Early Years

The First Seventy-Five Years, 1906-1981

The Early Years

The movement to form an International Association of Medical Museums began during the Winter of 1906. Two preliminary meetings for the purpose of organization were held in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland on May 15 and 17, 1906, when an organizing committee was formed to perform the work of enrolling members and formulating a Constitution. This committee on organization consisted of Major James Carroll of the Army Medical Museum, Washington, D.C.; W. G. MacCallum, M.D. Of the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland; and Maude E. Abbott, M.D. of McGill University, Montreal, Canada. It is not clear exactly how the original organizing committee of three was formed but it was most likely by personal correspondence between them.

The organizing committee generated a letter of invitation to members among the leading medical museums throughout the world inviting them to join in forming an international association. It was stressed that "Only active workers connected with leading medical museums should be admitted to membership, and the international character of the Association and the importance of its function as a medium for the interchange of museum material, were insisted upon as its most essential principles.' It was further stipulated that "The business of the Association was to be conducted chiefly by means of correspondence, and the meetings were to be held triennially at Washington, in connection with the Congress of Physicians and Surgeons unless otherwise specially arranged; in this way it was thought to forestall and obviate the objections likely to be raised to the formation of a new association with obligate annual meetings in these days of an over-organized profession."

The first documented meeting of the International Association of Medical Museums (IAMM) was held on May 6, 1907 at 3:00 p.m. in the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C. Dr. W. G. MacCallum presided because of the illness of Major James Carroll, Chairman of the Organizing Committee. Dr. MacCallum recounted that this meeting had been called by Major Carroll for the purposes of taking formal steps in organizing the Association."

Present at this meeting were: Prof. William Osler (Oxford, England); Capt. Frederick Fuller Russell (Washington, D.C.); Prof. F. F. Westbrook (Minnesota); Prof. J. J. MacKenzie (Toronto, Canada); Prof. R. M. Pearce (Albany); Dr. D. S. Lamb (Washington, D.C.); Prof. Edmond Souchon (Louisiana); Dr. D. J. Healy (Washington, D.C.); Dr. White (Minnesota); Prof. W. G. MacCallum (Baltimore); Dr. Maude E. Abbott (Montreal, Canada); and Prof. Henry Albert (Iowa).

The Committee on Organization was empowered to continue its activities and to frame a Constitution and Bylaws. The list of potential organizing members who responded to the invitation sent out by Maude Abbott was presented at the meeting and it was resolved that those who applied for active membership would be included among the organizing members.

The first officers elected were: President, Major James Carroll, Army Medical Museum, Washington, D.C.; First Vice President, Prof. W. G. MacCallum, Johns Hopkins University Medical School, Baltimore, Maryland; Second Vice President, Prof. J. Ritchie, Oxford University, Oxford, England; Second Vice President, Prof. J. Ludwig Aschoff, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany; and Secretary / Treasurer, Dr. Maude E. Abbott, McGill Medical Museum, Montreal, Canada.

As Secretary-Treasurer, Dr. Maude Abbott became the moving spirit of the IAMM and it is truly appropriate that the letterhead of the International Academy of Pathology contain the phrase "Founded by Maude Abbott in 1906." She credited the idea of an association of medical museums to Prof. Wyatt Johnston of McGill University and Pathologist at the Montreal General Hospital who made the suggestion to the staff of the Army Medical Museum in 1899, but no action was taken until Dr. D. S. Lamb of the Army Medical Museum staff repeated the suggestion in 1905 to Major James Carroll who was Curator at that time.

It was suggested by Dr. Osler that the Association issue a yearly or half-yearly bulletin of museum information similar to an existing German periodical pertaining particularly to the exchange of specimens and lacunae in collections. The motion passed unanimously.

In closing the meeting, Dr. MacCallum drew attention to the recent loss by fire of most of the Pathological Museum and all of the Anatomical Museum at McGill University in Montreal. He urged all members to assist in restoration of this museum. Dr. Maude Abbott issued an appeal in the bulletin for replacement of specimens.

The second meeting of the IAMM was held in the Assembly Hall of the new National Museum (an addition to the original red brick Smithsonian Building on Independence Avenue) in Washington, D.C. on October 1-2, 1908. This was the first international meeting and was held in conjunction with the International Congress on Tuberculosis. The meeting was chaired by the First vice-president, W. G. MacCallum, "acting in the place of the late lamented President, Dr. James Carroll." Dr. Carroll died five months after he was elected to office and at this meeting Dr. W. G. MacCallum was elected to succeed him.

