macewen was interested in both the effective treatment of wounds via investigative surgery, and research into the specific causes of wounds for forensic purposes. These interests resulted in two notable articles in the Glasgow Medical Journal.

1876 saw the publication of his article ‘Wounds in relation to the instruments which produce them’ (Glasgow Medical Journal, viii, 1876). In the article title (above) he was listed as Casualty Surgeon, and also Lecturer in Medical Jurisprudence at the University. In addition to its original purpose as an aid to accurate wound diagnosis, this extraordinary article provides a detailed catalogue of the clinical results and context of (mainly) violent crime in the city at a specific period. Detail includes the range of weapons used, and the context of the wounds caused by assault and accident (many involving alcohol). The image below shows how Macewen presented this data, and the eclectic range of instruments identified as causing the wounds.

tablesIn the article’s introduction, Macewen sets the context of these cases with an intriguing commentary before beginning his rigorous analysis:

The observations in the present paper were made on the living, as accident in part, but mainly the physical expression of human passion […].”

In addition to his move into forensic medicine, this period also saw Macewen challenge the conventional wisdom of surgical textbooks (and their esteemed authors). In 1872 and 1873 he noted several cases of treatment of wounds, particularly of the lungs, for example a case involving a 12 year old boy with a life-threatening knife wound. By adopting a bold, investigative approach (which was not at the time recommended when treating damage to the lungs), Macewen was able to locate a fragment of the knife in the lung. He then removed the fragment, using the antiseptic approach developed by his ex-teacher Joseph Lister. The page from the journal below records this case.

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Private Journal of Surgical Cases (RCPSG10/9/12)

His resulting article ‘Penetrating wounds of thorax and abdomen treated antiseptically’ (Glasgow Medical Journal, vii, 1875) was explicit in its criticism of the contemporary textbook approach to the lung. In his remarks on the case, he challenges the assertion made in recent surgical literature that the surgeon “should throw aside all direct or manipulative modes of investigation.” Instead, he boldly asserts that –

If, without complicating the original injury, an investigation is enabled to be made into the nature of such wounds, and an intelligent treatment thereby adopted instead of groping in the dark, an advance in surgery has been made.”

It is worth bearing in mind that at the time of writing, Macewen was still only in his mid-20s, and employed in one of the most junior surgical positions available.

In addition, he emphasised the adherence to Lister’s antiseptic approach to treating the wounds. In return, Lister wrote Macewen a note, congratulating him on the successful removal of the fragment of pocket knife specifically. This is among a number of items of correspondence between Macewen and Lister in our collections.

Festival of Museums 2016 – Glasgow’s Marvellous Medicine

We’re really looking forward to taking part in Festival of Museums again and this year we’ll be trying something a little bit different! We’ll be transforming our beautiful College Hall into a pop-up museum showcasing Glasgow’s amazing contributions to the world of medicine (antiseptic surgery, brain tumour operations, x-ray units and so much more all have connections to our city).

Ink drawing of College founder Peter Lowe

Scottish surgeon, Peter Lowe – Founder of our College in 1599 and author of the first general surgical text to be written in English.

There’ll be lots of interesting items on display including an apothecary’s cabinet filled with potions, some amazing rare books and some very gruesome looking surgical instruments. There’ll also be the chance to meet some famous faces from Glasgow’s medical past including Joseph Lister, pioneer of antiseptic surgery, Scottish surgeon and founder of our College in 1599, Maister Peter Lowe, nurse Rebecca Strong and even King James VI!

Lots of fun for all the family!

Saturday, 14th May 2016. Open 10am-4pm

For more information on all the other amazing events taking places as part of Festival of Museums 2016 please visit www.festivalofmuseums.com.

William Macewen, Glasgow Police Surgeon

In 1871 a young William Macewen, later to become one of the pioneers of late Victorian surgery, was appointed Police Surgeon at the Glasgow Central Police Office on South Albion Street. The Police Office was used as a clearing station for casualties of all kinds, with Macewen attending to an astonishing variety of cases, from rotten fish to high profile murder cases. Already a restless innovator, Macewen used the experience to experiment, research and report on a range of clinical subjects, including infanticide, abortion, concealment of pregnancy, fear, homicidal and accidental wounds, gun-shot wounds, and alcoholic coma.

Among our archive of Macewen’s papers are journals, scrapbooks and correspondence relating to this intriguing part of his career.

Private journal (1872 – 75) – notes on head injury

The journal of 1872 – 1875 contains notes (and occasionally illustrations) on many of the cases encountered, often during busy and chaotic Glasgow weekends. In some cases Macewen would use this material for journal articles, for example this piece on opium poisoning which appeared in the Glasgow Medical Journal, August 1872.

Glasgow Medical Journal, August 1872

The role of Police Surgeon in the city was high-profile work. Macewen regularly gave evidence in court, sometimes for very serious cases, such as the trial for murder of Archibald Miller in 1874. Macewen kept extensive newspaper cuttings about the cases, seen below pasted onto Detective Department police paper.

Newspaper cutting relating to the trial for murder of Archibald Miller, 1874

Macewen kept scrapbooks of cuttings relating to numerous cases that he treated or gave evidence for, from murder trials, accidents and assaults, to more mundane matters such as the case of rotten fish shown below.

