Spring

Matula Thoughts April 5, 2019

Calendar1

Spring considerations

20 minutes to read, two minutes to scan, one second to delete.

2341 words

Note of Passage

Mark C. McQuiggan, University of Michigan triple graduate, passed away last month leaving his beloved wife Carolyn (Brunk). Mark was the son of the late Dr. Mark R. McQuiggan and Dr. Catherine (Corbeille) McQuiggan, internists who had trained at the Mayo Clinic and worked together in an office in Detroit’s Fisher Building. Mark C. was born on May 15, 1933 and was 85 years old at the time of his death. He was thoroughly a Michigan Man with a BS from LS&A in 1954, an MD in 1958, and urology residency under Reed Nesbit, completed in 1964. Mark’s co-residents were Karl Schroeder and Dick Bourne, and other particular friends from residency were Clair and Clarice Cox and Dick and Jane Dorr.  Mark practiced urology with excellence and devotion in Southfield, Michigan, on the staff of North Detroit General Hospital and Ascension Providence Hospital. Mark and Carolyn were lovely and loyal presences at our yearly Nesbit Society Alumni Reunions. (Below: Mark in October, 2010, at the Nesbit Scientific Session.) Mark loved the University of Michigan, and Michigan Urology, along with Michigan athletics. Michigan Urology will miss Mark, who seemed to always have a smile and was a wonderful link to Michigan Urology’s past.

Urology at Michigan undergoes its own passage, this being the transition to Ganesh Palapattu as chair, who is already bringing exciting and substantive change to the department just around the fortuitous time of the Michigan Urology Centennial. He is continuing the weekly Urology What’s New aimed at departmental specifics along with this monthly set of Matula Thoughts on the first Fridays, and simultaneously available on the web site matulathoughts.org.

 

One. 

April brings spring, so welcome after a rough winter’s polar vortices reached down to our geography and innermost bodily cores. Flowering dogwoods, photographed last year (above), will return soon and that’s much of the attraction of photography – preservation of meaningful moments with fidelity to the momentary truth. We want to hold on to things we value as best we can and photography allows us to keep them, in a way, by replication. Words can also replicate those moments and truths with fidelity and beauty.

Last spring this column referred to Dr. William Carlos Williams and his book, Spring and All, a title mysterious in its promise. [Above: Williams and Ezra Pound at their last meeting, photographed by Richard Avedon in July 1958, Wikipedia.] The central piece in Williams’ collection, On the Road to the Contagious Hospital, speaks to facilities that that have faded away, the leprosaria, tuberculosis sanitaria, and other such places. New diseases and antibiotic-resistant resurgence of the old ones may resurrect those institutions. Leprosy, by the way, is not a disease of the past. The Lancet recently had a photoessay “Picturing health new face of leprosy.” The authors noted: “… leprosy impairs and society disables.”  [Kumar A, Lambert S, Lockwood DNJ. The Lancet, 393:629-638, 2019.]

The University of Michigan once had its own contagious hospital after the citizens in Ann Arbor in 1914 voted for a bond issue of $25,000 for an isolation hospital to be maintained by the university. [Below: UM Contagious Disease Hospital, courtesy Bentley Library.] It was placed on a ridge behind the Catherine Street Hospital and looked over the Huron River. Horace Davenport’s book (Not Just Any Medical School, 1999) tells how in the first year the 24-bed hospital housed patients with chicken pox, diphtheria, necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (Vincent’s angina), pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), and whooping cough. [Davenport HW. Not Just Any Medical School. University of Michigan Press. 1999.]

 

Two.

Photography, as a neologism meaning drawing by light, may have had a number of separate origins between 1834 and 1839. Previous methods to capture images by means of cameras obscura or shadow images on silver nitrate-treated papers were novelties, but didn’t scale up in terms of utility, until Louis Daguerre announced his sensational process on January 7, 1839. The rest is the history of the Kodak moment, motion pictures, Polaroids, and now the cell phone camera with its albums of thousands of pictures and videos.

Anesthesia, in contrast to photography, had a specific origin in time, place, and originator. Anesthesia was the neologism of Oliver Wendell Holmes in Boston, 1846. Just as photography was coming of age, medical practitioners were starting to bring science and new technology to their art. Large metropolitan hospitals, notably the Napoleonic legacies in France, afforded large numbers of patients that inquisitive physicians studied and compared. Evolving tools of measurement and investigation allowed new clinical skills and a slowly growing sense of hygiene would bring a greater level of safety to medical care.

