The Mütter Herbarium: Part 3 – Make your own herbarium!

Greetings, once again, loyal readers. Today guest writer Ella Serpell completes her three-part series on herbaria. If you’d like to catch up on the rest of the series, click here for part one and here for part two. These articles coincide with the anniversary of the death of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus.

If you have read Part 1 and 2 of this post series inspired by the Mütter Herbarium, you may want to try your hand at making your own herbarium sheet. With winter upon us, there may not be bright spring and summer flowers to collect, but maybe it can help you appreciate the plant life that remains during this time. Seek out an evergreen fern, a winter flowering witch-hazel, or some other plant that takes your fancy and see if you can preserve it!

Pressed plant leaves on a sheet of lined looseleaf paper.
Unfurling plants that have just been pressed

Here is a very brief set of instructions on how to properly collect, dry, prepare, and label plants. These are followed by several links or directions to more in depth resources you can reference.

  • Before you pick the plant, make sure it is okay to pick! Don’t take anything from national parks, protected areas, or private property without permission. 
  • Also, before picking it, take notes about the plant that won’t be evident in the final specimen. This can include just the date and location it was picked, but it can also include the scientific name and other descriptions such as the size of the whole plant, the substrate it is growing in, the smell, the original color, and much, much more. 
  • Pick your plant! For a scientific herbarium, you would want to have as many plant parts as possible, collecting flowers, leaves, stems, and maybe even roots of small herbaceous plants. 
  • Once you pick the specimen, you can put it directly into a notebook you have brought with you, or you can keep it in a bag until you have finished your collecting trip.
  • Then, you can place the specimen in between two sheets of paper. You can use newspaper, blotting paper, or even old notebook paper. Depending on how wet, thick, or fleshy the specimen is, you may want to have several sheets of paper and may even want to use cardboard. After you have laid the specimen(s) between papers, you have to press them. If you have a plant press you can use this, or simply place them underneath a pile of books or other heavy objects in a warm dry place. Try to keep your pile balanced enough to create even pressure.  
  • Then you have to wait! Small thin specimens may only take 24 hours but some can take up to 3 weeks. Feel free to carefully check on your sheets periodically. You can replace the paper to try to draw away more moisture if your specimen is taking a long time.  
  • When your specimen is finished, you can use a small amount of glue, tape, or even a needle and thread to attach them to a final mounting sheet. Then, you should copy any information that you wrote down at their initial collection so that all the information can be stored together. Make sure to include at least the date of collection, the place it was picked, and the species name if you know it. 
Two pressed leaves and a pressed flower on a white sheet of paper. Text on the paper reads, "top of leaf" (next to one of the leaves, "underside of leaf" (next to the other), and "April 25, 2020, West Philadelphia a weed on the sidewalk possible a violet."
Pressed plant herbarium submitted to Elaine Ayers’ Quarantine Herbarium

Further resources for Herbarium preparation: 

Ayers, Elaine. “Quarantine Herbarium: A Record of Nature from Home, Produced during COVID-19,” March 2020. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YrrIHRJ3YfGOKtOjnf8N12MLDhLGlt8vMgpHHXyOFWM/edit.

“Pressing and Collecting Samples.” How to press plants and make herbarium collections RHS Gardening. The Royal Horticultural Society . Accessed December 3, 2020. https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/conservation-biodiversity/conserving-garden-plants/rhs-herbarium/pressing-and-collecting-samples. 

“Making Good Specimens.” Herbarium. Utah State University. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://herbarium.usu.edu/resources/learning_about_plants/making_specimens. 

 Tucker, Arthur O.; Calabrese, Lou, Williams, Francis R.  The Use and Methods of Making a Herbarium/Plant Specimens An Herb Society of America Guide. The Herb Society of America, 2005. Bridson, Diane, and Leonard Forman. The Herbarium Handbook. Third Editioned. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens, 2013.

Thanks, Ella, for an informative series of articles. Be sure to check back for updates on the Mütter Herbarium project as well as more articles from The Center for Education of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

The Mütter Herbarium: Part 2 – A History of Herbaria

Hello, loyal readers, and welcome to part two of our three-part article series on the Mütter Herbarium, a new project for the Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden. If you missed part one, wherein guest writer Ella Serpell explained the history of herbaria, you can read it here. These articles coincide with the anniversary of the death of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus.

As discussed in Part 1 of this series on herbaria, the Mütter Museum plans to start the Mütter Herbarium preserving the plants in the Benjamin Rush Medicinal Garden and recording them on herbarium sheets. While Part 1 reflected on what is included in many herbaria and what will be included in ours, Part 2 will focus on summarizing some of the historical origins and uses for herbaria, as well as their future. 

People have tried to dry or preserve flowers and plant materials for much of history. However, the start of herbarium-like pressing of flowers for scientific study seems to have started in the 16th century. Luca Ghini (1490-1556), an Italian botany professor is credited as being the first person to preserve plants by drying them under pressure. This practice became common among European scientists studying plants. In the 18th century Carl Linneaus (1707-1778) was a practitioner of this method and collected pressed specimens in this way. Frustrated with cataloging and organizing these specimens, he set out to standardize the practice. He standardized the system of mounting each specimen on one large, uniformly-sized paper and by storing them in cabinets that could hold additional materials. Many of the standards he set for storing these sheets are still used by most modern herbaria today. However he did not stop there. He also wanted a standard system for organizing the specimens in the cabinets, and this is what inspired him to create the “Linnaean system” of naming that earned him the title “the Father of Modern Taxonomy”.

Knowing the role herbarium sheets played in the creation of this system, it is interesting to reflect on what attributes were used in early taxonomy to distinguish and categorize species. Many taxonomic classifications are based mostly on morphological attributes, like the number of petals on a flower or the shape of a fish’s fin, especially in historical times. These are the types of attributes that would be preserved well in plants on a herbarium sheet. 

Herbarium sheet from Musée national d'histoire naturelle Luxembourg.
Herbarium sheet from Musée national d’histoire naturelle Luxembourg. (Image Source: Musée national d’histoire naturelle Luxembourg, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0, no changes made)

Also in the 16th century, roughly the same time Luca Ghini was preserving plant matter for the study of botany, the Japanese art of oshibana, arranging dried pressed flowers into art, was being developed. When European trade with Japan expanded, many people in Victorian England were already interested in flowers for artistic decoration and turning pressed flowers into artistic pieces became very popular. This artistic interest in pressing flowers may have helped to fuel the popularity of amateur plant collecting in botany as well as advances in the technique and technology used for plant pressing.  

