Treasures of the PI Nixon Library Blog

Treasures of the P.I. Nixon

The Father of Ophthalmology

George Bartisch, a German physician, was born in 1535 in Königsbrück, a village near Dresden, Germany. He could not afford medical school, so apprenticed at the age of 13 to a barber surgeon in Dresden. This was followed by two additional apprenticeships to an oculist and a lithotomist. He acquired medical experience and became a successful wound surgeon, lithotomist, oculist and teacher of surgical anatomy. Bartisch became well known and eventually was appointed court oculist for Duke Augustus I of Saxony, settling in Dresden.

Bartisch is called the Father of Ophthalmology because he was the earliest person to write an ophthalmologic text-book in the German language and the first in history to totally remove an eye from a living human subject. In 1583 he published Ophthalmodouleia, both the first systematic work on ocular disease and ophthalmic surgery as well as the first ophthalmic atlas with its 92 full page woodcuts, many of which Bartisch drew himself. Some of the illustrations had flaps that could be lifted to provide a dissection layer by layer. They illustrate ocular diseases, surgical methods, and instruments. The explanations of each disease in this work are followed by a discussion of herbal remedies and prescriptions and surgical options for treatment.

The P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, located on the 5th floor of the Briscoe Library owns the first edition of Ophthalmodouleia. More information on George Bartisch may be found in the Treasures of the P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library blog.

To schedule a visit to the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at or 210-567-2406.


Book review by Mark J. Mannis of Ophthalmodouleia, That is the Service of the Eye, 1996 English translation by Donal Blanchard, MD. American Journal of Ophthalmology 1997, 123:146-147.

“Georg Bartisch’s Ophthalmodouleia.” The College of Optometrist webpage at

Shastid,, Thomas Hall. George Bartisch,” The American Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Ophthalmology, Volume 2, pp. 888-895. Chicago: Cleveland Press, 1913.


Images courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

William Withering and the beginnings of modern therapeutics

Image of William Withering

Image of William Withering


Digoxin is a modern drug used to treat irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation, and congestive heart failure and to relieve symptoms of edema associated with congestive heart failure.  The Western world of medicine’s knowledge of Digoxin’s incredible ability to help treat certain heart diseases was due to the efforts of an English physician called William Withering.

Medical Training

William Withering was born on March 17, 1741, in Wellington, Shropshire and died Oct. 6, 1799, in the town of Sparkbrook in England.  He was influenced by his father, Edmund, who was an apothecary, the equivalent of a modern day pharmacist, and his uncle, Brook Hector, who was a physician. In the modern medical school, medical students participate in a residency program, which is akin to an apprenticeship, after 4 years of medical school. During Withering’s time in 1762, Withering enrolled in the University of Edinburg in Scotland after 4 years as an apprentice, the opposite of today’s system. The medical curriculum of this period was heavily focused on botany, probably playing a part in shaping Withering’s intellectual understanding of plants and human health.

After his schooling, Withering relocated to the town of Stafford, where he visited private patients and worked as a founding physician of the Stafford General Infirmary. During this time period, Withering participated in his hobby of botany and, through this, met his wife, Helena Cookes, who sketched the plants he collected. In 1779, Withering served as a founder of Birmingham General Hospital, where many poor people were treated free of charge

Experiments with Foxglove

William Withering started to conduct experiments to demonstrate the uses of the foxglove plant in 1776 after an experience with one of his patients. Withering had been treating a lady suffering from edema and had expected her to die, but he was surprised to discover that she had recovered after ingesting a folk cure prepared from digitalis, a plant commonly called foxglove. This lead him to write An Account of the Foxglove, and Some of Its Medical Uses, a book published in 1785 that gave him a lasting reputation.  The P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library owns a copy of this book.

The book describes Withering’s clinical experience with the purple foxglove, a weed containing therapeutic substances called cardiac glycosides used in modern drugs such as digoxin.  The book basically details a 10 year clinical trial of digitalis (the modern name for the drug after the Latin name for the plant, Digitalis purpure) and was published to guard the medical community of the time period against misuse of this powerful drug.  In the book he discusses treating 158 patients with foxglove and how 101 of them experienced relief from heart failure.  He also wrote about the correct single dosage that should be used when administering foxglove, which is only slightly less than today’s modern digoxin tablet.  The method that Withering detailed for creating medicine from the foxglove plant is also the same method that modern drug manufactures use, albeit on a grander scale, to extract digitalis from the foxglove plant.

Image of William Withering's An Account of the Foxglove, and Some of Its Medical Uses. P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library.

Image of William Withering’s An Account of the Foxglove, and Some of Its Medical Uses. P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library.

Image of William Withering's An Account of the Foxglove, and Some of Its Medical Uses with the fold out insert showing a colored illustration of the Foxglove plant. P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library.

Image of William Withering’s An Account of the Foxglove, and Some of Its Medical Uses with the fold out insert showing a colored illustration of the Foxglove plant. P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library.


Manasseh “Manny” Ngigi,  Nursing School student


“Foxglove.” WebMD. Viewed 1/23/ 2015. .

Wilson, Philip. “William Withering.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Viewed 1/23/ 2015. .

“The lifesaving foxglove.” UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden. Viewed 1/23/ 2015.

“Digitalis.” Wikipedia. Viewed 1/23/2015.

