These unusual and downright odd images are from the US National Library of Medicine’s collection of more than 17 million items. Lowlights included an X-Ray of Adolf Hitler’s head, graphic illustrations of early-20th-century surgical techniques, images from a Russian book of clinical dermatology from 1887. We’ve featured medical images before on the site and many are available to buy in the shop. These are fine additions to the collection, which features such delights as these illustrations of surgical procedures (not for the squeamish), vivid and nightmarish tales from the US Civil War, and aliens giving birth.
In the 1940s and ’50s, the Helene Fuld Health Foundation, dedicated to the “relief of poverty, suffering, sickness and distress,” focused many of its activities on nursing and produced this set of glossy photographs of nurse uniforms, each representing a nation or region, from Afghanistan to Zanzibar.
Colored plates demonstrated “the effects of alcohol and narcotics on the human stomach,” deformations of the female rib cage caused by corsetry, and “microscopical sections representing pathological changes occurring in several maladies,” including venereal diseases. The manikin—obviously masculine, but an effigy of the universal human—also contained both male and female organs of “generation.”
Al-Qazwini’s narrative of exotic places, peoples, and creatures—monkey men, mermaids, animal-headed demons, and dragons—drew on a tradition stretching back to antiquity. The neckless humans (above, fol. 59a) would have been familiar to Herodotus (fifth century BCE).
Top, L-R: Eczema erythematosum facei: a chronic rash of the face commonly seen in adults. “The excoriations caused by scratching and rubbing alter its appearance.” Cicatrices palate mollis post ulcerationes syphiliticas: “a circumscribed or diffused gummatous infiltration of the soft palate” that occurs in the tertiary stage of syphilis.
Middle, L-R: Trichophytosis unguium: In most instances, ringworm of the nails affects only three or four fingers. “Untreated, the malady persists for years, with no tendency to spontaneous recovery.” Naevus pigmentosus: pigmentary moles may be “present at birth and undergo various development later…. growths smaller than a pea are best removed by electrolysis”; larger growths should be destroyed by an “application of solid carbon dioxid.”
Bottom L-R: Zoster: also known as “shingles,” Herpes zoster is “an acute, self limited, probably specific, infectious disease of the nervous system,” marked by lesions, “slight fever and neuralgic pains.” Sarcomatosis cutis: “Malignant connective tissue tumors . . . may have their origin in any organ of the body,” including the skin. “Nodes develop in various regions but rarely reach any considerable size because death soon ensues.”
Pavlov’s influential work on acquired conditioned reflex suggested that the eye and brain could be retrained with repetitive exercises, particularly in young children. In 1927 Carl Hubert Sattler (1880–1953?), a Königsberg physician, produced an inexpensive set of stereo- scope cards for the diagnosis and treatment of juvenile strabismus at home, subsequently widely translated and reprinted. This edition was published in 1942. The cards come in pairs that, viewed through a stereoscope, make a composite picture. An umbrella handle is bereft of its canopy. The strabismatic child will see only the handle or the canopy. Asking her what she sees will indicate which eye is fixing on an image and which is suppressed. Bringing the images together—seeing the umbrella whole—is the therapy. According to Sattler, other stereoscope cards, featuring abstract shapes, were hard for children to relate to or describe. Thus the sad moon, the chick following the rooster, etc., were designed to make these exercises fun—though generations of children struggling to put the broom in the snowman’s hand might testify differently. An accompanying booklet told parents and physicians what to ask with each pair, often beginning with the phrase “What do you see?”
Images via National Library of Medicine. Text from the book Hidden Treasure: The National Library of Medicine, edited by Michael Sappol.
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