In the weeks before Christmas work proceeded on various long-running projects within and outside the online database. As mentioned last month, behind the scenes retroconversion work continues on the catalogue of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (SA/CSP), completion of which will bring all our archive catalogues onto the database after ten years’ work. We are also coming close to the end of a project to fine-tune the catalogue of the Royal Army Medical Corps collection (one of our most heavily-used) and make it suitable for online ordering: we hope to say more about this next month. The highlights of new cataloguing for this month, however – that is to say, cataloguing completed and made available to the public, as opposed to work proceeding on longer-term projects – all come from the manuscript collection.
The image at the head of this posting (from Wellcome Images) is of James Braid (1795-1860), the Manchester surgeon and general practitioner to whom we owe our modern understanding of hypnosis (and indeed the very word). Franz Anton Mesmer had described the phenomenon in the late 18th and early 19th century, but had ascribed it to disturbances in a “magnetic fluid” that surrounds us all, created by the mesmeric operator waving their hands, having a physical impact on the subject. Braid re-examined the phenomenon and described it in terms of a neurological state brought on by concentration, placing it in the field of psychology rather than physics. Newly visible in the database is a letter by Braid (previously part of the old Wellcome Library Autograph Letters Sequence, and thus only accessible using a card index in the reading room), in which he discusses another late 18th century concept by this stage relegated to the fringes of crankdom, namely phrenology. (MS.8756)
Turning to fiction, we made available two unpublished works of fiction (or lightly fictionalised autobiography) by Colonel Frederick Smith, CB, CMG, DSO (1858-1933) of the Royal Army Medical Corps. There are versions of a novel set in Sierra Leone – “The White Man’s Grave”- in 1898 (the year of the Sierra Leone Rising against the imposition of a hut tax following declaration of British Protectorate status), and an account of service as a medical officer in France in the early months of World War I. The papers are described in more detail in a recent blog posting. (MS.8701)
Finally, we also made available some papers relating Professor Cyril Keele, FRCP (1905-1987), pharmacologist, and his research on pain. (MS.8755)