Norman, Jeremy. “William Withering and the Purple Foxglove: A Bicentennial Tribute.” Jeremy Norman’s History of Science. Viewed 1/23/2015.



“William Withering” by After Carl Frederik von Breda – [1] [2]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Book images are from the copy owned by the P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library.

For questions about the Treasures of the P. I. Nixon library blog, email Special Collections.

George Bartisch: An Inventive Look Into Ophthalmodouleia

Image of George Bartisch

Image of George Bartisch


Buying a pair of glasses is something that has become quite common, and most times can even be done over the internet. Beyond a routine checkup, more serious ocular issues may suggest a trip to the local ophthalmologist, but even that is often quite convenient due to technology and medical advances. Typically you can be diagnosed and treated within a few visits. These simple luxuries are available to us because of the extraordinary research, practices, and innovations of a German physician, George Bartisch.

Training and Apprenticeships

Born in 1535 and growing up in a poor lower class family, Bartisch was not expected to reach the level of knowledge and expertise that he did. He longed to learn and know more, especially in the area of medicine. Because his family could not afford to send him to a formal school to satisfy his passion, he found an outlet that would suffice, and even grow, his innate knowledge about the human body, particularly the eye. He became an apprentice for a barber surgeon in Dresden at the age of 13. This was followed by two additional apprenticeships to an oculist and a lithotomist.  Through these apprenticeships, he was able to become a successful wound surgeon, lithotomist, oculist, and teacher of surgical anatomy.

Medical Beliefs

Being extremely influenced by the culture around him, Bartisch brought his knowledge of quirky superstitions, magic, astrology, and witchcraft into his research of the eye. Believing there were certain stellar constellations that were favorable for the eye was one of his assumptions. He accredited many malformations and diseases of the eye to such things as devils, spells, hexes, and curses, attributing human suffering and pain to punishment for sins by the devil. He could tie any disease which caused pain back to things he believed were sins. For example, his etiology for presbyopia was excessive use of alcohol. He took an interest in hot and cold witchcraft, treating patients according to which one he believed they were suffering from. It is improbable, however, that you would see any of these methods in practice today.
The majority of his knowledge was acquired from one of his 3 teachers, Abraham Meyscheider being one that he mentions specifically.

After he had cultivated his abilities during his apprenticeships, he became an itinerant surgeon for the regions of Saxony, Selisia, and Bohemia. Bartisch became so well-known and respected he was appointed court oculist for Duke Augustus I of Saxony and settled in Dresden. Though he was an advocate for improving ocular health and vision, he was a huge adversary of spectacles and eye glasses. Bartisch believed that it was impossible and almost insulting to try and improve such an intricate organ’s function by sliding a piece of magnifying glass in front of it. In his theories glasses proved to weaken the patient’s vision. His treatments always stemmed from a more organic viewpoint.


Illustration of crown of head from page 5 of Ophthalmodouleia

Illustration of crown of head from page 5 of Ophthalmodouleia

George Bartisch, who is labeled the father of ophthalmology, left a huge footprint on this field by writing Ophthalmodouleia, an opthalmologic text-book. It was the first German book on ocular disease and surgery and included 92 exhaustive wood cuts. Many of these diagrams and illustrations were layered to act as flaps that could be lifted to emulate dissection, illustrating a variety of ocular diseases, surgery methodology, and instruments. Some of these you can find recreated in posters, paintings, and other reference books of the field.

Published in 1583, Ophthalmodouleia is overwhelming with ocular knowledge. Starting from the most basic concepts of head and face, it then travels to in depth illustration of eye anatomy. Bartisch demonstrates his breadth of knowledge as he addresses more complex topics such as strabismus, cataracts, external disease, and trauma, including his theories on diagnosing and treating cataracts by color. The intensive explanation of each disease is followed by the discussion of herbal remedies and prescriptions, which were popular in that time, and surgery options that easily make this book the Web MD of the ocular world for its time period.

Picture showing laps raised to view illustration of dura mater and brain.

Same illustration with flaps lifted to show dura matter and brain

It is an honor to have an original first edition of the actual book Ophthalmodouleia  here in our P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library. The large elegant script and illustrious drawings can penetrate any language barrier and captivate attention in appreciation of the beauty of this work. Though the original copy is printed in 16th century German dialect, the field of ophthalmology owes great appreciation to J.P. Waynebrough for publishing Donald L. Blanchard’s English translation in 1996 as part of the History of Ophthalmology series.  The Nixon Library also owns this translation

.Photograph of Ophthalmodouleia, page 143

Photograph of Ophthalmodouleia, page 143



For more information on the Nixon Library or to set up an appointment to visit the library, contact Andrea Schorr, Head of Resource Management, at or 210-567-2403.

Come take a look,
Tressica Thomas B.S., SLP-A
DEHS Student- School of Medicine


Blanchard, Donalld. “Superstitions of George Bartisch.” Science Direct. Survey of Opthalmalogy, 1 Jan. 2005. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.

“Georg Bartisch.” Whonamedit -. Ole Daniel Enerson. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.

Mannis, Mark. “George Bartisch.” George Bartisch. American Journal of Ophthalmology. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.

