In one of my earliest blogs I lamented that fact that the history of pathology is in many ways slipping away from us as those who made it, and those who personally knew them depart this world. In particular, I lamented the fact that documenting the personalities of famous pathologists such as Arthur Purdy Stout was becoming increasingly difficult or impossible. Dr. Rosai's excellent edited text, "Guiding the Surgeon's Hand, a History of Surgical Pathology in the United States is a notable oasis in this sea of ignorance. Unfortunately, that text is out of print, but used copies are occasionally available on several web sites.
Against this background comes a new book, marking the two hundredth anniversary of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and providing the definitive history of the development of pathology at the MGH and Harvard Medical School. The text is edited by Drs. David N. Louis and Robert H. Young with multiple chapter authors. It is entitled, "Keen Minds to Explore Dark Continents of Disease. A history of the pathology services at the Massachusetts General Hospital." The primary title, I must admit, is rather obtuse and suggests a text about the pathogenesis of tropical diseases in Africa, but the subtitle straightens things out nicely. The book is published by MGH and may be a little difficult to obtain (I couldn't find it yet on Amazon), but is well worth it if you're at all interested in the major contributions of MGH faculty toward making us what we are today.
The book includes six general sections: the early years, the Wright years, the Mallory years, the Castleman years, the McCluskey years, and the later years. It also includes individual chapters devoted to the specialized areas of pathology and other chapters representing mini-biographies of some of the true giants in the field including James Homer Wright (note, NO HYPHEN), Tracy Mallory, Benjamin Castleman, Austin Vickery Jr, Robert Scully, and others. What to me makes this book an absolute joy to read is the personal, first-hand style in which most of these giants of the field are described, wherever possible by those who actually knew them very well. Having been fortunate enough to have at least briefly met Drs. Castleman and Vickery, and to have spent considerably more time with the wonderful Bob Scully, the descriptions of these individuals are absolutely "spot on." Here in one place, preserved for those who will never have the opportunity to meet them, are not just the accomplishments, but the personas of these legends in pathology.
The other beauty of this text is the collection, in one place, of several hundred amazing B&W photographs stretching from the mid-1800's until the current time. I can't imagine the time required to hunt these down and identify everyone (or almost everyone, there are a few "unknowns") present. Most of these photographs have not been published for decades and their collection in one place is a treasure. Where else can you find a picture of Ben Castleman with a full head of hair? He's virtually unrecognizable! I certainly hope that graduating MGH residents are given a commemorative copy of this text. The rest of us will have to buy ours!