Scapbook from 1872 – 1874

The range of incidents and injuries shown in the scrapbooks give a very vivid picture of the world Macewen worked in. His extensive journal notes and the many articles he wrote stemming from these experiences show how this informed his work as a surgeon, experimenter and innovator in the years ahead. His biographer of 1942, A K. Bowman, praised the style with which Macewen reports these experiences (referring here to the opium case) –

“The manner in which the story is unfolded reveals the high degree of artistry with which Macewen was endowed. It is a story of sombre light and shade which, set on canvas, would be Rembrandtesque.”

Our collection of the papers of Sir William Macewen (1848 – 1924) have archive reference number RCPSG 10.

Some of these items feature in our exhibition A History of Emergency Surgery and Trauma, from now until end of April. The exhibition is inspired by the Glasgow Emergency Surgery and Trauma Symposium (GESTS) 2016, on 25th and 26th February #GESTS2016. More info at http://www.rcpsg.ac.uk.

Thomas Annan and the Documentary Photograph

In my job at the College Library I get to see, handle and browse through a lot of fascinating books, both old and new, but it’s rare to find time to sit down and read these books cover-to-cover. Over the Christmas holidays I took the opportunity to catch up on some reading and took home one of our latest acquisitions, Thomas Annan of Glasgow: Pioneer of the Documentary Photograph by Lionel Gossman.

Front cover of 'Thomas Annan of Glasgow'

Thomas Annan (1829-1877) was an early Scottish photographer, probably best known for his photograph album, The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow.  He had a reputation as one of Scotland’s leading photographers, and in 1866 he was commissioned by the City of Glasgow Improvement Trust to capture images of the closes and wynds of old Glasgow that were scheduled for demolition under the Glasgow City Improvements Act. The album presents many fine examples of 19th century photography and Annan’s use of the carbon print process (for which he had secured exclusive usage rights for Scotland), and the images of the condemned slums and their inhabitants have since become iconic in Glasgow’s history. The College holds a copy of this album, presented by Glasgow’s Lord Provost John Ure to Dr Robert Scott Orr, President of the Faculty of the Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

Gossman’s book addresses the potentially problematic nature of Annan’s photographs of Glasgow’s slums. How accurate or unbiased are the photographs in their portrayal of the filth and squalor of these dwellings? Should the focus be on architecture or on social documentary? In other words, was Annan concerned with photographing the buildings themselves, or was he saying something about the lives of their inhabitants? Does it matter that these photographs were commissioned by the City Improvement Trust? Frustratingly, Annan himself does not provide any commentary on his work to help answer these question, save for a simple title or label.

Annan

A slum close, off High Street, Glasgow

In addition to the Old Closes album, we also have a copy of Annan’s The Old Country Houses of the Glasgow Gentry (which we have written about previously) and Memorials of the Old College of Glasgow, which features images of the University of Glasgow at its previous location on High Street, before it moved to Gilmorehill in the city’s west end.

The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow is understandably the main focus of Gossman’s book, but a fair amount of attention is also paid to Annan’s portrait and landscape work (such as his photographs of the Loch Katrine water works). There is also some discussion of Annan’s contemporaries and predecessors, including the partnership of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, two of Scotland’s earliest photographers. In a chapter on portraits, Annan’s 1864 portrait of the explorer and medical missionary David Livingstone is featured. The College holds a very interesting copy of this portrait, which Annan created by enlarging the photograph and painting over it in oils, almost like an early form of ‘painting by numbers’. The colouring process took place shortly after Livingstone’s death, a decade after the original portrait was made. The College purchased it from Annan for 30 guineas in 1875.

Livingstone

Annan’s portrait of David Livingstone

Lionel Gossman’s book provides a sound overview of the beginnings of photography in 19th century Scotland, and sets Thomas Annan’s work in context before going on to discuss his most famous work in finer detail. Anyone with an interest in the history of Glasgow, documentary photography, or photography as an art form in the 19th century should fine something useful here. Members of the College can borrow the book from the College Library. It’s published by Open Book Publishers, which means it is also available to read online for free (with physical copies available for purchase).

Glasgow: Mapping the City

Date: 23 November 2015.
Time: 18:30pm for 19:00pm
Venue: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, 232-242 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5RJ
Cost: Free

Join us on the 23rd November for our Book Week Scotland event. John Moore will be discussing his latest book, Glasgow: Mapping the City, which explores how our amazing city has changed over the last 500 years. Moore’s beautifully illustrated book features 80 specially selected maps, each offering a unique insight into the political, economic and social history of Glasgow. Our evening will take you on a journey through the development of shipbuilding, green spaces, transport, health, the industrial revolution, wartime, tourism and much more.

The evening starts at 6:30pm with light refreshments and a glass of wine. The talk starts at 7pm. The event is free and all are welcome but please contact us to book as places are limited.

Contact library@rcpsg.ac.uk or call 0141 221 6072 to book your place.

Glasgow: Mapping the City Poster

Glasgow: Mapping the City. Poster

Take a look at all the amazing events taking place for Book Week Scotland at http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/book-week-scotland

About the author
John Moore is a specialist on Scottish cartography and has published widely on the subject over a period of many years. He is currently Collections Manager at Glasgow University Library.