Portrait of George Bartisch courtesy of



Middleton Goldsmith and the Use of Bromine to Treat Gangrene

Picture of title page of Goldsmith's report

Title page of Goldsmith’s report on Hospital Gangrene

The P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library owns a report to the Surgeon General of the United States by Civil War surgeon Middleton Goldsmith on the use of bromine to treat hospital gangrene in wounded soldiers. Published in 1863, the report is entitled A Report on Hospital Gangrene, Erysipelas and Pyaemia as Observed in the Departments of the Ohio and the Cumberland, with Cases Appended. It contains detailed case reports, a foldout table containing all of Goldsmith’s research data, and his correspondence with other surgeons on the treatment of gangrene. The overall mortality of hospital gangrene cases from the Civil War has been reported as 45.6% (The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War, Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1875-1888). However, only 8 of Goldsmith’s 304 patients receiving bromine-based therapy for gangrene died, a mortality rate of only 2.6 per cent.

Goldsmith’s work predated Joseph Lister’s 1867 paper linking microbes and surgical infections and Louis Pasteur’s groundbreaking work on microbes, also published after the Civil War. Goldsmith did not know what agent caused the gangrene, erysipelas and pyaemia he observed in the wards of his hospitals, but he theorized that they were related to each other and sought a curative agent to cure the infections and prevent the spread between patients.  Goldsmith’s data was so meticulously documented that it was easy to prove his bromine treatment had cured his gangrene patients. By the conclusion of the Civil War, surgeons throughout the country applied variations of Goldsmith’s bromine therapy regimen in the treatment and prevention of gangrene.

For more detailed information on Middleton Goldsmith’s work and Civil War experiences, see the blog entry on Middleton in the Treasures of the P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library.

For more information on the P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at (210) 567-2406 or

Picture scanned from library’s copy of report.

Clara Barton and The Red Cross: A History of this Remarkable International Movement in the Interest of Humanity


Portrait of Clara Barton

Clarissa Harlow Barton was born in Oxford, Massachusetts, on the 25th of December in 1821. She was the youngest of six children, and she took a keen interest in education early in her life. When she was a toddler, she was sent to school with one of her older brothers, where she developed a love for reading. When she was ten, her brother fell off the roof of their barn and had to undergo surgery. Clara was dedicated to nursing him back to good health. This event sparked her passion and love for healing others, which would eventually lead to the wonderful legacy she left behind.

Clara decided to become a teacher at the age of fifteen and worked as an educator for several years; eventually, she opened a public school in Bordentown, New Jersey, in 1853. A year after opening the school, Clara moved to Washington, D.C. and worked at the Patent Office. Many people believe that she was perhaps the first woman in the United States to hold a government job. In the early 1860s when the Civil War broke out, Barton was one of the first volunteers at the local infirmary caring for the wounded soldiers. She went on to serve the injured soldiers on the field. She collected supplies and distributed them to the Union Army. She cared for the soldiers during combat in Fredericksburg, Virginia, as well as Antietam. Many soldiers addressed her as the “Angel of the Battlefield.”

In 1869 after the Civil War had ended, Clara visited Geneva, Switzerland, and was introduced to the Red Cross organization. While on her trip, she was asked to be the representative for the American Branch. Upon returning to the United States, she began to lobby to gain some recognition for the Red Cross. In 1881, the American Red Cross Society was founded with Barton serving as President until 1904. After leaving the Red Cross, Clara remained devoted to her philanthropic passion and delivered speeches and lectures concerning public health and health interventions. She also wrote many literary pieces that focused on public health, her experiences as a nurse, and the importance of health on a global spectrum. Barton died in Glen Echo, Maryland, on April 12, 1912.

The P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library owns a copy of The Red Cross: A History of this Remarkable International Movement in the Interest of Humanity, written by Clara Barton and published in the year 1898. The P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library will display a Civil War exhibit on major medical figures of the Civil War from Sept. 15 – Nov. 30. Be sure to come visit our Civil War exhibit and learn more about Clara Barton and her tremendous efforts in starting the American Red Cross Society.


Image of our copy of Clara Barton’s The Red Cross: A History of this Remarkable Movement in the interest of Humanity

Clara Barton was honored with a United States commemorative stamp, issued in 1948

Clara Barton was honored with a United States commemorative stamp, issued in 1948


Founder Clara Barton. American Red Cross website Viewed 9/12/2014.

Clara Barton: Relief Organizer/Humanitarian December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912. Civil War Trust website Viewed 9/12/2014.

Clara Barton. Wikipedia. Viewed 9/12/2014.


Clara Barton, dated 1904. From the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division. No known restrictions on publication.

Postage stamp: U.S. Post Office; Smithsonian National Postal Museum. In the public domain.

For more information on the Nixon Library or to set up an appointment, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at or 210-567-2406.

Thank you for reading my blog post.

Mehak Sumar, Nursing Student

Middleton Goldsmith and Hospital Gangrene

Middleton Goldsmith was a surgeon in the Union Army during the American Civil War working primarily in the Louisville, Kentucky area. He was born in Port Tobacco, Maryland in 1818, the son of surgeon Alban Goldsmith. His father was the professor of Surgery at Kentucky School of Medicine in Louisville in the mid-1830s, and Middleton served as his anatomy and surgical assistant. Middle enrolled in the New York College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1837 and graduated in 1840. He was a multi-talented and very popular young man who played guitar and banjo, knew Greek and Latin, and was an excellent storyteller. He cofounded the New York Pathologic Society and in 1844 became Chair of Surgery at Castleton Medical College in Vermont. After 12 years, he succeeded his father as Chair of Surgery at Kentucky School of Medicine, soon becoming the Dean of Faculty.

