Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Gift of Books

What does a world-famous neurosurgeon get a prominent epidemiologist for the holidays? Well, if the year is 1915 and you are Dr. Harvey Cushing [1869-1939], then the gift of choice for Dr. Milton Rosenau [1869-1946] is a copy of the two-volume work, The Life of Edward Jenner, M.D. . . . with Illustrations of His Doctrines, and Selections from His Correspondence, by John Baron, M.D., F.R.S. Published in 1838, Cushing's presentation copy to Rosenau is among the holdings of Special Collections at the Health Sciences Library.

Pasted in on the bottom portion of the inside front cover of volume one is the following handwritten note on Cushing's letterhead from The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston:

Dear Rosenau,

You and Jenner and John Baron will find each other congenial company
I trust. I present them to you with my sincere Christmas Greetings.


Harvey Cushing

Dec. 25, 1915

The gift is a fitting one as Dr. Jenner [1749-1823] was of course a pioneer of the smallpox vaccine (see An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the variolae vaccinae . . . (1798); the print volume is housed in Special Collections), and his life story would have been both familiar and of great interest to Rosenau, who himself was the author of the first comprehensive public health text, Preventive Medicine and Hygiene (1913), and was the first head of Harvard's Department of Preventative Medicine and Epidemiology. Upon retiring in 1935, Rosenau came to the University of North Carolina, and served as Director of the Division of Public Health (1936-1939) and then as Dean of the newly created School of Public Health (for more information on the School's history, visit HSL's online exhibition).

Dr. Cushing's achievements as a surgeon and educator were many, and include the development of a variety of surgical techniques for the brain. He discovered the endocrinological basis for what is known as Cushing's Disease, and introduced the sphygmomanometer to North America, which greatly promoted the measurement of blood pressure as a vital sign. He was also a biographer in his own right, and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1926 for The Life of Sir William Osler.

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