Holding a 346 Year-Old Heart


It's not every day that you get a first hand tour of nearly 500 years of medical history, let alone a tour that's hands on. But that's exactly what I experienced yesterday, courtesy of Ronald Sims, special collections librarian at Northwestern's Galter Library.

Galter's special collections area is a museum onto itself. Not only does it feature thousands of rare books, Ron also manages hundreds of medical and dental instruments, microscopes, historical images, and other artifacts. Of note, he has a pedal-powered dental drill from the late 1800's, complete with the original bench from which the dentist worked.

Of the many rare books he allowed me to leaf through, one of my favorites was a work by noted philosopher, mathematician, and anatomist René Descartes, titled De homine (Treatise of Man). It was an original copy published in 1664, featuring an amazingly detailed pop-up diagram of the heart and lungs.  The detail in the drawing was simply exquisite. It's hard to describe the thrill of holding a piece of history this cool. For fans of medical and dental history, the Galter special collections room is a rare treat. Ron Sims welcomes visitors, with at least 24 hours notice.  Click here to get in contact with him.



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