Army Career

Goldsmith joined the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War as a Brigade Surgeon and was quickly appointed Surgeon-in-Chief of all military hospitals in Kentucky and the Army of the Ohio, supervising the daily operations of multiple hospitals.

Sketch of Civil War solider patient with gangrene in arm stump

American Civil War soldier lies in bed with a gangrenous amputated arm

The picture above is a sketch of Private Milton E. Wallen of Company C, 1st Kentucky Calvary, wounded by a Minié ball while in prison at Richmond, July 4, 1863.  He was being treated for gangrene in August 1863 when Edward Stauch traveled from Washington to make this sketch.   By USG [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.


Over 700,000 combined Union and Confederate soldiers perished in the 4 years of that war – more than in all other United States conflicts up to the Vietnam War, combined. More than two thirds of those succumbed to disease and surgical infection, not to direct battlefield trauma. Surgeons faced the formidable problem of treating the infections of wounds sustained during battle, and hospital gangrene was the worst.

British surgeons with experience during the Crimean War a decade earlier recommended patients should have at least 1600 cubic feet to themselves to prevent the spread of gangrene between patients. In some Union hospitals, the space per patient was only about 175 cubic feet, less than a six-foot cube, nearly 10 times less than the British recommendation. Attempts to improve ventilation for gangrene soldiers in such crowded conditions prompted surgeons to cut holes in ceilings or walls to draw the air through. This often backfired, allowing the microbes causing the gangrene to spread to patients in other areas of the hospital.

Many gangrene treatments were tried, including hand washing between patients, whiskey, cathartics, balanced diets, and topical agents applied directly to the gangrenous wound along with debridement, which was often too late or spread the infection. Experiments with poultices of mud, flaxseed, slippery elm, or charcoal were tried. Chlorinated soda water, extremely strong sodium hypochlorite solutions, nitric acid, tinctures of iodine and iron, and turpentine were applied, often in combination and often overpowering and painful and difficult to tolerate and usually without the desired effect of curing the infection or curing it but causing even more damage to healthy tissue.

Experiments in Treating Gangrene

When Goldsmith found himself surrounded by many hospital gangrene patients in Kentucky, he focused on the problem. He reviewed many of the documented outbreaks from early in the war and theorized that the three diseases of gangrene, erysipelas, and pyaemia were in some way connected, although his lack of knowledge of the “putrefactive agent” made his task very difficult. He reviewed the curative agents then in use and concluded that corrosive acids such as nitric acid stopped the gangrene but were also very destructive of living tissues and were impossible to administer safely. He also noted other topical remedies like poultices did not arrest the infection and the consumption of coffee and whiskey did nothing.


Picture of pages from Goldsmith's book discussing various treatments for gangrene

Discussion by Goldsmith of various treatments for gangrene (Click to enlarge)


Goldsmith noticed that in hospital wards where bromine was used as an aerosolized deodorant, gangrene patients seemed to recover more than in other wards. He recommended the placement of volatile bromine in all patient wards. He developed a method of applying bromine deep into muscular layers after wound debridement then injecting bromine subcutaneously and applying it topically to exposed surfaces. A second application was only applied in cases where the gangrene odor returned.


In an independent report of Goldsmith’s method by another surgeon, G. R. Weeks, it was noted that of 104 patients receiving a bromine-based treatment, there were only 3 deaths, which were due not to gangrene but to pyaemia and cellulitis after the gangrene was improved. Weeks concluded the treatment was 100% successful in preventing death in hospital gangrene patients while other treatment regiments averaged around 25% mortality. Patients recovering with other treatments averaged 15 days convalesce, those with weak bromine 9 days, and pure bromine only 2 days. Similar results were reported by other observers such as John H. Brinton, another high-ranking Union surgeon.

 Report to the Surgeon General

Picture of title page of Goldsmith's report

Title page of Goldsmith’s report on Hospital Gangrene

Goldsmith thoroughly documented his investigations in his report to the Surgeon General entitled A Report on Hospital Gangrene, Erysipelas and Pyaemia, as observed in the departments of the Ohio and the Cumberland, with cases appended. This 1863 report included colorfully detailed case reports and a foldout table containing all his research data, as well as his correspondence with other surgeons. The data collected included patient’s name, rank, company, regiment, when wounded, where and when gangrene began, tissues involved in the wound, region of wound, general treatment, local treatment, when infection arrested, duration of gangrene, and hospital. His precise data collection and reporting allowed him to claim near complete eradication of hospital gangrene from his wards.  Only 8 of his 304 patients receiving bromine-based therapy died, a mortality rate of 2.6 per cent. The overall mortality of hospital gangrene cases from the Civil War has been reported as 45.6 %. By the end of the war, surgeons applied variations of his bromine treatment throughout the country.

Case report of Wilbur F. Nichols, first patient treated with Bromine for gangrene


Picture of table from Goldsmith's book showing results of various treatments for gangrene

Condensed Table of Results of Various Gangrene Treatments (Click to enlarge)


Goldsmith died in 1888.  He greatest achievement was his contribution to surgical antisepsis and his revolutionary bromine therapy. His work predated Joseph Lister’s 1867 paper linking microbes and surgical infection and preventive measures.