Discussions in the first two meetings centered around the publication of a bulletin, the exchange of specimens, the need for a uniform system of museum classification, possible association with the American Association of Museums or the Museums Association of Great Britain, the presentation of results of research as material for medical museums and its proposed constitution. Dr. Abbott demonstrated a series of specimens of anomalies of the heart, obtained from the Army Medical Museum and the museums of McGill University and Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The first constitution and bylaws received approval at this meeting. The scientific program consisted of eight presentations, mostly concerning methods of preservation of museum specimens. On October 12, 1909, a circular letter was sent to all members of the IAMM from Maude Abbott that revealed some of her strength and character.

This letter read:

"Dear Doctor,

The names on the enclosed list have been proposed by your Committee for membership in the International Association of Medical Museums, and these gentlemen have all signified their wish to join the Association.

According to Articles II and VI of the Constitution, the membership is elective and may be extended at any time in the interim of the meetings by the two-thirds majority vote of the members taken in writing by the Secretary. Most of the names submitted on this occasion are so distinguished as to render their election a mere matter of conformity to the Constitution. Please record your vote by writing "Yes" opposite the name voted upon in the column assigned and return to the Secretary at your earliest convenience.

The annual membership fee of $2.00 is now due.

Yours very sincerely,

Maude Abbott, M.D.


Proposed for membership were: Prof. Hans Chiari, Strassburg, Germany; Prof. Paul Courmont, Lyon, France; Dr. Oswaldo deCruz, Rio de Janiero Brazil; Prof. Forsmann, Lund, Sweden; Prof. Herxheimer, Wiesbaden, Germany; Prof. Z. Jores, Coln-Lindenthal, Germany; Prof. Josselin de Jong, Leyden, Holland; Prof. Kretz, Prague, Austria; Prof. Thomas G. Lee, University of Minnesota, U.S.A.; Prof. Lubarsch, Dusseldorf, Germany; Prof. G. MacConnell, Cancer Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.; Prof. Pierre Marie, Paris, France; Prof. Martinotti, Bologna, Italy; Prof. E. S. Popham, Manitoba Medical College Canada; Prof. Quensal, Upsala, Sweden; Prof. Gustav Roussy, Paris, France; Dr. Victo Scheele, Copenhagen, Denmark; Prof. Oskar Stoerck, Vienna, Austria; Dr. W. Olferstan Thomas, North Brazil; Dr. J. L Todd, McDonald College, Canada; Dr. S. B. Wolbach, Montreal General Hospital, Canada; and Dr. G. M. Byers, McGill University, Canada.

The first Constitution and Bylaws were published in Bulletin No. 2 of the IAMM on January 15, 1909. This two page document called for annual meetings, membership to be elective and an annual dues of $2.00.

The third meeting of the IAMM was held May 3-4, 1910 in a small room in the new Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C., on which dates the Congress of American Physicians and Surgeons took place. Four new members were added during this meeting: Prof. Carl Sunddorf of Sweden; Dr. B. C. Crowell of New York; Dr. G. N. Whipple of Baltimore, Maryland; and Dr. Martha Wollenstein of New York.

Prof. A. S. Warthin (University of Michigan) was elected President: Prof. Sims Woodhead (Cambridge, England) was elected 1st Vice President; Prof. Edmond Souchon (Tulane, New Orleans) 2nd Vice President; Prof. Ludwig Aschoff (Freiburg, Germany) 3rd Vice President. Councillors elected were Prof. W. G. MacCallum (College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York); Dr. D. S. Lamb (Army Medical Museum Washington, D.C.); Prof. F. F. Westbrook (University of Minnesota); Prof. LeCount (University of Chicago); Prof. P. G. Wooley University of Cincinnati); Prof. W. Ophuls (San Francisco, California); Dr. George Whipple (Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, Maryland).

Dr. Maude Abbott was re-elected Secretary-Treasurer and Dr. W W Francis, a colorful character, was elected Assistant Secretary-Treasurer. W. W. Francis was the son of a first cousin of William Osler. He was one of four who later catalogued the Osler Library at Oxford, England and became the Osler Librarian when the collection was willed by Osler to McGill University where it was transferred in 1928. According to a legend, Francis escorted the Osler Library to Montreal "sitting on top of the pile of eighty-six packing cases."

The fourth meeting was held in Chicago, Illinois on the afternoon of April 18, 1911, preceding the meeting of the American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists. Thirty-five members attended and forty-four members were elected including many pathologists from France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Japan, England, Scotland, Ireland, U.S.A. and Canada.

The following are excerpts from the minutes of that meeting:

"The Secretary's Report dealt chiefly with the extension of the Association as an international body by the development of local European centres and the growth of the foreign membership. An important step had been the organization of a German 'Verein zum Austausch Anatomischer Praeparate' at Frankfurt-on-Main under the directorship of Professor B. Fischer, as a branch and integral part of this Association. In addition to the establishment of an Exchange system in Germany in direct connection with the Deutsche Pathologische Gesellschaft this Verein had made an important departure in the establishment of a central Bureau for the preservation of microscopical material showing the results of original research. In May, 1911, a visit in the interest of the Association had been made by the Secretary to the Museums and Hospitals of Paris, Holland, Belgium and England, which had resulted in the organization of local centres in these countries, and in the reception of a large number of new names for election to membership.

