Crazy Smart

Crazy Smart History of Medicine

Another year, another reason to celebrate.

Exactly six decades ago, Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans donated to Duke the remarkable medical history collection of her late husband, Dr. Josiah Charles Trent. Dr. Trent was a graduate of Duke University (1934) as well as an historian, a prolific writer, and Duke’s first Division Chief of Thoracic Surgery. The newly constructed Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room in the Rubenstein Library honors his legacy. 

The Trent Collection includes more than 4,000 print volumes and 2,500 manuscripts as well as remarkable medical artifacts dating from the twelfth century to the modern day. It is one of the most extraordinary collections of its kind, and it has been used to educate generations of Duke students about the origins of the healing profession.

Highlights include first editions of medical classics, such as Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica, and The Four Seasons (pictured here), a unique set of seventeenth-century copperplate engravings with moveable flaps illustrating human anatomy, along with allusions to alchemy, astronomy and botany.

We’re excited to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Trent Collection donation. To celebrate, we recently digitized a set of intriguing, centuries-old anatomical fugitive sheets, which depict human bodies through the use of overlays or flaps that can be lifted to reveal the organs within. By digitizing these intriguing items, we hope to make them available to a wider audience, to those interested not only in the history of medicine, but also in visual studies, the history of printing, European history, and more.

To learn more, visit the History of Medicine Collections website.

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