Note: Most of the material in this article, other than illustrations, was summarized from John Trombold’s excellent article on Middleton Goldsmith’s research on gangrene therapy. (See sources below.)  Book illustrations were scanned from the Nixon Library’s copy of Goldsmith’s book.

Come view Goldsmith’s Report on Hospital Gangrene, Erysipelas and Pyaemia in the P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library.

~Anne Comeaux


For more information on the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library or to schedule an appointment, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at or 210-567-2406.



John M. Trombold, M.D. “Gangrene Therapy and Antisepsis before Lister; Civil War Contributions of Middleton Goldsmith of Louisville. “ The American Surgeon, vol. 77:1138-43, September 2011.

Wikipedia contributors, “Gangrene,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed June 23, 2014).

The Louis Lapicque Papers


Photograph of Louis Lapicque

Louis Lapicque, 1866-1952

The Archives of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library houses a collection of professional papers, research notebooks, and personal manuscripts of renowned, early 20th- century French physiologist Louis Lapicque.

Born August 1, 1866, Louis Lapicque was a pioneer in the field of neural excitability. One of his main contributions was to propose the integrate-and-fire model of the neuron in an article published in 1907. This model is still one of the most popular models in computational neuroscience for both cellular and neural networks studies and in mathematical neuroscience. The Lapicque concepts of excitability and nerve transmission form a part of the basic framework of modern neurophysiology.

Louis Lapicque completed his doctorate at the Paris Medical School. He married Marcelle de Heredia, one his notable students, on May 14, 1902. Their only son, Charles Lapicque, was born Oct. 6, 1898, before their marriage. Marcelle completed her doctoral studies under Lapicque in 1903, concentrating on the nerve impulse. Charles trained as an engineer but later gave up engineering in 1940 to become a painter.

Lapicque and his wife worked closely together for nearly fifty years in the Sorbonne Laboratoire de Physiologie, publishing over 80 articles. They devoted their life work to the study of what they termed the chronaxie of the nerve – the nerve response over time under various physiological conditions. Louis held a professorship at the Museum d’Historie Naturelle and then at the Sorbonne. From the 1910’s to the late 1930’s, he was seen as the most important French physiologist of the time. Marcelle assisted him and was eventually named associate director of the laboratory.


Illustration of La Sorbonne from 1893.

La Sorbonne, 1893

Professor and Madame Lapicque attracted and trained a host of pupils from France and many other countries, such as the United States and Japan. They were excellent hosts and well-loved and respected by their pupils. Together they brought physiology in France to world recognition. Lapicque’s interests were broad, but in later years he concentrated principally upon problems of excitation. He was also interested in history and published many articles about his deceased colleagues.

Photograph of yacht from 1892

Louis Lapicque was an ardent yachtsman and an accomplished navigator. He and Marcelle sailed across the English Channel to attend conferences in their yacht, rightfully named the Axon. His experience later proved beneficial during the occupation of France by Germany during World War II. Lapicque was imprisoned by the Gestapo for helping the resistance. During his three months’ incarceration, he authored his final book entitled La Machine Nerveuse, which was published in 1943 and in which he credited his wife with 40 years of collaboration, in addition to her own important individual research.

Louis Lapicque died in Paris on December 6, 1952. Marcelle de Heredia Lapicque took over the directorship of the Sorbonne Laboratoire de Physiologie until her death in 1962.

Held in the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library’s Archives, the Louis Lapicque Papers contain original handwritten lab books, journals of travel, a ship log for Lapicque’s yacht, manuscripts for papers, journal reprints, bibliographies of the research work of Lapicque and Alexandre Marcel Monnier, obituaries and biographical articles written by Lapicque and Monnier, and correspondence with both Lapicque and Monnier. For a detailed description of this collection, see the Guide to the Louis Lapicque Papers.

Scan of page containing data and graph from Lab Notebook Experiences du Bresil, dated 1927.

Data and Graph from Lab Notebook: Experiences du Bresil, 1927

The P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library’s Special Collections owns a copy of Notice Sur les Titres et Travaux Scientifiques de M. Louis Lapicque. This volume published in Paris includes the original 1908 edition, as well as the two subsequent supplements from 1919 and 1928, all bound together. Its bibliographic listings reveal Lapicque’s extensive and wide-ranging scientific interests.

To obtain more information or to access this collection in the Archives, contact Mellisa DeThorne, Special Collections Assistant, at 210-567-2470 or


“Lapicque, Marcelle (de Heredia) (1873-ca. 1962).” The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, edited by Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie and Joy Harvey. New York: Routledge, 2000, Vol. 2: L-Z, pp. 745-746.

“Louis and Marcelle Lapicque.” For Better or For Worse? Collaborative Couples in the Sciences, edited by Annette Lykkness, et. al. New York: Springer Basel, 2012, pp 66-67.

“Louis Lapicque, 1866-1952.” J Neurophysiolog 16:97-100, 1953.

Illustration of La Sorbonne, 1893 is available under Licence Ouverte courtesy of La BIU Santé.

Photograph of Louis Lapicque courtesy of académie Nancy-Metz.

Photograph of Yacht, 1892 is in the public domain and retrievable from Wikipedia Commons.

Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d: or, the Artificiall Changling

Portrait of John Bulwer

Portrait of John Bulwer

John Bulwer was born in London in 1606, the only surviving son of an apothecary named Thomas Bulwer and Marie Evans of St. Albans. He continued to work and live in London until his death in October 1656. Although information about his education is unclear, he was probably educated in Oxford (no degree) in the 1620s, and later, between 1650 and 1653, acquired a Medicinae Doctor (M.D.) degree at an unknown European university. In 1634 he married a woman known only as the “Widow of Middleton.” They had no children, and she predeceased him. Later in life Bulwer would adopt a girl named Chirothea Johnson, and, as he states in his will “bred her up from a child as my own.” She may have been deaf.

During the English Civil War Bulwer stopped working as a physician and concentrated on his study and writing. All his written works were created between 1640 and 1653. In total Bulwer published five works, all of which were either early examples or the first of their kind.


Anthropometamorphosis was Bulwer’s most popular work, reprinted at least three times in his lifetime. The first edition was published in 1650. The second edition of 1653, which is owned by the P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, was much enlarged and illustrated with many woodcuts. A third printing was a reissue of the second edition retitled “A view of the People of the whole World”. Considered to be the earliest book on tattooing and body mutilations, the book is a mixture of fact and fiction, some from traveler’s tales, some from early literature.


Frontspiece to Anthropometamorphosis

Frontspiece to Anthropometamorphosis


The title literally means “humanity-changing.” It is one of the first studies in comparative cultural anthropology and included a strong tone of social commentary. The full title, “Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d, or the Artificial Changeling. Historically presented, in the mad and cruel Gallantry, foolish Bravery, ridiculous Beauty, filthy Fineness, and loathesome Loveliness of most Nations, fashioning & altering their Bodies from the Mould intended by Nature. With a Vindication of the Regular Beauty and Honesty of Nature, and an Appendix of the Pedigree of the English Gallant,” reflected Bulwer’s views condemning practices that disfigured the human body and his intent to guide the reader towards keeping the normal body created by God.

The frontispiece to the 1653 edition shows a European woman, a hair-covered man and a South American Indian with full body paint standing side by side. They are being judged by Nature, Adam and Eve and a body of disapproving magistrates (including the ghost of Galen) for transforming their bodies, while the devil flies above them laughing and saying, “In the image of God created he them! But I have new-molded them to my likeness.”

The abundant woodcut illustrations in the book show all the manners known to Bulwer of decorating or transforming the human body, whether ancient or modern, New World or Old.   The main body of the text consists of 23 sections, of which 15 are concerned with deformations or modifications to the head or face. These included artificially produced square heads, long heads, round heads, dog heads, high foreheads, broad foreheads, large noses, shovel noses, and noses lacking or with slit nostrils. He describes the use of lip rings and lip spikes and other lip fashions; hair, eyelash, and beard customs; cultures favoring long necks or no necks; tattooed faces and painted faces and bodies; and customs dealing with the “privy parts.” He also described naturally occurring abnormalities such as two headed people, dwarfs, giants, etc.


The appendix, entitled “The pedigree of the English gallant,” looks closely at how fashions in England have been influenced by practices in remote parts of the world. Bulwer uses the universal nature of body modification to demonstrate similar behaviors of humans everywhere. Bulwer may view some practices of remote tribes as laughable or barbaric, but no more laughable or barbaric than those of the “civilised” world.


Pedigree of the English Gallant

Pedigree of the English Gallant


Work with the Deaf

Bulwer is best known today for his work in educating the deaf and his advocacy for an educational institution he called “The Dumbe mans academie.” He was the first person in Britain to discuss the possibility of educating deaf people. In his book Philocophus: or, the deafe and dumbe mans friend he collects information about deaf people living in Britain at that time. Through observations that some deaf people can “hear” the vibrations produced by musical instruments by bone conduction through the teeth, Bulwer came to believe that the body had a commonwealth of senses, for instance the eye could be used to perceive speech by lip-reading. He advocated setting up an academy to teach the deaf to speak and to educate them. Chirologia: or the naturall language of the hand focuses on hand gestures used in speaking. It is a compendium of manual gestures, citing their meaning and use, and the hand shapes described in Chirologia are still used in British Sign Language.


Hand gestures from Chirologia

Hand gestures from Chirologia (U.S. Public Domain)


Chironomia: or, the art of manuall rhetoricke, was published in the same volume but with different pagination and is a manual for the effective use of gesture in public speaking. Pathomyotomia, or a Dissection of the significant Muscles of the Affections of the Mind was the first substantial English language work on the muscular basis of emotional expressions.

After the publication of Anthropometamorphosis, his last book, Bulwer returned to his practice as a physician. The book is available in the Nixon Library for those wishing to study it in more detail.

~Anne Comeaux

John Bulwer,” Wikipedia.
John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis.” Posted by Oklahoma University’s History of Science Collections, June 16, 2010.
John Bulwer, Gesture and Education of the Deaf.” June 27, 2010 post in blog Res Obscura: a catalog of obscure things.
For they are very expert and skillful in Diabolical Conjurations: Lionel Wafer in Central America, 1681.” April 20, 2011 post in blog Res Obscura: a catalog of obscure things.

All illustrations were directly digitized from the book except where otherwise noted.