Plant leaves arranged to form the shape of a cat in a forest.
Example of Oshibana Art made with dried plant parts (Image Source: 鄧盈玉 [DENG Yingyu], Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, no changes made)

For both casual flower pressings for beauty and academic herbarium specimens, part of the appeal was their ease of transport. Sending a friend or a fellow academic a pressed plant helped establish and maintain social networks. Distinctions between a casual pressing and scientific collection became increasingly important to botanists working with plants academically. This process of distinguishing “amateur” botanists from professional academic botanists was often used to exclude and minimize the contributions of certain participants in botany, such as Victorian women, who were some of the most avid collectors. Despite this, botany remained one of the most accessible fields for “amateurs,” especially if they lived in an unusual location. By including these ‘amateur’ individuals into the social network of botanists, botanists living in Europe could get sent specimens from all over the world. However, they rarely received much credit for any discoveries made using their specimens. 

In a similar way, many botanists and scientists living in Philadelphia maintained relationships with respected scientists in Europe. At the time of the founding of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, medicinal plants were an integral part of the medical profession, much more than in modern medicine, and many of the early physicians who were Fellows at The College were also trained in botany and were part of these international networks. It is worth remembering that in 1787, the year the college was founded, the founders were residents of a country that had been independent for only 4 years. So many of these relationships had begun within the framework of an English colony and English botanists exchanging information about two parts of one Empire. Because of the English desire to understand the flora of their colonies, there was increased interest in receiving novel American plant specimens. In exchange, American botanists received European plant specimens, and/or the latest news and theories being discussed in European Universities.  

Though herbaria were particularly important during the colonial era, it is important to remember that they are not only historical artifacts or obsolete tools. Herbaria are still kept by many universities and institutions for botanical research. They can still be used in a similar way as they were historically, but the digital age has allowed for some larger scale examinations which would never have been possible in colonial times. Instead of looking at one sheet and specimen at a time, or several sheets at one herbarium, scientists can look at thousands of accessible digitized collections from around the country and the world, all from their offices. This can allow them to study population level information, such as analyzing geographical distribution of species using the collection locations of many sheets or comparative flowering times by using the date of collection of specimens that were flowering at the time. Some projects have even used crowdsourcing and citizen science initiatives to help scientists analyze large numbers of sheets. This can allow for robust population level statistical analysis that would be difficult for one person to achieve. In addition, there is modern research that can be done on the DNA or other elements of the chemical composition of the plant material contained in the herbarium sheet. Techniques like this keep herbaria a relevant part of modern botanical research today. 

Now that you know a little more about the history and modern usage, You might want to try your hand at making your own herbarium sheet. Next week we will post Part 3 of this series, a quick summary of the steps to do it yourself, as well as links to more herbarium resources. 

Sources: 

Ayers, Elaine. “Quarantine Herbarium: A Record of Nature from Home, Produced during COVID-19,” March 2020. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YrrIHRJ3YfGOKtOjnf8N12MLDhLGlt8vMgpHHXyOFWM/edit.

Ayers, Elaine. “Marking Time in Nature: The Quarantine Herbarium in Historical Perspective,” Online presentation for the Wagner Free Institute, July 8th 2020. 

Bleichmar, Daniela. Visible empire: Botanical expeditions and visual culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment. University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Endersby, Jim. Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 2010. 

Harshberger, John. The Botanists of Philadelphia and Their Work. Philadelphia: TC Davis and sons, 1899.

Sbrosious. “Pressed Flowers: History and Tutorial.” Pressed Flowers History and Tutorial. Western Reserve Historical Society, April 22, 2020. https://www.wrhs.org/blog/pressed-flowers-history-and-tutorial/. 

Spellman, Katie V., and Christa P. H. Mulder. “Validating Herbarium-Based Phenology Models Using Citizen-Science Data.” BioScience66, no. 10 (2016): 897–906. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biw116. 

Verlinde, Sarah. “History and Modern Uses of a Herbarium.” UW Bothell Herbarium, October 2016. https://www.uwb.edu/getattachment/wetlands/herbarium/herbarium-history-and-modern-uses/History-of-Herbaria-Infosheet.pdf. 

The Mütter Herbarium: Part 1 – What’s an Herbarium?

Hello all and happy new year! With the demise of 2020 we at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia are looking forward to a year chock full of promise. With that in mind, guest writer and Mütter intern Ella Serpell has prepared a series of three articles on a new project for the Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden. These articles coincide with the anniversary of the death of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, whom you will learn more about in Ella’s articles.

Ella, take it away!

A blonde-haired White woman with a purple facemark stands next to a large leaf
Ella at Longwood Gardens

My name is Ella and I am an intern at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia working with the Benjamin Rush Medicinal Garden. One of the projects that I am doing research for is the creation of a Mütter Herbarium, a new initiative that we are planning to officially begin in the Spring of 2021. 

An herbarium is a collection of herbarium sheets, pieces of paper that contain one dried plant specimen and information about the species. By drying and pressing the plant flat, the specimen is preserved and becomes easier to store and transport. This is helpful in studying plants because it can increase access to plant material from many more eras and locations than could normally coexist. To create the Mütter Herbarium, we will collect specimens of each of the plants in the garden when they flower, drying them to create a historical record and a collection that will be available year-round and illustrate every plant in flower no matter the season. 

A dried goldenrod plant on top of a lined sheet of paper. In the top left corner is written, "Goldenrod picked 9/11/20"
A dried goldenrod collected from the Benjamin Rush Medicinal Garden this past summer as we experimented with drying methods.

This project was initially inspired by the work of Dr. Elaine Ayers at NYU who started a “Quarantine Herbarium” in March during the initial phase of the Covid-19 lockdown. She asked people to preserve local plants and send in photos that could be collected into a somewhat atypical digital herbarium. She later gave a digital lecture with the Wagner Free Institute of Science titled “Marking Time in Nature: The Quarantine Herbarium in Historical Perspective” where she discussed the history of herbariums, who and what information is included and excluded, and talked about the future of herbarium collections. After this lecture, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia decided to create a Mütter Herbarium as a new way to aesthetically admire the garden, a tool for scientific exploration and sharing of the plants in the garden, and also as a tool for thinking about herbariums and botany from a historical perspective. This blog post serves as Part 1 of a series on herbaria and reflects on what information a herbarium can hold and what decisions have the power to determine this. 

