Canada’s Sesquicentennial: 150 Years of Research at UofT

2017 marks Canada’s 150th anniversary as a nation. We’ve taken this as an opportunity to look back at the history of the University of Toronto: its people, its research, its stories. We’re running two sesquicentenially themed projects. Our exhibit, “Untold Stories”, opened in April 2017 and runs until the spring of 2018. Using artifacts gathered from departments across the university–from crayfish collected from an Ontario lake to a geiger counter rescued from U of T’s SlowPoke reactor–the exhibit tells just a few of the thousands of stories U of T has produced.

You can find “Untold Stories” in our exhibit space on the third floor of the Victoria College building (Old Vic), at U of T’s St George Campus. The exhibit is free and open between 10am-6pm daily.

If you can’t get to Toronto, throughout the year we are running an online exhibit highlighting some of our exhibit artifacts (and more!) in detailed blog posts that explore them from all angles: their form, fabrication, use, lives and deaths. Follow us on Twitter to hear about each new article as it is posted, or visit the link below to see all the posts so far.

Material Culture Mentorship Project 2016/ 2017

For the past three years, high school students of African and Indigenous descent enrolled in the Summer Mentorship Program of the Faculty of Medicine Office of Health Professions Student Affairs (OHPSA) have participated in a program involving research topics related to the history of health in Toronto.

Over a series of monthly workshops, participating students gather with mentors from the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST) and the Faculty of Medicine MD Program, to practice and apply university level research skills.

Beginning in the fall of 2016, participating students chose research projects that focused on local health-related artefacts from a variety of collections and representing a number of healthcare fields. This online exhibit presents some of that research.

Peola Ellis ………………… The Hellige Hemometer
Munira Abdelgade ……..  The Yankauer Mask 
Janae Knott ………………    A Vernier Caliper
Teyohate Brant …………..  Dermatological Teaching Kit
Charles Adeyinka ……   Machlett Dynamax “25” X-Ray Tube

Makers of Scientific Materials at the University of Toronto

Meet some of the makers of scientific materials at the University of Toronto!

Featured here are clips from interviews with local technicians and craftspeople discussing their careers, projects and technical work including machine making, biomedical production, histology, scientific glassblowing, medical illustration and critical making. Videos can also be found on our youtube playlist.

Made in Toronto

Our 2016-2017 exhibit, completed in collaboration with Museum Studies students, focused on artifacts related to the production of scientific knowledge at the University of Toronto. From university glassblowers, to artists producing instructional images, to university researchers building unique lab equipment, the exhibit examines the variety people and objects behind the university’s rich ‘making’ history. We interviewed a number of technicians and artists–you can listen to their stories by following the link below, or here, for videos of the The Makers of Scientific Materials at the University of Toronto.

This exhibit is now closed (find our latest exhibit here). You can find many of the objects featured in Made in Toronto in our online catalogue, including the Bird Behaviour Recorder, locally crafted copies of psychological tests, a pair of goggles for rotating the visual field, and our Thing-O-Matic 3D printer.

White’s Physiological Manikin

c. 1895

Designed in the late 19th century, White’s Physiological Manikin revealed the secrets of the human body one flap at a time. As a life-size visual encyclopaedia, White’s Manikin shows anatomical structure, surgical techniques, and even prenatal development despite the sex of the Manikin being male.

This particular manikin was used by the anaesthesiologist Dr. Kneeshaw of St. Joseph’s Hospital, who received it in 1940 during his medical education.

Psychological Tests

The first psychology laboratory in Canada was created in 1891 at the University of Toronto, under the direction of the well-known psychologist James Baldwin. It was housed on the first floor of the University College building.

This lab was part of the new and growing field of experimental psychology, whose practitioners sought to make the study of the mind and consciousness more scientific. Its creation, however, was not without controversy. Opposition came from philosophers who thought the study of the mind was not something that could be modeled after the physical sciences. But by 1926, the discipline of psychology had become widely accepted enough to merit its own independent department, created under the head of Edward Alexander Bott.

The collection of psychological tests here represents some of the experiments and tests that were conducted during the history of Unipsychological testing, both in North America and Europe. The need to sort soldiers to the most appropriate positions led to the creation of many of the intelligence and personality tests on display here.These tests assess a range of psychological traits, from general intelligence to juvenile delinquency. They are also examples of the visual and aesthetic appeal that such tests can have; the Rorschach tests in particular have become iconic images in popular culture.

Nurses Uniforms, 1880’s – 1970’s

Modern nurses uniforms have evolved significantly from their early precursors. Uniforms (a) and (b) were worn by students between the 1880‘s and the 1970‘s at the Toronto General Hospital School of Nursing. Established in 1881, this school was one of many that were established in hospitals during the late 19th century.

Uniforms for students differed between hospitals, and served a number of functions. Aprons could be easily removed and sanitized, and caps kept hair covered and out of the way. Full sleeves and skirts served to maintain an appearance of modesty, which was important in an occupation which required young women to come into contact with patients’ bodies.

Uniforms also made nurses instantly recognizable in institutions that were becoming increasingly populated with patients, physicians, and other staff. Uniforms of different colours and patterns distinguished student nurses from graduates, who traditionally wore white. Graduates could also be identified by a black band on their caps.

In the 1970’s, nursing education was relocated from hospital-based schools to universities and community colleges, and scrubs began to replace uniforms as standard nurse’s attire.

Institutional Medicine

In late 18th- and early 19th- century Upper Canada, a variety of Acts were passed which attempted to restrict the practice of medicine and surgery to licensed individuals with formal training. Despite attempts to prevent the spread of “quackery”, unlicensed practice proved difficult to regulate.

Many individuals chose to self-treat or visit an unlicensed practitioner. Indeed, the vast numbers of patent medicine advertisements, directed at the average person, indicate the extent to which patients took their health into their own hands.

However, alongside this common trade in patent and popular medicines, professional medicine became increasingly institutionalized. Medical schools were opened beginning around the middle of the 19th century, new hospitals and asylums were constructed, and licensing regulations were increasingly enforced.

Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy

Nearly 70 years after it’s original publication Grant’s Atlas remains a top-selling anatomical atlas and is considered to be one of the “gold standard” atlases of modern medical education. First published in 1943, Grant’s Atlas was created as a solution to the shortage of the standard German anatomical atlases that were commonly used in North America prior to the Second World War. It was written by Dr. J. C.B. Grant, an anatomist at the University of Toronto and illustrated by women working at the Department of Medical Art Service.

Grant’s Atlas is distinguished from other contemporary atlases in many important ways. Its approach to anatomy was regional, not systemic. It used English anatomical terms, rather than Latin ones. It was highly visual, including more images and less text than other atlases. These features reflect Grant’s desire for his Atlas to be a practical guide for training physicians and surgeons.

Electricity in Medicine

From the late 18th to early 20th centuries medical researchers became increasingly interested in the use of electricity as a tool of medicine. Instruments like the galvanometer and the chemical battery produced remarkable interest and optimism among medical professionals for applying electricity to health and medicine. Meanwhile electricity took hold of the popular imagination as new technologies such as the electric light, the telegraph, and the electric streetcar entered daily life.

Over the first half of the 20th century, practical medical technologies began to emerge from this period of early enthusiasm.