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The Making of Medicine

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Deep in the bowels of UVA’s Claude Moore Health Sciences Library is a treasure trove of medical history. In a secure facility on the very bottom floor are stored all sorts of astounding relics, from a lancet owned by UVA’s first medical professor, Robley Dunglison, to the papers of UVA alum Walter Reed, who discovered that mosquitoes transmit malaria. (Mixed in with Reed’s medical matters are tender love letters to his wife.) There are medical instruments from ancient Rome, doctors’ bags from the 19th century, a book on treating the Plague from 1578, even an iron lung used to treat polio patients at the UVA hospital. All these artifacts are tended by the fine folks at Historical Collections & Services, who are doing yeoman’s work in preserving the history of our institution. They welcome visitors — though you’ll have to be buzzed in — but  if you aren’t in the area, they post fascinating online exhibits. Check it out!

To give you just a taste, here’s a list of physician fees from 1848. Local doctors got together and agreed to charge not less than the following prices:

The listing of "secret diseases" and the unequal race-based pricing speak to life in the 19th century.
The listing of “secret diseases” and the unequal race-based pricing speak to life in antebellum Charlottesville.


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