For more information on the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at or 210-567-2406.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg – Inventor of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes

John Harvey Kellogg

John Harvey Kellogg

When eating your breakfast cereal of corn flakes or granola, have you ever wondered who came up with the idea of manufacturing these foods? It might surprise you to know that they were invented by a 19th century physician and surgeon who was devoted to healthy living and the use of natural remedies.

John Harvey Kellogg grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan, the son of a family of small shopkeepers and devoted Seventh-Day Adventists. As a youth, he worked with James White, the principle founder of the church, to publish the Health Reformer, a monthly publication for Adventists. Many of the articles in the publication were on health and hygiene and advocated temperance, vegetarianism, and the use of natural remedies. In 1872 the Church sent him to study at the Hygieo-Therapeutic College in New Jersey. After 5 months, Kellogg enrolled at the University of Michigan Medical School and then at Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City. He received an MD in 1875 and later studied surgery in London and Vienna, qualified as a surgeon, and performed 22,000 operations during his career, which lasted until he was 88.

Kellogg became editor of Health Reformer in 1874, changing its name to Good Health in 1879, and serving as editor of the journal until his death in 1943. He also published 50 books on various aspects of healthy living and advocating vegetarianism; regular exercise; plenty of fresh air and sunshine; drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day; and abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee.


Battle Creek Sanitarium

In 1876 Dr. Kellogg became the superintendent of Western Health Reform Institute, a small  medical institution of 20 patients run by the Adventists. By 1900, it had been renamed the Battle Creek Sanitarium, and was a health spa that promoted a vegetarian diet and forbid its guests from drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes. By 1920 it had expanded to 1200 patients, some of them prominent industrialists and politicians. Kellogg invented a range of exercise equipment for his patients and sought to improve the patients’ diet. He developed and patented a variety of new foods including Granola and Corn Flakes, peanut butter, soy milk, and imitation meats.


Postcard showing breathing exercises at Battle Creek Sanitarium, circa 1900.

Postcard showing breathing exercises at Battle Creek Sanitarium, circa 1900.



While a medical student in New York City in 1874-75, Kellogg became convinced there existed a widespread need for ready-cooked foods, at least ready-to-eat cereals. At the Sanitarium, he applied this idea in the production of Granola, which consisted of a mixture of oatmeal, corn meal and wheat meal made into cakes with water and exposed to a temperature sufficient to dextrinize the starch to make it more readily digestible. The product was ground to give it a granular form convenient to eat with milk, cream, or fruit juices. This product became the forerunner of several other similar products similarly dextrinizining the starch content of cereals. This was considered important as certain forms of indigestion were relieved by the use of dextrinized foods, although the reason then was not wholly clear. After trying granola at the sanitarium, many guests wanted to eat the cereal at home, so Kellogg established the Sanitas Food Company to make and sell the product. Dr. Kellogg had help running Sanitas from his younger brother Will Keith (W. K.) Kellogg.


Corn Flakes

Dr. Kellogg also became convinced that indigestion and decay of the teeth were encouraged to a marked degree by failure to use the teeth sufficiently in the thorough mastication of food. Accordingly, he made it a practice to require his patients to begin each meal by chewing slowly a small slice of dry zwieback. One day a patient came into the office complaining the zwieback had broken her teeth, making it apparent that zwieback as a dry food was impractical in several classes of patients – those with artificial teeth, with sore teeth or diseased gums, or without teeth. They needed something they could chew without running the risk of injury to their teeth or other inconvenience. Kellogg experimented with producing toasted or dextrinized cereals in a form which, while dry and crisp, could be properly offered to such persons without the addition of milk or cream, which would destroy the value of the dry food’s capability to stimulate an abundant flow of saliva. After some months, he developed the process for making toasted cereal flakes, which became widely used in the manufacture of toasted corn flakes, toasted rice flakes, wheat flakes, etc. Wheat flakes were produced first, quickly followed by toasted rice flakes and other cereal flakes.

Kellogg's Corn Flakes Advertisement 1910.

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes advertisement 1910.


Creation of W. K. Kellogg Company

By 1905, the Sanitas company was also selling corn flakes, producing 150 cases a day. Sanitas had more than forty competitors by then, as other cereal companies sprang up in Battle Creek.   One of Dr. Kellogg’s patients at the Sanitarium was C. W. Post, who later started his own cereal company. Kellogg claimed that Post stole his formula for the corn flakes.   Kellogg’s brother wanted to expand the business even more, but Dr. Kellogg disagreed and also disagreed about adding sugar to the cereals. They ended up starting two different companies when Will left the Sanitarium and started the W. K. Kellogg Company in 1906. With a commitment to advertise heavily, Kellogg first sold his flakes under the Sanitas name. On the box was the slogan “The original bears this signature,” followed by “W. K. Kellogg” in Kellogg’s handwriting. Within a year, Kellogg’s name replaced Sanitas on the box, and sales were climbing.   Kellogg’s success caught his brother’s attention. In 1908, Dr. Kellogg changed the name of his own food company to the Kellogg Food Company and began selling corn flakes overseas in packages similar to those his brother used. Business dealing between the two brothers, based on W. K. Kellogg’s ties to Sanitas, also strained their relationship. In 1910, Kellogg sued his older brother; the court case dragged on for years. In the end, Kellogg won his suit, although he and Dr. Kellogg rarely spoke again for the rest of their lives. Some of the profits of the W. K. Kellogg company flowed into the Race Betterment Foundation, created in 1914 to publicize and promote eugenics, then later into the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Books in the Nixon Library

