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A Moment in History 

Title page of Anathomia Corporis Humanis by Mondino de Luzzi. Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine
Title page of "Anathomia Corporis Humanis" by Mondino de Luzzi

Alessandra Giliani

 
(1307 – 1326

Italian prosector and anatomist. Alessandra Giliani is the first woman to be on record as being an anatomist and prossector. She was born on 1307 in the town of Persiceto in northern Italy.

She was admitted to the University of Bologna circa 1323. Most probably she studied philosophy and the foundations of anatomy and medicine. She studied under Mondino de Luzzi (c.1270 – 1326), one of the most famous teachers at Bologna.

Giliani was the prosector for the dissections performed at the Bolognese “studium” in the Bologna School of Anatomy. She developed a technique (now lost to history) to highlight the vascular tree in a cadaver using fluid dyes which would harden without destroying them. Giliani would later paint these structures using a small brush. This technique allowed the students to see even small veins.

Giliani died at the age of 19 on March 26, 1326, the same year that her teacher Mondino de Luzzi died.  It is said that she was buried in front of the Madonna delle Lettere in the church of San Pietro e Marcellino at the Hospital of Santa Maria del Mareto in Florence by Otto Agenius Lustrulanus, another assistant to Modino de Luzzi.

Some ascribe to Agenius a love interest in Giliani because of the wording of the plaque that is translated as follows:

"In this urn enclosed are the ashes of the body of 
Alessandra Giliani, a maiden of Persiceto. 
Skillful with her brush in anatomical demonstrations 
And a disciple equaled by few, 
Of the most noted physician, Mondino de Luzzi, 
She awaits the resurrection. 
She lived 19 years: She died consumed by her labors 
March 26, in the year of grace 1326. 
Otto Agenius Lustrulanus, by her taking away 
Deprived of his better part, inconsolable for his companion, 
Choice and deservinging of the best from himself, 
Has erected this plaque"

Sir William Osler says of Alessandra Giliani “She died, consumed by her labors, at the early age of nineteen, and her monument is still to be seen”

The teaching of anatomy in the times of Mondino de Luzzi and Alessandra Giliani required the professor to be seated on a high chair or “cathedra” from whence he would read an anatomy book by Galen or another respected author while a prosector or “ostensor” would demonstrate the structures to the student. The professor would not consider coming down from the cathedra to discuss the anatomy shown. This was changed by Andreas Vesalius.

The image in this article is a close up of the title page of Mondino’s “Anothomia Corporis Humani” written in 1316, but published in 1478. Click on the image for a complete depiction of this title page. I would like to think that the individual doing the dissection looking up to the cathedra and Mondino de Luzzi is Alessandra Giliani… we will never know.

The life and death of Alessandra Giliani has been novelized in the fiction book “A Golden Web” by Barbara Quick.

Sources 
1. “Books of the Body: Anatomical Ritual and Renaissance Learning” Carlino, A. U Chicago Press, 1999 
2. “Encyclopedia of World Scientists” Oakes, EH. Infobase Publishing, 2002 
3. “The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science”Harvey, J; Ogilvie, M. Vol1. Routledge 2000 
4. “The Evolution of Modern Medicine” Osler, W. Yale U Press 1921 
5. “The Mondino Myth” Pilcher, LS. 1906 
Original image courtesy of NLM
 


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Marcia Crocker Noyes (1869 - 1946)


This article is part of the series "A Moment in History" where we honor those who have contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, and medical research.To search all the articles in this series, click here.


Further to my comment on old books and research that started with an interesting bookplate (Ex-Libris). I continued my research and found that the person in charge of the Osler library bookplate was a fascinating individual that today maybe a ghost in the MedChi library and building in Baltimore... This is certainly an article that can be called "A Moment in History"

Marcia Crocker Noyes was the librarian at The Maryland State Medical Society from 1896 to 1946 and was a founding member of the Medical Library Association.[1][2][3]

Sir William Osler, MD. a famous Johns Hopkins surgeon was a noted bibliophile and had a large personal collection of books on various topics. When he became the President of MedChi in 1896, he was dismayed at the condition of the library and knew that with the right person and some stewardship, it could become a significant collection. Sir William asked his friend, Dr. Bernard Steiner, a physician and President of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore for suggestions of a librarian, and Dr. Steiner recommended Marcia Crocker Noyes. A native of New York, and a graduate of Hunter College, Marcia had moved to Baltimore for a lengthy visit with her sister, and took a “temporary” position at the Pratt Library, which turned into three years. Although she had no medical experience or background, she was enthusiastic, and most importantly, she was willing to move into the apartment provided for the librarian, who needed to be available 24 hours a day.

The image in this article is Ms. Noyes on her first year on the job. Marcia developed a book classification system for medical books, based on the Index Medicus, and called it the Classification for Medical Literature. The system uses the alphabet with capital letters for the major divisions of medicine and lower-case ones for the sub-sections. The system was used for many years, but it's now dated and the Faculty's original shelving scheme was never changed. The card catalogues still reflect her classification and many of the cards are written in Marcia's back-slanting handwriting.