What information does a herbarium sheet hold? 

When botanists use herbarium sheets for research, what information are they actually able to get from them? The herbarium sheet tries to mimic the kind of information one could get from looking directly at a living plant, such as the shape and number of leaves and flowers, and other morphological characteristics. Additionally, unlike a scientific illustration, which aims to accurately represent the taxonomically important parts of the plant, herbarium sheets contain actual plant material. This means that there is often more information stored than the original collector might have noted or cared about, such as microscopic details. This leaves room for future scientists to make observations directly from plant material of that time. The most extreme example of this may be in research that has been able to extract and analyze DNA from old herbarium samples that were collected before the collector would have known the structure or relevance of this molecule. 

Professional herbarium sheet of a fern branch
Example of a professional herbarium sheet from Museé National D’Histoire Naturelle Luxembourg

However, even with a preserved sample and all the information that is built into that specimen, there is a lot of information about the plant that is lost when it is removed from its natural environment, dried, and placed on a blank sheet of paper. It can remove physical information, including the growth pattern that the plant has on the ground, the soil and condition in which it was growing, other species that were growing around it or living on it, or any volatile chemicals that may dissipate after drying. It may also somewhat change the physical representation from the original. The color might fade, the texture change, or the chemical compounds degrade. Isolating the specimen on a sheet also removes cultural and historical information about the plant. Where is it from and who lives around it? How is it named or classified by those indigenous to the area? Does anyone use it for food, medicine, tools, religious practices, or anything else? Who found it? Who carried it back to be transported to its final destination? 

Much of this information, though not included in the biological specimen, does eventually get recorded on the herbarium sheet in the written notes taken by the collector and attached to the specimen. Standard descriptions will always include the scientific name, the date and location of the collection, the collector, and some additional descriptions of the plant or the environment. This can be as simple or as detailed as the collector wants. Some collectors will have a color chart that allows them to record the exact color of different plant parts at the time of collection. They may describe the environment, the smell, the texture, and anything else they find of interest. Some collectors might also include any common or indigenous names that may help future scientists ask about the plant. 

Photograph of plants growing out of a mossy, stone wall.
A photo of plants in situ taken by Kokul Jose. What information would you think to record? (Image Source: Kokul Jose, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, no changes made)

However, all this written information, not to mention the plant parts collected and how they are arranged, is at the discretion of the collector. This means that they may not anticipate information being important in the future and never think to note it. It also means that certain people and contexts can be removed from the history of these plants. Who is noted as the collector? Is it the botanist running an expedition or the person who climbed down a ravine to acquire it? Historically, it would often be the former. In general, this separation of the specimen and “scientifically relevant” information from other information about the plant could skew the perspective of those studying the sheet. For example, it might allow colonial botanists to study the plants of an empire without ever facing the realities of colonialism that surrounded them. It also gave European scientists a sheet that they could organize into their own system, with a new Latin name, without considering if the plant already existed in the classification systems or scientific knowledge of other cultures. Is the first person to name a species in the Linnaean system of classification really the first person to “discover” a species? It is especially interesting to ask this when the scientist who would define and name it often based this from the study of a herbarium sheet and may have never seen the live plant in situ

Reflecting on the ramifications of which information typically was included in these herbarium sheets, we have started considering what information we will be including in ours. We hope that because of our increased flexibility, the Mütter Herbarium can serve as an opportunity to experiment and explore new possibilities for what a herbarium can be.

With this in mind, what information do you think is important, and what would you like to see recorded in the Mütter Herbarium? 

Thanks, Ella! Be sure to check back for the remaining two installments in this series.

Sources:

Ayers, Elaine. “Quarantine Herbarium: A Record of Nature from Home, Produced during COVID-19,” March 2020. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YrrIHRJ3YfGOKtOjnf8N12MLDhLGlt8vMgpHHXyOFWM/edit.

Ayers, Elaine. “Marking Time in Nature: The Quarantine Herbarium in Historical Perspective,” Online presentation for the Wagner Free Institute, July 8th 2020. 

Bleichmar, Daniela. Visible empire: Botanical expeditions and visual culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment. University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Endersby, Jim. Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 2010. 

Verlinde, Sarah. “History and Modern Uses of a Herbarium.” UW Bothell Herbarium, October 2016. https://www.uwb.edu/getattachment/wetlands/herbarium/herbarium-history-and-modern-uses/History-of-Herbaria-Infosheet.pdf. Harshberger, John. The Botanists of Philadelphia and Their Work. Philadelphia: TC Davis and sons, 1899.

Connecting with Students Through Play: 5 Games We’ve Used in Our Virtual Youth Programming

The pandemic has put a strain on everyone, but it is especially hard on students. One of the key elements of the success of our youth programs has been the strong bonds our students build with each other. As we emphasized a while back in our presentation at the Pedagogy, Popularization, and the Public Understanding of Science conference, empathy and reinforcing social and emotional connections should be key elements of any youth programming during the lockdown. We have found that integrating games into our curriculum is an effective way to strengthen these bonds while teaching our students along the way. It is something we had been doing well before the pandemic, but it has a greater sense of urgency now as we seek out novel ways to connect with our students as they remain socially distant.

During our recent talk, one attendee asked if we could offer some examples of useful games for virtual programs, and this list offers five. All of them have proven fun, engaging, relatively low cost, and (with the exception of one) low effort on your part. We hope they can be handy for your youth programming or inspire you to think of new ways of connecting with your students.

Here are five games we’ve used in our virtual classrooms that can hopefully help you keep your students emotionally together even while they’re physically apart

1. Among Us

The title text for Among Us with seven vaguely humanoid shaped characters, each colored green, black, yellow, red, purple, orange, and blue floating through space.
Image Credit: Steam (Fair Use)

Originally released in 2018 by InnerSlothAmong Us has surged in popularity and playership during the pandemic. Between 4-10 people are a crew on a spaceship. However, 1-2 members of the crew are “imposters” who attempt to sabotage the ship and systematically kill off the rest of the crew. The rest of the players attempt to complete simple tasks on the ship and weed out the imposters by discussion and voting. Meanwhile, the imposters attempt to bluff and distract the other players, hopefully convincing the crew to take out some innocent players along the way. Sessions are quick, frenetic, and rely heavily on communication and cooperation between the players. 