On May 13th, 1911, a meeting of British pathologists had been called by Sir William Osler and Professor Arthur Keith at the Royal College of Surgeons Museum, London, to meet the Secretary with a view to obtaining information about the aims and progress of the Association. Much interest was evinced, and a suggestion was made that the meeting of 1913 be held in London in conjunction with the International Congress of Medicine."

A discussion took place upon the necessity of the reorganization of the Association from an international standpoint. It was felt that its rapid growth and increasing complexity of relations, together with the progress made during the past year in the formation of local European centres, have made it evident that this Association must now be internationally organized under a Congress President and Congress Secretary, while the membership in the United States and Canada should form, as in other countries, a local American section----"

From this meeting on, there was periodic discussion of the desirability of having European and United States-Canadian sections.

At this meeting a paper was presented by Dr. Thomas Ordway, advocating the case method of teaching pathology as done by clinical departments. Dr. Ordway quoted Dr. F. C. Curtis on this subject "Education is something more than barnacle-like accretion of facts; if that were all, the mind is likely to be burdened and hindered by them as furnished and helped." From the discussion, it seemed that the case method of teaching pathology was used only in a few of the better medical schools. It must be remembered that the Flexner Report had just been published and pressure to close inferior proprietary medical schools was just beginning in the United States at this time.

Several papers were presented on the preparation and display of museum specimens including temporal bone preparation, the lettering of museum jars, and the tagging of specimens. The results of a circular sent to members of the IAMM by President A. S. Warthin were presented. This "Experience Circular No. 1" asked the members to comment on methods that they used in the preservation of specimens to preserve color. The Kaiserling Method of preservation was preferred by most respondents.

A listing of members at this meeting included honorary members: Prof. J. G. Adami of McGill University, Montreal, Canada; Sir Jonathan Hutchinson, Post Graduate School, London, England; Prof. William Osler, Oxford, England; and Prof. William Welch, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. The active membership had grown to 104.

The fifth meeting was held at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on April 4, 1912 in conjunction with the meeting of the American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists. President Warthin called attention to the rapid growth of the Association and proposed as a constitutional amendment that whereas an annual meeting was necessary for the conduct of business, it was not permissible to have a meeting of international character every year. Therefore, a clause was added to Article V of the Constitution as follows: "Every third year the meeting shall be held at a time and place accessible to foreign members, and shall be an international character, and at this meeting the triennial election of officers shall take place." This was the forerunner of our International Congresses that are now held every two years and signaled the formation of a truly international body with divisions in various countries.

In view of the forthcoming sixth meeting to be held in London, England, a business meeting of the members resident in America was held on May 5, 1913 at the Army Medical School in Washington, D.C. (This was the forerunner of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. It was not a medical school in the sense that it offered an M.D. or other academic degrees. It was a medical post-graduate school designed to teach military and tropical medicine to medical officers.) This meeting was concerned with organizing a local section of the IAMM for the United States and Canada and making preparations for the sixth meeting in London. The American-Canadian Section was not formally established at the May 5, 1913 meeting nor did the International Constitution and Bylaws refer to sections or divisions in various countries. The records of this business meeting were not available but subsequent records indicated that Prof. R. M. Pearce was elected President of the American Section of the IAMM.

The sixth annual meeting and second triennial meeting was the first to be held in Europe. This meeting was held in conjunction with the XVIIth International Congress of Medicine. Three sessions were held as follows:

Part I - Transaction of Business, Tuesday, August 5, 1913 at the Royal College of Surgeons, Lincolns Inn Fields W. C., London.

Part II - Symposium on "Experience Circular No. 2" (dealing with the preparation of issues for microscopic examination and the means of storing and filing histological specimens), Wednesday, August 6, 1913 at the Museum of the International Congress of Medicine, Imperial College of Science, South Kensington.

Part III -Papers and Demonstrations on Exhibits in the Section of Museum Technique, Thursday, August 7, 1913 at the Imperial College of Science, South Kensington.

At this meeting, specimens and exhibits were sent to the "Museum of the Congress" for display with the written understanding that "the exhibitor agrees to pay his share of the expense of transit." Descriptive cards were attached to each exhibit in English, German, and French.