Professor Charles-Alexandre Louis (1787-1872) in Paris at the Pitié-Salpêtrière was among the best of these physicians and his comparison of patients with pulmonary TB who were treated with leeches against those untreated patients was one of the earliest clinical trials. Young people from around the world came to Paris for weeks, months, or years to watch Louis at work. He stressed the idea of critical clinical observation (including the medical gaze), measurement, and analysis to improve understanding of disease and therapy, forming a Society of Clinical Observation that many young American trainees joined.

The idea of clinical material as the milieu for medical education and the improvement of health care through careful observation, inquiry, and research, received as great a boost from Louis as anyone. The medical gaze went beyond a quick visual glance. Deep inspection by an experienced physician was something new, a gaze that would discover clues to a diagnosis, understanding of co-morbidities, and other relevant facts to the case, the story, and the truth of a clinical situation.

The medical gaze, like the photograph, was novel and they complemented each other. Photography became a teaching and documentary tool. The informed gaze discovered a condition, an attitude, or a moment that the photograph could replicate and preserve. The medical gaze also inspired a new genre in literature – bringing the idea of astute medical discovery by observation, listening, and reasoning to crime solving.

One wonders if the medical gaze, once a desirable clinical skill, has now been eliminated by modern imaging tests, laboratory studies, biomarkers, and check lists? This begs the question whether or not tomorrow’s masters of those technologies and processes will quickly succumb to nonhuman purveyors of “artificial intelligence”?

 

Three.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Edgar Allen Poe’s famous short story in 1841, initiated a new genre of crime literature and the clever reasoning, Poe called “ratiocination,” necessary to solve crimes. [Poe 1809-1849, above] Curiously, Poe’s story included a brief speculation on uroscopic clues, specifically the odor of urine.

This scientific crime solver genre continues to gather cultural momentum. The picture above, made in the last year of Poe’s life, is the “Annie” daguerreotype, the best known of the eight known Poe daguerreotypes and named for Mrs. Annie Richmond of Lowell, Massachusetts who commissioned and owned the picture. Poe was just a little ahead of his time with ratiocination, his take on the medical gaze, where careful observation and trained reasoning could discover the truth of a situation. Over the next decades up to the fin de siècle a scientific corpus of knowledge, bringing new technology, would expand the medical gaze into a powerful capacity to produce data and evidence for both health care and criminal investigation.

Future detective author Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) was barely ten years old when Preston B. Rose started teaching Ann Arbor medical students urinalysis and scientific methods of forensic investigation in the Chemical Laboratory just behind the University of Michigan Medical School. Only 17 years later, as a 27-year old ophthalmologist with a struggling practice, Conan Doyle created a powerful blend of ratiocination and scientific analysis in the intellectual superhero, Sherlock Holmes. The detective was modeled on a real-life medical role-model of Doyle when he was a medical student and the name Doyle selected coincided with the real-life medical superhero Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of the most prominent Americans Abroad, who studied with Louis in Paris, as explained in David McCullough’s book. After return to Boston, Holmes presented one of the first convincing hypotheses for the germ theory to explain puerperal fever. [Below: Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle by English photographer Herbert Rose Barraud. Carbon print on card mount. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London.]

Doyle SS

 

Four.

Holmes embraced the new technology of photography, writing essays about it, making his own pictures, inventing a stereoscopic camera, and studying human ambulation with it. In the June issue of The Atlantic Magazine in 1859 Holmes commented on the improbability of the technology of capturing an actual moment in time totally on a single surface:

“This is just what the Daguerreotype has done. It has fixed the most fleeting of our illusions, that which the apostle and the philosopher and the poet have alike used as the type of instability and unreality. The photograph has completed the triumph, by making a sheet of paper reflect images like a mirror and hold them as a picture.”

It is a universal truth that pictures tell stories more immediately than words, and we humans have been practicing this art since cave-dwelling days, inspired by beauty in the natural world, fantasies, or unnatural horrors. Photography offers realistic images of faces, scenes, or situations, and complements the older visual arts of drawing or painting.