All gameplay is done on a computer or mobile device (more likely they’ll be playing on their phones) with chat done in a conferencing platform such as Zoom. You can also host multiple simultaneous game sessions with breakout rooms.

What has been great about playing Among Us with our students is that it is an activity mostly facilitated by the students themselves. Our students organized the play sessions and even introduced play variations, such as “hide and seek” where crew members hide while the imposters try to find them. Chances are they have been playing a lot more of it than you have so give them the chance to run the sessions (just set up a virtual room for them to play) and play along if you feel comfortable. Among Us is free (with ads) on mobile devices and $5.00 on the digital game marketplace Steam.

2. Werewolf (aka Mafia, aka Secret Hitler, etc., etc.) 

Box cover for Ultimate Werewolf depicting the face of a wolf
Image Source: Amazon (Fair Use)

Among Us is a digital adaptation of an older social deduction game. It goes by many different names: MafiaWerewolfAvalon, and Secret Hitler to name a few. Whatever you call it and whatever you use as the thematic framing device, the game boils down to the same premise: there is an enemy hiding among your group who systematically takes out other members. It is up to the rest of the players to figure out who that enemy is, all the while the enemy tries to keep the other players in the dark while they continue their grim machinations. The game is facilitated by a game master (GM) who walks players through the game’s various phases and crafts a narrative around their decisions. You can find a simple breakdown of the rules and mechanics here.

One advantage these types of games have over Among Us is Werewolf et. Al. is a scalable game that can handle anywhere from 5 to 100 players, so you could run this game with your entire class. 

Werewolf sessions were a popular feature of our programs even before the pandemic. However, they can be easily adapted to a virtual environment. The GM can secretly assign player roles via direct message. Werewolves can confer among each other through private chat and secretly tell the GM their victim. Votes on who will be sacrificed can be done through creating a poll.

This game can also be done at zero cost. While there are commercial versions, the game requires no pieces, just a way of conveying roles to players (prior to the pandemic, we wrote character roles on index cards and passed them around).

3. Jackbox Games

Image Source: Jackbox Games (Fair Use)

This is a series of games created by the independent game company Jackbox Games, the makers of the irreverent 90s trivia game You Don’t Know Jack. One player hosts a game on their computer or game system through Jackbox’s online servers while the others play on their mobile devices (more on how to play Jackbox games remotely here). The games are simple and social oriented and require little to no prior gaming experience to play. Currently there are seven party packs, each containing four games. The packs range in price from $20-$30 although there are frequent sales on Steam. Most games support up to 8 players and more can participate indirectly through an “audience” feature. 

Some popular Jackbox games among our students include:

Quiplash: Players get a prompt and try to create the funniest responses. During each round, players see the prompt and two responses, voting on which one they find the funniest.

Fibbage: Everyone gets a trivia question and has to create an answer that is not correct but is just plausible enough to be true. Players then vote from a list of player and computer generated choices, one of which is the correct answer. Players vote on which one they think is the right answer, earning points if someone votes for their fake answer instead.

Tee K.O.: Players create slogans and simple drawings and combine them to create a t-shirt. Players then vote on their favorites. 

Remember to turn the family settings on or else you may get some more adult themed content than you planned for in a classroom setting. 

4. The Oregon Trail

Image Source: Internet Archive (Fair Use)

Early in the quarantine, we hosted a Let’s Play session where we played through the classic MECC educational game The Oregon Trail. Perhaps the most well-known American educational game, the player creates a party of five settlers who travel along the historic Oregon Trail from Independence, MO, to the Oregon Territory’s Willamette Valley. Along the way, they face challenges and mishaps, including injuries, death, and disease. It was the last one with which were interested in teaching. Every time our hapless pioneers encountered a disease, we talked to the students about it, including transmission, symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

The Oregon Trail lends itself well to a “play by committee” playstyle, as we put it up to the students which decisions we made along the trail, conveying their choices through our group chat. It is also easy to get invested in the game’s story when you name your characters and watch them face terrible misfortunes or triumph against all odds. 

You can stream The Oregon Trail through screen-sharing and the game is easily accessible. It’s available for free, along with hundreds of other classic computer and arcade games, through the Internet Archive.

5. Institutionally-Specific Games

If you are creatively inclined, you can also design your own games for your students. These can be a fun and innovative way to teach educational concepts specific to your organization or introduce your students (and perhaps the public as well) to the resources that make your institution unique. 

Examples of games we have developed in house include:

A scavenger hunt utilizing Memento Mütter, our online exhibit. We designed this by utilizing the quiz feature on Microsoft Forms.

Escape the Mütter, a Mütter Museum themed virtual room escape we designed through Google Forms (for more advice on how to design your own, check out this helpful article).

We hope these give you some ideas of how to connect with your students even while they remain socially distant. Also, if there are other games you have tried that have been fun and effective during your virtual sessions, feel free to share them in the comments.

“Kind of Like a Family:” Sharing Our Educational Model

Recently, staff of the Center for Education of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia had the opportunity to share our educational model with other current or aspiring youth program coordinators. 

Hosted by the fellows of the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry at the Science History Institute, Pedagogy, Popularization, and the Public Understanding of Science explored the interactions between science education and science popularization from the perspective of history and social science. Jacqui Bowman and Kevin Impellizeri, our Director of the Center for Education and Associate Director of After-School and Summer Programs, respectively, delivered a talk titled “’Kind of Like a Family’: A Model for Developing Engaging, Safe Spaces for Youth Science Education.” The presentation introduced attendees to the Center for Education model, which Jacqui developed as the organizing principle of our four summer and after-school youth programs: the College Junior Fellows, the STEM Internship, Out4STEM, and the Girls One Diaspora Club. You can view the full presentation here: (the talk and the Q&A are between 16:14 and 45:30).

Our educational model consists of five key components: cohorts of students who meet regularly over the course of one or several years; an educational safe space through strong group cohesion; multilayered mentorship involving STEM professionals, College staff, and the students themselves; a focus on minimizing or eliminating potential economic obstacles; and a strong relationship with students’ families. 

We also offered advice on delivering effective STEM-based youth programming during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can view the video for all the details, but the short version is exploring novel pedagogical approaches, maintaining empathy as the central driving principle, and fostering an emotional safe space in addition to an educational one. We will also be going into greater detail on ideas for game-based virtual learning in a future post.

If you’d like to know more about our model, feel free to contact us or check out our website.