Marcia Crocker Noyes
Marcia Crocker Noyes
Click on the image for a larger depiction

Marcia knew enough to ask the Faculty's members about medical questions, terminology and literature. She gradually won over the predominantly male membership and they became her greatest allies; Sir William at the start, and then for nearly 40 years, Dr. John Ruhräh, a wealthy pediatrician with no immediate family of his own. She made a point of attending almost every Faculty function, and in 1904, under guidelines from the American Medical Association, Marcia was made the Faculty Secretary. For much of her first 10 years, she was the Faculty's only full-time employee, only being assisted by Mr. Caution, the Faculty's janitor. Later in life Marcia would say that she hired him because of his name!

Within ten years, the library had outgrown its space, and plans, spearheaded by Marcia and Sir William before his move to Oxford, were made to build a headquarters building, mainly to house the library's growing collection of medical books and journals.

Marcia was instrumental in the design and building of the new headquarters. She travelled to Philadelphia, New York and Boston to look at their medical society buildings, and eventually, the Philadelphia architectural firm, Ellicott & Emmart was selected to design and build the new Faculty building. Every detail of the building held her imprimatur, from the graceful staircase, to the light-filled reading room, and all of the myriad details of the millwork, marble tesserae, and most of all, the four-story cast iron stacks. She was on-site, climbing up unfinished staircases, checking out the progress of the building, which was built in less than one year at a cost of $90,000.

Among the features of the new building was a fourth-floor apartment for her. She referred to it as the "first penthouse in Baltimore" and it had a garden and rooftop terrace. The library collection eventually grew to more than 65,000 volumes from medical and specialty societies around the world. Journals were traded back and forth, and physicians eagerly anticipated the arrival of each new issue. At the same time, Marcia was involved in the Medical Library Association as one of eight founding members. The MLA promotes medical libraries and the exchange of information. One of the earliest mandates of the MLA was the Exchange, a distribution and trade service for those who had duplicates or little-used books in their collections. Initially, the Exchange was run out of the Philadelphia medical society, but in 1900 it was moved to Baltimore and Marcia oversaw it. Several hundred periodicals and journals were received and sent each month, a huge amount of work for a tiny staff. In 1904, the Faculty had run out of room to manage the Exchange, so it was moved to the Medical Society of the Kings County (Brooklyn). But without Marcia's excellent administrative skills, it floundered and in 1908, the MLA asked Marcia to take charge once again.

In 1909, when the new Faculty building opened, there was enough room to run the Exchange and with the help of MLA Treasurer, noted bibliophile and close friend, Dr. John Ruhräh, it once again became successful. Additionally, Marcia and Dr. Ruhräh combined forces to revive the MLA's bulletin, which had all but ceased publication in 1908, taking the Exchange with it. This duo maintained editorial control from 1911 until 1926. In 1934, around the time of Dr. Ruhräh's death, Marcia became the first “unmedicated” professional to head the MLA. During her tenure, the MLA incorporated, the first seal was adopted, and the annual meeting was held in Baltimore. Marcia wanted to write the history of the MLA once she retired from full-time work at the Faculty, but her health was beginning to fail. She had back problems and had suffered a serious burn on her shoulder as a young woman, possibly from her time running a summer camp, Camp Seyon, for young ladies in the Adirondack Mountains. In 1946, a celebration was planned to honor Marcia's 50 years at the Faculty. But she was adamant that the physicians wait until November, the actual date of her 50 years. However, they knew she was gravely ill, and might not make it until then, so a huge party was held in April. More than 250 physicians attended the celebration, but the ones she was closest to in the early years, were long gone. She was presented with a suitcase, a sum of money to use for travelling, and her favorite painting of Dr. John Philip Smith, a founder of the Medical College in Winchester, Virginia. It was painted by Edward Caledon Smith, a Virginia painter who had been a student of the painter Thomas Sully.[4] She adored this painting and vowed, jokingly, to take it with her wherever she went.

The painting was not to stay with her for very long, for she died in November 1946, and left it to the Faculty in her will. Her funeral was held in the Faculty's Osler Hall, named for her dear friend. More than 60 physicians served as her pallbearers, and she was buried at Baltimore's Green Mount Cemetery. In 1948, the MLA decided to establish an award in the name of Marcia Crocker Noyes. It was for outstanding achievement in medical library field and was to be awarded every two years, or when a truly worthy candidate was submitted. In 2014, the Faculty began giving a bouquet of flowers to the winner of the award in Marcia's name, and in honor of her work. Much evidence exists for this tradition, as we know that the physicians, especially Drs. Osler and Ruhräh, frequently gave her bouquets of flowers. Marcia also cultivated flower gardens at the Faculty and decorated the rooms with her work.

Today, the MedChi building is open for tours and if the rumors are to be believed Ms. Marcia Crocker Noyes is still at work in her beloved library as the "resident ghost" [1][5]

NOTE: This article has been modified from the original Wikipedia article on Marcia Crocker Noyes. The article itself is well-written with interesting images of the subject. I would encourage you to visit it.

 Sources:
1. "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" MedChi Archives blog.  
2. "Marcia C. Noyes, Medical Librarian" (PDF). Bulletin of the Medical Library Association. 35 (1): 108–109. 1947. PMC 194645
3. Smith, Bernie Todd (1974). "Marcia Crocker Noyes, Medical Librarian: The Shaping of a Career" (PDF). Bulletin of the Medical Library Association. 62 (3): 314–324. PMC 198800Freely accessible. PMID 4619344.
4. Edward Caledon BRUCE (1825-1901)"
5. Behind the scenes tour MedChiBuilding