War, Bones and Books

The carnage of the American Civil War...
Fire at the McGill University Faculty of Medicine...
Unconventional verse of the mid-19th century...
A worldwide association of pathologists...
A celebrated library...


This seemingly disparate group of events and institutions and the individuals associated with them—including William Hammond, Maude Abbott, Walt Whitman, James Carroll and William Osler—are in fact linked in a complex series of associations that extend from the 1860s to the beginning of the 20th century to the present time.

The exhibit War, Bones and Books was first displayed in 2005 at the McGill Osler Library of the History of Medicine. It focuses on a small collection of skeletal specimens derived from soldiers of the American Civil War. The specimens were donated to the McGill Medical Museum by the United States Army Medical Museum in 1907. In addition to the specimens, the exhibit includes a number of poems related to the wartime experience of Walt Whitman—who was a patient of William Osler—as well as illustrations of the battlefield injuries and detailed medical histories taken from the monumental six-volume The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion.

The fragments of bones—many shattered or disfigured by attempts at healing—are mirrored by the harrowing stories of the soldiers from whom they came and are a lasting tribute to the horror of war.

Contributions to the development of this exhibit were made by:
Richard Fraser
Monica Farcas
Elizabeth Lenz


McGill Reporter, 8 September 2005

We welcome any comments or suggestions concerning the exhibit. pathologysupport.med [at] mcgill.ca (Click here) to give us your opinion.

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