Moody Medical Library

Truman G. Blocker, Jr. History of Medicine Collections


Exhibits allow the public to view materials that the Moody Medical Library is particularly proud of, for example, the largest, publicly owned stamp collection in the United States; or materials that could be associated with a current or historic event, such as an exhibit on medicine in the time of Dickens to coincide with Galveston's annual "Dickens on the Strand" celebration.

Blocker History of Medicine | Exhibits

Bubonic Plague: From Justinian to Galveston
October 2020

In the summer of 1920, Galveston fell victim to an outbreak of bubonic plague.

The Truman G. Blocker, Jr. History of Medicine Collections currently has on display photographs, notebooks, and other items from that outbreak. Also displayed are rare books relating to the history of the Black Death from its first recorded appearance in 541 CE through the discovery of the plague bacillus in 1894.

Please make an appointment to visit the exhibit in the Moody Medical Library.

Charles A. Berry, MD History of Space Medicine Collections
September 2019

An exhibit of materials from the archival collections of Dr. Charles A. Berry, Dr. William E. Thornton, and Dr. James G. Gaume was on display in 2019 to celebrate the end of a project which saw the digitization of over 7,500 photographs, documents, and film from these three collections. The exhibit also served as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.

Dr. Charles Berry (1923-2020) was the first doctor to the astronauts and helped select the Mercury 7. He also served as UTMB’s first director of the department of aerospace medicine.

Dr. William Thornton (1929- ) was selected in the first class of scientist-astronauts in 1967 and flew on two shuttle missions. He was a professor at UTMB in the 1990s and invented what students today refer to as “heart sounds.”

Dr. James Gaume (1915-1996) was the only civilian in the early US space program and developed the “first house on the moon” in the late 1950s.

Louis Pasteur: In Pasteur's Own Hand
March 2014

The Louis Pasteur Collection, which contains 154 items including books, prints, offprints, manuscripts, and unpublished handwritten letters by Pasteur which he maintained in his personal library, was put on permanent display in the Rare Book Room in August 2010.

The Truman G. Blocker, Jr. History of Medicine Collections at the Moody Medical Library of the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas owns a portion of the private library of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895). The Pasteur Collection contains over one hundred items including books, articles, manuscripts, and unpublished handwritten letters by Pasteur.

The Moody Medical Library received Federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, under Contract No. HHSN-276-2011-00007-C with the Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library to digitize and translate items from this collection. As a result, access to the personal and academic thoughts and writings of one of the world’s most celebrated scientists has been dramatically improved.

Before the Double Helix: Prehistory of DNA Research
July 2012

A small exhibit entitled "Before the Double Helix: a Prehistory of DNA Research (1869-1953)" was displayed in the Moody Medical Library lobby during the Summer and Fall semesters of 2012. The timeline format of the exhibit recounted the history of DNA from its discovery to Watson and Crick's identification of the double helix structure.

DNA was discovered in 1869 by Friederich Miescher (1844-1895), a Swiss physician, while he was conducting research on the leukocytes found in pus in an effort to find a way to prevent wound infection during and after a surgical procedure. Miescher isolated a substance from the nucleus of pus cells that could not be identified as one of the known proteins; he called this new substance "nuclein" and published his findings in 1871.

Albrecht Kossel (1853-1927) continued research on the newly discovered nuclein and, between 1885 and 1901, made great progress in understanding the chemistry of "nucleic acids." Kossel believed that the true function of the nucleus was to be found in the formation of new tissue, and not as a kind of energy source for muscular contraction nor as a storehouse for phosphorus, two previously influential theories about nuclear function. Because of Kossel's findings, researchers were now able to study nucleic acid chemistry as a discipline.

Phoebus Levene (1869-1940) identified the structure of the nucleotide and found that ribose was the backbone sugar of RNA and deoxyribose in that of DNA. Levene's study implied that DNA was too simple to carry the information needed to transmit hereditary traits.

In 1923, Frederick Griffith (1879-1941) conducted an experiment using mice and the smooth and rough forms of several types of the bacteria pneumococcus. The experiments confused Griffith as, when combined, the type and/or form of the bacteria would change; it was widely believed that the types of bacteria were fixed. Griffith described this finding as a result of a "transforming substance."

Oswald Avery (1877-1955) expanded on Griffith's experiments by conducting his own "experiments by exclusion" and was able to determine that DNA was Griffith's "transforming substance." Impressed by Avery's work, Erwin Chargaff (1905-2000) decided to undertake a thorough chemical analysis of nucleic acids using the newly developed paper chromatography technique. In doing so, Chargaff effectively demolished Levene's tetranecleotide hypothesis. Chargaff also established three rules (Chargaff's Rules) which were vital to Watson and Crick's identification of the double helix structure in 1953.