Earlier, in the inaugural Atlantic Monthly (above) Holmes had written:

“The next European war will send us stereographs of battles. It is asserted that a bursting shell can be photographed… We are looking into stereoscopes as pretty toys, and wondering over the photograph as a charming novelty; but before another generation has passed away, it will be recognized that a new epoch in the history of human progress dates from the time when He who

Never but in uncreated light

Dwelt from eternity –

Took a pencil of fire from the hand of the ‘angel standing in the sun,’ and placed it in the hands of a mortal.”

[“The stereoscope and the stereograph,” Atlantic Monthly, November, 1857.]

 

Five.

Guernica. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) while living in Paris was commissioned by the Spanish Republican Government to make a work in response to the destruction of Guernica. This  Basque town in northern Spain was bombed for two hours by Nazi Germany and Italian warplanes in their support of Spanish nationalists on 26 April 1937. [Above: Picasso working on the mural. Wikipedia.] The town was at a major crossroad 10 kilometers from the front lines between the Republican retreat and Nationalist advance to Bilbao. The target was a minor factory for war materials outside of town. The bombers missed the factory, but destroyed the town.

Picasso completed the large oil painting on canvas in June, 1937, after 35 days of work. The specific disputes of the Republicans and Nationalists, and the justifications of their supporters and suppliers are nowhere evident in the mural, only the grotesque mangled forms and anguished expressions of the victims. Guernica may be Picasso’s greatest work and one of mankind’s iconic images of the horror of war. The event itself was miniscule in the grand scale of 20th century conflict, but Picasso made it a transcendent moment for humanity.

No single painting, photograph, or narrative can capture the full and terrible story of Guernica, although together they give a fuller sense of the horror than any one work alone. [Above: Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain. ©Picasso. Below: ruined Guernica. German Federal Archives.]

Guernica, Ruinen

Picasso had commissioned three full-size tapestry reproductions of the work by Jacqueline de la Baume Durrbach and her husband René in 1955, weavers in Southern France. Nelson Rockefeller purchased one of these and it hangs on loan in the United Nations at the entrance to the Security Council room. A blue curtain strategically covered Guernica for televised press conferences of Colin Powell and John Negroponte on 5 February 2003. [Kennedy M. “Picasso tapestry of Guernica heads to UK.” London: The Guardian, 26 January 2009.] Picasso entrusted Guernica to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, pending re-establishment of liberty and democracy in Spain. After Spain became a democratic constitutional monarchy in 1978 the painting was ceded to Spain in 1981, although not without dissent that the ruling system was still not quite the republic stipulated by the artist in his will.

 

Short bits.

Morbidity and Mortality (M&M) conferences, discussed here last month, brought M&M candy to mind. The story goes that the Spanish Civil War inspired Forrest Mars, Sr. to create an American version of the British confection Smarties. Mars was working in England in the candy business at that time, estranged from his father, Frank Mars of Mars candy fame. Forrest had created the Mars Bar in Slough in 1932 and was looking for another product. Rowntree’s of York, maker of Chocolate Beans since 1882, had recently tweaked the name to Milk Chocolate Beans in 1937, and changed it to Smarties the following year. These oblate spheroids were sold in cylindrical cardboard tubes, with a colorful lid that contained a random alphabet letter, designed to encourage children to learn. The chocolate center was protected by a shell of hardened sugar syrup to prevent melting, a convenience enjoyed by soldiers in the Spanish Civil War.

The Spanish Civil War (17 July 1936 – 1 April 1939) engendered strong international sympathies, involving anarchists, communists, nationalists, aristocratic groups, and religious factions, although largely became viewed as a contest between democracy and fascism. British volunteers, likely including George Orwell, carried Milk Chocolate Beans and Smarties into battles and Forrest Mars might have noticed. Just as likely one of his children brought some home.

Returning to the U.S. and working with Bruce Murrie, son of Hershey Chocolate’s president, Mars developed their button-shaped variant, patented it on 3 March 1941, and began manufacture that year in New Jersey. M&M derived from Mars and Murrie, with a small “m” stamped on each button. The first big customer was the U.S. Army and during WWII M&Ms were sold exclusively to the military. “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand,” was first used as a tagline in 1949. Peanut M&Ms were introduced in 1954, and the rest is history.

Thanks for reading Matula Thoughts

David A. Bloom, M.D.

University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

 

 

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