Maude Abbott's Scrapbook included a complete program of this meeting, an article in Lancet, and invitation to social events, including an invitation from His Majesty the King to tea on the East Lawn of Windsor Castle on August 9, and a concert by the Band of the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Prince's Red Band in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Regent's Park on Monday, August 11. This latter event was hosted by Lord and Lady Strathcona. (Lord Strathcona was born in Scotland and sailed to Canada to join the Hudson Bay Company as a boy of 15. From a bleak isolated post in Labrador, he rose to be Resident Governor of the Hudson Bay Company. He was one of the chief proponents of the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1886. His wealth and influence enabled him to carry out many philanthropies.)

Pipers from the Scots Guards performed and light refreshments were served in the Gardens and in the Fellow's Dining Room.

Lord Strathcona stood for three hours to personally greet each of the 3,000 persons who attended.

At this first truly international meeting, Prof. Arthur Keith, Honorary President of the meeting, introduced Prof. A. S. Warthin as the President of the IAMM. Prof. Warthin noted the growth of the Associations membership to more than 200 leading pathologists and anatomists in the world. Sir William Osler spoke on the improved organization of the Association, and President Warthin stated at this meeting "the organization of the international body and its local sectional societies was to be thoroughly worked out." Sir William Osler suggested that the international development of the IAMM could proceed along the lines of a "central bureau which could control the different branches in various countries and hold triennial meetings in the country where the International Medical Congress was held." At this meeting recommendations were adopted establishing "a central international body with international officers and local or sectional societies with local officers, one society in each country represented."

The following officers of the International Body were elected: President, Prof. Ludwig Aschoff (Frieburg, Germany); First Vice President, Arthur Keith (London, England); Second Vice President, Prof. Pierre Marie (Paris, France); Third Vice President, Prof. R. M. Pearce (Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.); SecretaryTreasurer, Dr. Maude Abbott (Montreal, Canada). Councillors were: Sir William Osler (England); Prof. J. G. Adami (Canada); Prof. A. S. Warthin (U.S.A.); Prof. Bernard Fischer (Germany); Prof. Paul Courmant (France); Prof. J. Fibiger (Denmark); Prof. Harbitz (Norway); Prof. Askanazy (Switzerland); Dr. de Josselin de Jong (Holland); and Dr. Rene Sand (Belgium).

Prof. Palteholz demonstrated a series of histological preparations of various organs and Prof. Adolph Meyer showed three glass reconstruction models of the human brain. Several papers were presented on techniques of staining.

Although the exchange of specimens was stated many times to be one of the most important functions of the IAMM, and needs were published in the bulletins, the actual exchange of specimens seemed to have been meager and sporadic.

The Wellcome Historical Museum, originated by Dr. H. W. Wellcome, who was an organizer of the Burroughs and Wellcome Pharmaceutical Company, was one of the most interesting features of the Congress. This collection occupied two large suites of rooms and specimens were arranged in order of evolution of the history of medicine. Dr. Wellcome was a member of the IAMM.

On February 15, 1914, Maude Abbott sent the following announcement to all members of the IAMM: "Donald Alexander Smith, Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, Born August 6, 1820 died January 1914 BENEFACTOR." The announcement explained that Lord Strathcona, High Commissioner of Canada, Chancellor of McGill University, Canadian Financier and Philanthropist, had been informed of the meager financial status of the IAMM at the meeting in London. Lord Strathcona promised a gift of One Thousand Pounds Sterling. "His personal check for the larger amount of Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), (20,000 marks or 25,000 francs) was received by Maude Abbott on October 5, 1913. The money was immediately handed over to the trustees of McGill University, Montreal to be invested for the IAMM. The interest was to be applied to the establishment and maintenance of the proceedings of the Association at a higher standard of efficiency."

Unfortunately, the announcement of this gift was delayed until the publication of Bulletin No. 5, published in June 1915 after the death of Lord Strathcona at age 93. This gift was one of his last of many acts of public benevolence.

Another famous member of the IAMM died in 19l4, Prof. Charles S. Minot, Anatomist at Harvard University whose microtome for making histological sections was used widely. His obituary is recorded in the same Bulletin No. 5.

After the London Meeting of August 6-9, 1913, Maude Abbott visited the International President, Prof. Ludwig Aschoff, in Freiburg where they discussed the possible development of the IAMM over the next three years. They had agreed that sectional sub-societies should be formed in various countries to include representatives of Pathology, Anatomy and Public Health and that the sectional societies seek representation of the IAMM in their national societies of pathology as had been done in the German Pathological Society. Both of these suggestions were accomplished to a large extent but not until the Constitution of 1969 was ratified.

Maude Abbott had also visited the headquarters of the Verin zum Austausch Anatomischer Praparate at the Senekenberg Institute in Frankfurt-am-Main and then visited various pathological and anatomical institutes in Milan, Pavia, Bologna, Rome, Naples and Turin with a view toward the organization of an Italian Section.