The P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library owns several books by John Harvey Kellogg. Plain Facts for Old and Young, published in 1879, called attention to the great prevalence of sexual excesses of all kinds, the heinous crimes resulting from some forms of sexual transgression, and the terrible results following the violation of sexual law and had chapters specifically for boys and for girls. It reflected his advocation of sexual abstinence and his severe views on masturbation. Rational Hydrotherapy, published in 1900, described the history of the use of hydrotherapy and a resume of the physical, anatomical, and physiological facts related to its use. It also illustrated and described 200 different hydrothermic procedures and provided a summary of diseases benefited by their application. Light Therapeutics provided a practical manual in the use of the electric light bath in the treatment of disease. The New Dietetics: What to Eat and How, published in 1921, was written to present the known facts at the time relating to human nutrition for the service of “the physician, the trained nurse, the intelligent housewife, and to every student of nutrition, as well as to the professional dietitian.”

Come to the Nixon Library to read Dr. Kellogg’s books to find out more about his theories on nutrition and natural remedies.



“Harvey Kellogg, MD – Health Reformer and Antismoking Crusader,” Am. J. Public Health: 92(6): 935, June 2002.

“Kellogg Company,” Encyclopedia of Business, 2nd ed., Reference for Business. Accessed 5/19/2014.

“W. K. Kellogg,” Reference for Business – Encyclopedia of Business, 2nd ed. Accessed 5/19/2014.

“Breakfast Cereals,” in Cereals section. John Harvey Kellogg. The New Dietetics: What to Eat and How. Battle Creek, Michigan, The Modern Medicine Publishing Co., 1921, pp. 256-258

“John Harvey Kellogg,” Wikipedia, , accessed 5/19/2014.


All the photographs in this post are in the public domain and were retrieved from Wikipedia Commons.

A Landmark in Anatomical Illustration: Paolo Mascagni and the Lymphatic System

Portrait of Paolo Mascagni.  Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine, History of Medicine Division.  This portrait is in the public domain in the U.S., PD-US.

 Housed in the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library’s Special Collections is Paolo Mascagni’s 1787 Vasorum lymphaticorum corporis humani historia et ichnographia. Recognized as a landmark in anatomical illustration, this large folio edition contains 41 brilliantly executed copperplates, faithfully representing the details of the lymphatic system.  Even with the benefit of modern technology, researchers find it difficult to attain the perfection of his work.  As a professor of anatomy at the University of Siena, Paolo Mascagni (1755-1815) devoted himself to the advancement of anatomical knowledge.  In 1771, when he became prosector, a person who dissects cadavers for the illustration of anatomical lectures, he concentrated his investigative efforts on the lymphatic system.

Vasorum Lymphaticorum


Mascagni’s Research

Why is his work considered perfect and so hard to duplicate? Because of the level of accuracy and detail Mascagni was able to attain in replicating the intricacy and complexity of the lymphatic system of the human body.  Using mercury as a contrast medium, Mascagni developed new research methods leading to highly accurate dissection results.  He did this using a tubular needle bent at a right angle at one end and tapered to an extremely fine point.  Mercury was then injected into the body’s peripheral lymphatic networks and flowed through whatever part of the lymphatic system that was under study.  Following the mercury injection with careful dissection, Mascagni obtained magnificent preparations of those networks.

Vasorum Lymphaticorum2


The Significance of Mascagni’s Work

Vasorum Lymphaticorum was ground-breaking and opened the way for continued progress in our understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the human body.  He did not limit himself to studying the anatomy of the lymphatic system alone but also studied its physiology and pathology, and emphasized the vital role it plays in maintaining the body’s well-being.  He sought to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the lymphatic networks and advance anatomical knowledge.  And he accomplished just that.  Using his method of research, Mascagni observed, named, and described nearly all the lymph glands and vessels of the human body.  Demonstrating that arterial and venous lymphatics did not exist, this work challenged accepted views of Mascagni’s contemporaries. Mascagni disproved the theory that the lymphatics originated from the terminal arteries and continued in the veins through various, very fine tubules.  Rather, Mascagni concluded that the lymphatic system originates from all the internal and external cavities and surfaces of the body, and is directly related to the function of absorption. Through his research, he also discovered and described lymphatic vessels in regions of the body where they had not previously been known to exist.

Mascagni also refuted the belief that there was an anastomosis, or connection, between the lymphatics and the veins.  Except at the point where the thoracic duct and the thoracic vein merge into the venous system, there is no connection between the two systems. However, his research demonstrated that there is a link between the lymph and serous vessels. He determined that all the lymphatics pass through one or more lymph nodes during their course and provided excellent illustrations to document this fact by means of colored injections.

~Trinaé Weldy, Special Collections Intern

For more information on the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at or 210-567-2406.


References and Additional Information:

Eimas, Richard. “The Great Anatomy of Paolo Mascagni.” The University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Iowa Libraries, Apr 1983. Web. 17 Mar 2014. <>.

“Paolo Mascagni.” Anatomia Universa. The University of Iowa Libraries, 1996-2006. Web. 17 Mar 2014. <>.