Old Red: 120 Years and Counting...
April 2011

"Old Red: 120 Years and Counting ..." was a feature exhibit housed in the lobby of the Moody Medical Library during the Spring and Summer semesters of 2011. Photographs, blueprints, and other materials were collected from the Blocker Collections as well as other historic collections in Galveston to help recreate the complete story of the planning and construction of Old Red.

The building is actually named the Ashbel Smith Building due to Dr. Smith’s influence in founding the University of Texas and its Medical Department. The building is affectionately referred to as Old Red because of its red Cedar Bayou pressed brick and red sandstone trim. Old Red is the oldest extant medical school building west of the Mississippi River and was the school’s main teaching facility between 1891 and 1922. Over the years, focus shifted to the expanding campus around Old Red and the building fell into disrepair. Old Red was slated for demolition in 1969 but many protested its destruction and the building received listing in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1978 it was decided that Old Red would be restored and the re-dedication ceremony took place on April 10, 1986. The building stayed in use until 2008’s Hurricane Ike severely damaged it. By early 2012, some offices have returned to the building although access is limited and it is still under repair.

Built in 1890 by Nicholas Clayton (1840-1916), Old Red was open for business in the fall of 1891 with eight professors prepared to teach medicine to only twenty-three students. Clayton is also responsible for several other Galveston buildings, notably the Bishop’s Palace and Open Gates.

This exhibit also featured three-dimensional materials displayed in glass exhibit cases located near the main exhibit structure. The cases were used to discover more information about the Medical Department’s first eight professors and include a few of their personal materials such as Dr. Thompson’s surgical tools and an anatomy drawing and microscope of Dr. Keiller’s.

The Flexner Report: A Centennial Perspective
October 2010

In the summer of 1910, a document titled “Medical Education in the United States and Canada” was issued by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It quickly acquired a second title, The Flexner Report, after its author: Abraham Flexner.

The report was both an indictment of the then current state of medical education in the two nations and a plan for improvement, in fact, for a radical reconfiguration of the way physicians should be trained.

As a result of the Flexner Report, many substandard medical schools were closed, or affiliated with stronger institutions. The entire program of physician education was recast to stress strong knowledge of the natural sciences and extensive personal experience in the care of patients. The reforms resulting from the Flexner report definitively shaped medical education in North America. To commemorate the centenary of this landmark document, the Medical Library prepared this exhibit: "The Flexner Report: A Centennial Perspective" which was placed in the lobby of the Medical Library in October, 2010.

Louis Pasteur Collection
August 2010

The Louis Pasteur Collection, which contains 154 items including books, prints, offprints, manuscripts, and unpublished handwritten letters by Pasteur which he maintained in his personal library, was put on permanent display in the Rare Book Room in August 2010.

The Blocker Collections acquired the Pasteur Collection in 1977 when Dr. Blocker learned that it was for sale at a rare book dealership in San Francisco, California. Dr. Armond Goldman, Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics at UTMB, was sent by Dr. Blocker to “check out” the Pasteur Collection and advise on its purchase. The collection was purchased with funds provided by the Moody Foundation.

Included in the Pasteur Collection are letters from Pasteur requesting funds from the French Government for research, ground-breaking articles by Pasteur including Mémoire sur les corpuscules organisés qui existent dans l’atmosphère: Examen de la doctrine des génèration spontanées (1862) disproving abiogenesis, a first edition of Metchnikoff’s (1845-1916) L’Immunité dans les Maladies Infectieuses (1901), a first edition of Alfred Donné’s (1801-1878) Cours de Microscopie (1844) that reproduced the first photomicrographs, the papers by Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) on evolution that were presented in 1858 to the Royal Society of Biology, a first edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection (1859), research papers annotated by Pasteur, 30 papers by his German rival Robert Koch (1843-1910), 82 papers by the pioneering immunologist-immunochemist Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915), and other priceless items.

In a 2010 appraisal, the Pasteur Collection was noted as “easily the most significant in the United States and most likely the entire world outside of the materials held by [l'Institut Pasteur] in France.”

UTMB School of Nursing 120th Anniversary 1890-2010: Honoring Traditions and Change
March 2010

This exhibit marked this special anniversary of the founding of the School of Nursing and celebrated the school's significance, accomplishments, challenges and the role that their traditions have played in its long history. With images taken from the records of the school, the exhibit was also a very personal look into the work of these special women and men.

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