Sunday, January 1, 2017

The History of Medicine @ Karpeles

View from room 700 of St. Luke's across the street.
Happy New Year! As we turn the page on our calendars it's apparent that many things still remain the same, but there is a lot new as well. Don't forget to pause before dating your next check. See if you can start the year write with a 17. (Whenever I see a 17 I can't help but think of artist/philospher Margarida Sardinha's work pertaining to the Alhambra and Symmetry's Portal.)

Yesterday I shared some of the changes coming to the Duluth arts district and the new events coming to the Duluth Art Institute. Today, I thought I'd share a little about the new exhibit that's been installed here at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Duluth. For those who have never been, the KMLM is an overlooked treasure here. The common refrain I get from the locals is, "I've always wondered what was in there." 

What's in there now is a collection of documents related to the history of medicine. It might be interesting to briefly highlight a few of the key medical stories of 2016 to add context to this account.

Sir Frederick Trevers' handwritten letter is on display.
At one time we humans didn't even know what a pancreas was or what it did but in 2016 Medtronics, a Minnesota-based leader in the medical field, introduced the world's first artificial pancreas for Type 1 diabetes. Diabetes is a major problem in America today affecting 1.25 million people. Other breakthroughs this year included artificial retinas, artificial prosthetics, anti-aging drugs, tooth regeneration, lightbulbs that disinfect and kill bacteria, electronic underwear that helps prevent bedsores, and much more.


19th century crusader for humane treatment in asylums for the insane.
If you have never been to Karpeles, what you will find are podium-sized cases with original documents inside. When I visited this past week the lighting had not been adjusted yet, so I was not able to get good images of many of these rare documents. Each one is described in a placard that sits atop the glass. 

How interesting that a History of Medicine exhibit would be right across the street from a hospital that incorporates many of the breakthrough technologies of the recent past. Here's some of what you will see if you stop in. I think someone should spread the word at both hospitals to take at least one lunch hour here to see all this history. 

Document from an 18th century crusader against Yellow Fever.
A document with Ben Franklin's signature, on hospitals. 
Ben Franklin's signature top center.
A page from Robert Koch's paper on infectious diseases.
Photo of and document from the famed Dr. Albert Schweitzer.
William Harvey's discovery of the circulation of blood in early 17th century.
A doctor's written prescription for whiskey, during Prohibition.
Documents pertaining to diptheria, cholera, vitamins, the first heart transplant, ether and more. 

It's all fascinating, adding to our appreciation of what science has achieved and how long it has taken to really understand what we're made of. 

If you get the chance, do drop in. It's free.

Meantime, make the most of 2017. And if it sometimes feels like many of today's breakthroughs in technology seem like science fiction, well... that's because it is!

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