CPP Curiosities: “Thou Shall Not Suffer a Witch to Live:” Witchcraft and Malleus Maleficarum

Logo for CPP Curiosities

Hello again, fellow historio-medico aficionados, and welcome to the latest installment of CPP Curiosities, our semi-regular series delving into interesting, unusual, or otherwise thought-provoking episodes in medical history. We are in the midst of October and Halloween is just around the corner. While the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered the shape of the season, we at the Center for Education are in the Halloween spirit. We feel, global pandemic or not, there is never a wrong time for a scary story. Past ghoulish entries include medical treatments involving eating human remains, the cryonically frozen head of baseball legend Ted Williams, and graverobbing on top of graverobbing on top of graverobbing.

In the spirit of the season, Amanda McCall is back again to talk about a unique item in The Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia: Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th century guidebook to finding and prosecuting suspected witches.

Take it away, Amanda!

In this season of spooky and haunting things, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to tell you about a very spooky and seasonally appropriate book we at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia have hidden away in our amazing Historical Medical Library. The Malleus Maleficarum, or, as usually translated, The Hammer of the Witches, has been part of the library collection since The College acquired it from a renowned New York bookseller sometime prior to 1922. The Malleus Maleficarum played a pivotal role in how the prosecution of witches and witchcraft hysteria progressed throughout history.

The Malleus Maleficarum was written in 1486 by two German clergymen, Henrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger. Kramer’s place as a churchman and inquisitor put him in a position to notice how the search for, and trial of, witches were conducted, and he seemed to believe the methods could be improved upon. He petitioned Pope Innocent VIII for more power and authority in the hunting and prosecution of those accused of witchcraft. In response, in 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued a Papal Bull (a decree issued by the Pope) that acknowledged witchcraft as a real and a serious threat and granted Kramer and Sprenger the extended power Kramer had requested. Approximately a year later, Heinrich Kramer was expelled from the town of Innsbruck where he was overseeing the trial of several accused witches after a local bishop accused him of taking an inappropriate interest in one of the accused. It is believed that because of this criticism, Kramer began writing the Malleus Maleficarum.

Cover of 1669 edition of Malleus Maleficarum Credit: Wellcome CollectionImage Credit: Wellcome Collection; Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0); no changes made.

The Malleus Maleficarum is split into three main parts that highlight the reality of witchcraft, what witchcraft looks like in practice, and how best to try and convict them. The first part discusses the foundation of what witches believe in, specifically the complete renouncement of God and the Catholic faith. It also sets out to solidify the belief that witches are indeed real, stating that the Bible specifies the existence of witches. By extension, Kramer and Sprenger argue not believing in witches and witchcraft is heresy. The second part of the Malleus Maleficarum explores the different ways witches can cause harm, highlighting specific spells and methods of sorcery. There are several stories in this section taken directly from the authors’ inquisitions. The third section examines the best practices for trying and convicting suspected witches. It outlines the different ways the inquisitor and judge are allowed, even encouraged, to mislead and lie to the accused. For example, judges and inquisitors are allowed to withhold the name of the accuser and lie to the accused, falsely promising immunity if they confess. This section also explains how best to interview the accused witch including methods of torture for gathering a confession.

Before the publication of Malleus Maleficarum, witchcraft and the witches that practiced it, were perceived in a vastly different way. Trials for witchcraft still occurred, but they only took place in church courts, and witches only appeared in front of these courts if their “magic” and “spells” had directly harmed someone (maleficia). Punishments were also much less severe, frequently no more than spending a day in the stocks. It was a pale shadow of the brutality that would come later. One of the most dramatic changes that the introduction of the Malleus Maleficarum enacted was the belief that witchcraft was no average crime but actually a form of heresy. Declaring witchcraft heresy proclaimed it a crime against God. This meant that not only must it be prosecuted no matter what, but it also moved the prosecution of witches into the realm of civil courts and the elite members of society, seemingly making it a more public and hysteria inducing event.

“A Witches’ Sabbath.” (ca. 1800s). Image Credit: Wellcome Collection; Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0); no changes made.

The Malleus Maleficarum significantly changed what being sentenced to witchcraft meant and how the inquisitors and judges conducted themselves. It influenced the course of witchcraft hysteria by making it a widespread, rampant issue rather than the seemingly infrequent religious matter it once was.

For more information on the copy of the Malleus Maleficarum in The Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, check out this video featuring former College Librarian Beth Lander.

Sources:

Birks, Arran. “The ‘Hammer of Witches’: An Earthquake in the Early Witch Craze.” The Historian. Accessed October 21, 2020.

Hoffman, Whitney and Stephanie Bortis. “Malleus Maleficarum: The Hammer of Witches.” The Witching Years. Accessed October 21, 2020.

“Malleus Maleficarum.” Wikipedia. Accessed October 21, 2020.

As always, thank you Amanda for another fascinating and insightful piece. If you want to read more entries by Amanda, check out her pieces on corpse medicine, Henrietta Lacks and the HeLa cells, and the contested legacy of James Marion Sims. We hope you all have a safe, healthy, and happy Halloween season. Don’t forget to wear a mask, and we’ll catch you on the strange side!

CPP Curiosities: James Marion Sims: Father of Modern Gynecology or Abuser?

Logo for CPP Curiosities

Greetings, fellow historio-medico aficionados, and welcome to another installment of CPP Curiosities, our semi-regular series on unusual and thought-provoking subjects in medical history. This month, we are continuing to look back at the contributions of people of color to the history of medicine. We are also shedding more light on the ways medicine has sometimes come at the expense of exploiting marginalized communities and reinforcing or perpetuating racial prejudices. In the past, we have examined accomplished 18th century African American physician James Durham; the Holmesburg Prison Experiments, where inmates of Philadelphia’s Holmesburg prison were part of a controversial series of dermatological experiments conducted by College of Physicians Fellow Albert Kligman; and Henrietta Lacks, an African American women whose clinically immortal cells, which physicians harvested without her knowledge or consent, went on to make significant contributions to medical and scientific knowledge.

This month’s installment also examines the ethics of medical research done at the expense of marginalized and disempowered communities. Contributor Amanda McCall examines the work of J. Marion Sims and the contributions of enslaved women to modern gynecology. 

