WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MEDICAL STUDENT?
Working at the Mercer Island Thrift Store beckons the willing to follow the clues left behind for a mystery ripe with drama. Donations come into the store in containers full of items looking for a new owner, a second maybe third purpose. Sometimes, a family is cleaning out an attic or drawers and the sheer volume requires hasty decision making and determining the value can be exhausting. Many of our donors know Business Manager Suzanne Philen and her team will take care to put aside such items. A recent example of this was a 2 inch thick, leather bound notebook clearly scribed in in ink from a time long ago. This mystery is just starting to unfold. Drawing on clues in the book, her team reached out to possible leads and discovered some important facts about the book she held in her possession:
The book was scribed by a medical student between 1801-2 while sitting at a desk in a classroom at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, Scotland.
The student scribed in longhand what his professor, Alexander Monro (segundus) and later his son, Alexander Monro (tertius) said including etched drawings that may have been hand-outs for reference.
Alexander Monro (tertius) taught Charles Darwin. It is rumored that his teachings were so brash that Darwin reconsidered his professional pursuit of surgery and went on to pursue natural history. The University of Edinburgh Medical College was founded by Alexander Monro (primus) and his son and his son’s son all followed the line of teaching.
Dr. Horace Manchester Brown, MD, FACS of Milwaukee, Wisconsin had the book at some point. We know he was curious and tried to find out how the book came to the U.S. as evidenced by a return letter from the US Department of War, Surgeon General's return letter in 1927 which was tucked inside the cover of the book. We don’t know if he ever learned the answer.
How is Dr. Brown related to Mercer Island?
A NEW ACADEMIC HOME FOR THIS PIECE OF HISTORY
Clues have been laid at our feet and now the store has carefully delivered the 480 page book to the Library at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Scotland. Currently the book is being restored by conservation experts to ensure it will remain as evidence of how doctors were trained for surgery and clinical practice.
Academic researchers at the school will be joining us to help solve the mystery. Who was he? What is his name? Was he famous? Where did he practice surgery? How did his notebook get to the U.S.? Check back here for updates as the school and we pursue the clues left for us.