Do the positive contributions a person makes to a field of study negate any harm inflicted on the journey to that point? Can the people who have been taken advantage of be brushed to the side just because whatever knowledge was gleaned at their expense is seen as benefitting the greater good? These are questions that need to be asked when discussing James Marion Sims and his unofficial title of the “father of modern gynecology.”  Sims perfected tools and surgical methods that would go on to aid an entire field of medicine and save countless lives, but at what cost? What is the bigger story behind these discoveries?

Photograph of a statue of J. Marion Sims atop a stone pedestal

Statue of J. Marion Sims that stood in New York’s Central Park. In 2018, following public outcry, the New York City Public Design Commission relocated the statue to Green-Wood Cemetery, where it currently stands. (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)

James Marion Sims was born in 1813, and went on to study at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the time, medical training was of a shorter duration than what we could consider normal today, lasting only around a year and three months. After he completed his training, Sims eventually settled in Montgomery, Alabama, and began acting as the physician on call for the surrounding plantations. During his time in Montgomery, Sims was asked to help an enslaved woman who had fallen from a horse and was suffering from back and abdominal pain. Upon his initial examination, Sims decided he needed to see into the patient’s vagina in order to properly diagnose her. After placing the patient on all fours, Sims examined her using a bent spoon to help him better see inside her vagina. This led him to invent the precursor to the modern speculum and diagnose the patient with a vesicovaginal fistulae, a tear in the lining between the vagina and the bladder. With this discovery, Sims dedicated himself to the underdeveloped fields of gynecology and obstetrics, and search for a surgical cure for vesicovaginal fistulae. From 1845 to 1849, Sims attempted to solve the problem of vesicovaginal fistulae using approximately twelve enslaved women that had been “loaned” to him by their enslavers.

Illustration of two hands holding a vaginal speculum. A caption reads, "Mode of holding Sims' speculum."

Illustration of J. Marion Sims Vaginal Speculum (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)

These women, only three of whom have surviving record of their names, developed a vesicovaginal fistulae (VVF) after suffering through particularly traumatic birthing experiences. It is likely that Betsy, Lucy, and Anarcha all wanted their VVF repaired. It was a painful, unpleasant medical condition that allowed urine (and feces in the case of rectovaginal fistulae) to leak out of the vagina. Infection is common, as are very unpleasant odors. Vesicovaginal fistulae commonly caused women to be ostracized from their communities due to the hygienic issues it creates. The enslavers also had motivation to have VVF healed. Affected enslaved women weren’t able to birth more children, and they were less productive in the fields and home because of their condition, thus making them less profitable for their owners. In order to more easily treat his patients, Sims built a small hospital at the back of his property.

During the four years Sims spent perfecting his surgical technique to repair VVF, he subjected these enslaved women to numerous experimental surgeries, each with minimal healing time between them, according to Sims’ journals. Sims operated on Anarcha thirty times before declaring her healed. Repairing the VVF was challenging, and it took Sims many, many attempts to achieve his goal. He operated on these women while they were naked and bent forward on their knees and elbows, a pose known today as a Sims position. The use of anesthesia was in its infancy when Sims began his VVF surgical experimentation, and despite the fact that the efficacy of anesthesia was beginning to emerge in medical circles of the time, Sims never administered any during these surgeries. In his notes he reported that the pain the women experienced was not great enough to justify the trouble or risk despite recording that Lucy’s pain was visibly immense during one of her surgeries.

Portrait titled "Illustration of Dr. J. Marion Sims with Anarcha." An African American woman (Anarcha) kneels on a table covered in a white sheet. Around her are three white men (one on the right [Sims] and two on the left) looking at her. To the left of the portrait, two African American women look on from behind a white sheet.

Illustration of Dr. J. Marion Sims with Anarcha by Robert Thom. Courtesy of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Pearson Museum.

J Marion Sims did eventually develop a successful method to close VVF thanks to the sacrifices of the enslaved women he used to refine it. Armed with this revolutionary knowledge he moved to New York City and opened a women’s hospital to treat other, predominately white, women afflicted with VVF. The problems vesicovaginal fistulae present have largely been solved in the much of the world, but because of the stigma associated with women’s bodies and their sexual health, VVF can go unacknowledged and untreated in some poor, rural areas.

James Marion Sims’ search for a surgical cure for vesicovaginal fistulae is well documented in the journals he kept while he was practicing in his backyard hospital. But that is just one side to the story, and the only account we have of the enslaved women’s stories is the one Sims gives us. Sims reported that the women “clamored” for the surgery and willingly submitted to the repeated procedures. While there is no doubt that this is an issue the affected women would want fixed, did they ever have an opportunity to say no? As enslaved women, did they have any say in the frequency of the surgeries or how their body was regarded during the procedure? They were operated on naked, in a vulnerable position, often with multiple other physicians observing. During this time in medical history the common belief was that African American patients did not feel as much pain as white patients did, and, according to Sims’ journals, he felt the same way. Reportedly, Sims favored quick surgeries to lessen blood loss, and that was one reason he preferred not to use anesthesia even after it was introduced. But how much did Sims’ opinions on his enslaved patients pain tolerance influence how he treated them during his experimental procedures? Sims needed these enslaved women for many reasons, but their contributions to his discoveries are not held in the same regard as his. Not only were they the subjects of Sims’ surgeries, they also stepped in to act as nurses and surgical assistants after Sims’ white colleagues left. They were trained in a respected career that required specialized knowledge but were only able to benefit from this in a very limited way.

Cover page of the 1867 edition of "Clinical notes on uterine surgery" by J. Marion Sims

Cover page of the 1867 edition of “Clinical notes on uterine surgery” by J. Marion Sims. The Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia has several different editions in the collection

James Marion Sims did contribute a great deal to the progression of gynecology and obstetrics. He saw an opportunity to create a name for himself in a field many physicians thought beneath them at the time, but the women whose bodies he built this knowledge on are mostly forgotten to time. Lucy, Anarcha, Betsy, and the other unnamed enslaved women gave so much to further the medical field, yet no first-person account of their stories or voices exist.  If Sims is considered the father of modern gynecology, should they not be considered the mothers of modern gynecology? Sims may deserve recognition for the advancements he made possible, but the sacrifices and bravery of his enslaved patients deserve it as well.

Sources: 

Cooper Owens, Deirdre. Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2017.

“More Than a Statue: Rethinking J. Marion Sims’ Legacy.” Deirdre Cooper Owens. August 14, 2017. Accessed September 22, 2020.

Holland, Brynn. “The ‘Father of Modern Gynecology’ Performed Shocking Experiments on Slaves.” History. December 4, 2018. Accessed September 22, 2020.

Wall, L.L. “The medical ethics of Dr J Marion Sims: a fresh look at the historical record.” Journal of Medical Ethics 32. No. 6. June 2006: 346-350.

Thanks, Amanda, for your insights. If you want to read more articles by Amanda, please check out her aforementioned article on Henrietta Lacks as well as her work on corpse medicine

Until next time, catch you on the strange side!

The Junior Fellows Become Experts in “Civic Health”

Zoom meeting with students

What a year it has been. Few of us thought that the curve would still not be flattened in all these months. Needless to say, it has been challenging and frustrating. The pandemic has been especially challenging for our youth programs, which converted to a 100% virtual model after The College shut down in-person operations in March. It has certainly been an adjustment, but we are proud of our students’ resiliency and what they have accomplished under these trying circumstances.

Last month, the current cohort of the Junior Fellows program completed their intensive two-week summer program, a staple of their first two years in the program. Every year, our activities and guest speakers center around an overarching theme. This time around, given the global pandemic, the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election, and the protests over systemic racial injustice and police violence against people of color, we would be remiss if we didn’t try our best to give our students the tools they need to become both the healthcare professionals and leaders of tomorrow. To that end, our theme was “civic health,” addressing the intersections of health, policy, civics, and the political, social, cultural, economic, and racial factors that influence personal and public health.

Slide mapping out the functions of the Electoral College

Our guest speakers discussed their experiences in the healthcare and medical fields as well as the important topics facing the country today. College Fellow Carmen Guerra, an outspoken health professional and public health advocate, examined racial disparities in care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Paul Wolff Mitchell, a University of Pennsylvania doctoral candidate in anthropology, discussed scientific racism and the way racially-biased medicine helped provide scientific justification for oppression. Graduate students in Drexel University’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology worked with our students to develop theoretical plans for responding for epidemics such as coronavirus. Students in Drexel’s physical therapy program explained how physical therapists help patients who have experienced injuries. The students also bolstered their knowledge of civics, with lessons on the electoral college, the evolution of voting rights, defunding the police, and mass incarceration.

As our students grappled with complex and challenging subjects, we also emphasized the importance of self-care. Over the course of two “Wellness Wednesdays,” we addressed ways they can help maintain their mental health in a stressful world. College Fellow Kamilah Jackson discussed the importance of self-care and the challenges faced by mental health professionals. Our own Jacqui Bowman took our students on a virtual tour of the Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden and introduced them to aquarium and aquatic life care, a personal passion of hers. Drexel nursing student Laura Baehr hosted a virtual yoga session. Our own Meredith Sellers guided them through a skull drawing workshop.

Jacqui Bowman, co-director of living exhibits, in a mask gestures to a plant in the Rush Garden

Our students addressed all these topics with energy and maturity, asking penetrating questions and sharing their thoughts and insights on the state of the world. We have no doubt they are ready, willing, and able to take on the challenges of the future both as healthcare experts and leaders in their communities.

Now Accepting Applications for the Girls One Diaspora Club

Students in the Girls One Diaspora Club walk through the Benjamin Rush Medicinal Herb Garden

Attention, Philadelphia high school students, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is now accepting applications for the Girls One Diaspora Club.

The Girls One Diaspora Club is an after-school internship program for teen girls in Philadelphia who are from Africa or the African Diaspora, were born outside of the U.S. or are first-generation Americans, and have an interest in healthcare or STEM careers.

The internship program addresses the unique challenges facing teen girls of African and/or Afro descent while providing a safe environment to share and voice their concerns and  learn about careers in science and medicine. The club is a forum for academic and personal support to assist these young women with issues related to schooling, ancestry, ethnicity, and the challenges of adjusting to a new culture. The facilitators of the club also provide mentorship and assistance with academic issues including tutoring, career development, and college/career preparation in a safe, positive, affirming space.

Sessions meet weekly during the school year. There are no costs to enroll or remain enrolled in the program, and all participants are paid a stipend. In accordance with social distancing, all activities during the Fall 2020 semester will be virtual.

If you’re interested in joining, you can fill out our application. Applications are due by Saturday, September 12, 2020, at 11:59PM. If you have any questions, consult our website or email Jeanene Johnson, Girls One Diaspora Coordinator.

Docent Discussions: Benjamin Rush and The Medicinal Plant Garden

Greetings and salutations, fellow Mütter Museum fans, and welcome to the latest installment of Docent Discussions, our monthly series where we share insider accounts of the Museum as told by our docents. Past entries examined the Chevalier Jackson collection of swallowed objects and the connections between HPV (human papillomavirus) and a tumor secretly extracted from President Grover Cleveland.

Today’s entry comes from Julie Rakestraw, who is here to talk about The College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s Medicinal Plant Garden and its namesake: Benjamin Rush, a statesman, physician, and one of the founders of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.  

Take it away, Julie!

Closeup photo of Julia Rakeshaw

My family has been visiting the Mütter Museum for years, and I was always fascinated by the people behind the artifacts. When I retired after 29+ years working at DuPont in 2019, I finally had the time to become more involved and to bring information about the displays to others. After shadowing and practicing, I completed my first tour on March 2 of this year, just before the pandemic was officially declared.

What is your favorite exhibit?

My favorite place in the Mütter Museum is the Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden. I love the tranquility of the garden during any season of the year. It’s fascinating to follow the plants through the seasons of spring awakening, summer bloom, fall leaf changing, and the winter outlines of bare branches and dormant perennials. During the Mischief at the Mütter event, the garden is transformed into an outdoor bar filled with people in spectacularly creative costumes. In her genealogy research, my mom has discovered that Benjamin Rush is actually a distant cousin of ours, which made me even more interested in his story.

Photo of a Saarracenia plant with a label that reads "Sarracenia Carnivorous Pitcher Plant"

A Brief History of Plants in Medicine 

Native plants have been used for centuries to treat various maladies of both animals and people. A Sumerian clay slab from ~5000 years ago is the first written use of plants to treat conditions of the human body, describing 12 recipes for preparation of various products.

Native Americans noted that animals often sought out certain plants when they were ill, so they began to consume specific plants as well. The ancient Babylonians, Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, Indians, and Romans were all herbalists, using the native plants for specific remedies. Before the establishment of universities in the 11th and 12th centuries, monasteries served as medical schools. In addition to copying ancient texts, the trainees tended the “physick” gardens which were designed to include specific plants which provided the medicines of the time. The chemicals of these naturally occurring medicines have been used to develop many pharmaceuticals of today, including digitalis, found in the leaves of the foxglove plant for the treatment of congestive heart failure.

A few examples of some common plants and the illnesses or conditions they can treat include:

  • Cinchona: The bark contains quinine which is an effective treatment for malaria
  • Foxglove: Digitalis extracted from the leaves is used to treat heart failure and cardiovascular disease. However, it can be toxic at higher doses.
  • Ginger: A root used to ease nausea and motion sickness
  • Mint: The leaves can be brewed into a tea which soothes digestion problems and can be made into a salve to reduce skin inflammation and itching. Mint has been used since at least the first century A.D. as recorded by Pliny in ancient Rome.
  • Rhubarb: For treatment of diarrhea and other intestinal issues
  • White willow bark:  To treat insomnia, dysentery, and reduce fevers. The salicin found in the bark is converted to salicylic acid in the human body and is the inspiration for acetylsalicylic acid, also known as aspirin.

Tags in the Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden at the Mütter Museum display the names of the plants and some of their potential medical uses.

A Brief Look at Benjamin Rush

Rush was born outside Philadelphia in 1746. As the son of a blacksmith, his family was not wealthy, so he needed to make his own living. His brilliance was recognized early and he graduated from college at the age of 14. He apprenticed as a physician in Philadelphia and then went to the University of Edinburgh for medical school before returning to Philadelphia. Rush treated patients of all colors and social standing, as he needed to make a living. He became active in revolutionary politics, encouraging the publication of various pamphlets and writing his own. He signed the Declaration of Independence as a member of the Pennsylvania delegation in 1776. He was active in the field hospitals of the Continental Army and crossed the Delaware alongside George Washington in the famous Christmas Eve crossing in December 1776.

Portrait of Benjamin Rush

1783 portrait of Benjamin Rush by Charles Wilson Peale (Image Source: Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library)

During the Revolutionary War, he actively promoted improvements in the hospitals for the soldiers, as well as for better nutrition, short hair (to reduce lice), and changes to army plans such as not initiating marches during the early spring months when changeable weather was more likely to promote disease. Rush was a primary force behind inoculation of the Revolutionary War soldiers for smallpox, which had been a major cause of illness and death. Some of his treatments, like bloodletting, were later found to be useless or actually harmful and discontinued.

Before leaving the Army medical service, Rush issued a pamphlet which began “Fatal experience has taught the people of America the truth…that a greater proportion of men perish with sickness in all armies than fall by the sword.” Helping to change that ratio was a focus of his life’s work.

His family convinced him to focus on his career and not to marry until he reached the age of 30. His wife, Julia Stockton, was the daughter of the President of The College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He first met Julia when he was a student at Princeton and she was just a young child. When the new couple moved into their house in Philadelphia, Rush arranged to have a library of books for his wife, encouraging her to pursue her own intellectual interests.

He believed in the concept of overall health, encompassing physical, mental, spiritual, economic, political in both the public and private spheres. This idea is not dissimilar from today’s concept of global health. Dr. Rush had the “peculiar happiness” of believing that as more became known about science and medicine, many of the cures and treatments of his time would be superseded. Rush opposed slavery, advocated free public schools, and sought improved education for women and a more enlightened penal system. However, he believed that male and female students should be educated separately and felt that the education of women should focus on poetry, religious writings and avoid science and mathematics.

Rush was interested in mental health as well as physical health and published “Medical Inquiries and Observations, Upon the Diseases of the Mind” in 1812. Some of his early thoughts in this area have been disproved as well, including his beliefs that many mental illnesses resulted from sensory overload and could be treated by devices like a centrifugal spinning board or a special restraining chair with a sensory deprivation helmet. However, he also promoted therapeutic treatment for alcohol addiction and improvements in the hospitalization conditions for the mentally ill.

After the Revolutionary War, Rush helped create The College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1787. He encouraged College Fellows to maintain a medicinal garden as a natural and cooperative way to replenish their medicine chests. He trained over 3000 apprentice medical students.

A closeup of a hellebore flower

The College established the Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden adjacent to the Mütter Museum in 1937. The garden contains more than 60 different kinds of herbs that have historical and sometimes contemporary medicinal value.

Thanks for your insights, Julie! If you want to know more about the Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden, including upcoming events and the full list of plants currently in the Garden, check out the Garden’s homepage. If you want to read more about Benjamin Rush, we recommend our recent article on his correspondence with African American physician James Durham.

References:

Bauer Petrovska, Biljana. “Historical review of medicinal plants’ usage.” Pharmacognosy Reviews 6, No. 11 (January – June 2012): 1-5.

“Benjamin Rush.” Wikipedia. Accessed July 13, 2020.

The Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Blanco, Richard. “Medicine in the Continental Army, 1775-1781.”  Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 57, No. 8 (October 1981): 677-704.

Block, Melissa.  “‘Rush’: the Other Founding Father From Philadelphia Named Benjamin.” NPR, September 2, 2018.

“A Brief History of Herbalism.” University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. Accessed July 16, 2020.

“Digitalis.” Britannica. Accessed July 16, 2020.

Fried, Stephen. Rush: Revolution, Madness and Benjamin Rush: The Visionary Doctor who Became a Founding Father. New York: Penguin Random House, 2019.

Gifford, Jr. George E. “Botanic Remedies in Colonial Massachusetts.” Colonial Society of Massachusetts. Accessed July 31, 2020.

“A Guide to Common Medicinal Herbs.” University of Rochester Medical Center Health Encyclopedia. Accessed July 31, 2020.

Malone-Brown, Eileen B. “Lucy Meriwether Lewis Marks.” Monticello. Accessed July 13, 2020.

“Medicinal Botany.” U.S. Forest Service. Accessed July 31, 2020.

Medicine and Health on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia. Accessed July 31, 2020.

Miller, Christine. “The Apothecary in Colonial America.” Herbal Medicine: Open Access 3, No. 2. July 31, 2017. Accessed July 31, 2020.

Moerman, Daniel. “The Medicinal Flora of Native North America.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 31, No. 1 (February 1991): 1-42.

Patricia Schafer, A Manual of Cherokee Herbal Remedies: History, Information, Identification, Medicinal Healing. Unpublished M.A. thesis. Indiana State University (1993). Accessed July 16, 2020.