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Prints, Portfolios & History of Two Historic Paintings

Prints and Note Cards

The Boston Medical Library is selling prints of two paintings depicting historic events in the field of surgery:

"The First Successful Kidney Transplantation" by Joel Babb, 1995-1996. ($30.00)

This 18 x 14 print comes matted in a choice of white or blue and is shrink wrapped for protection. Read a history of the print or view online.

"First Operation Under Ether" by Robert Hinckley, painted from 1882-1894 ($30.00)

Print ($30.00)

This 18 1/2 x 16" print comes with a bone-colored matt and is shrink wrapped for its protection. Read a history of the print or view online.

Note cards ($12.00)

A package of 10 "First Operation Under Ether" note cards - view online

Yousuf Karsh Portfolios

The Boston Medical LIbrary has available for the purchase price of $1000.00 a limited edition portfolio of 12 superb 13" x 17" Yousuf Karsh Portraits of HEALERS OF OUR AGE. Each portfolio contains 12 portraits, a brief biography of each subject and an essay by Karsh on the photographic encounter which produced the portrait as well as an insert of the contents of the portfolio.

Read a history about this world-famous portrait photographer and view the images online.

Placing an Order

To order prints, note cards or portfolios complete the BML order form or call 617-432-2136  

Make your check out to the Boston Medical Library and mail order form to:

The Boston Medical Library
10 Shattuck Street
Boston, MA 02115
Attention: Circulation Desk


History of Paintings

"The First Successful Kidney Transplantation"

Take a look at the painting

On December 20, 1996, Dr. Francis D. Moore (the assistant who brought the kidney from the donor to the patient), Dr. Joseph E. Murray (the surgeon) and Dr. Leroy D. Vandam (the anaesthetist), presented this historical surgical painting to the Dean of Harvard Medical School. It was the hope that this painting could reside in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine along with Hinckley's famous "First Demonstration of Ether" painting.

Eighteen months earlier they began discussions about commissioning such a painting to celebrate the first successful transplantation while some of the participants were still alive. With sharp surgical memories and a photograph, they went searching for an artist. Through a strong recommendation they were referred to Joel Babb. Although he came to Boston frequently to paint and teach, he lived in Buckfield, Maine. Tremendously impressed with his large mural-sized paintings he made of Boston and its environs, Drs. Moore, Murray and Vandam gave him some sketches and the photograph. He and Dr. Murray went to the operating room where a mock set-up of the transplant operation helped re-create accurately a very special moment in medical history of the twentieth century.

Over eighteen months required to bring the painting to completion, several "viewings" in Boston were held, opportunities for some of the faculty to see the painting in progress and to make suggestions. The final "viewing" took place on October 25th at the Museum of Fine Arts studio -- the moment of artistic fulfillment had arrived.

The date of December 20th was selected for formal presentation since this date is very close to the forty-second anniversary of the operation (December 23, 1954).

The moment depicted is the morning hours of Thursday, December 23, 1954. Joseph Murray and his team are scrubbed, gowned, and performing the operation. They are about to receive the kidney from the donor twin for transplant into the lower abdomen of the patient.

The patient's kidney failure had been the result of Bright's disease, which laid waste to his kidneys over the years, and now left him little hope of recovery, even with dialysis on the artificial kidney.

The Herrick twins, Richard and Ronald, were fortunate in coming under the care of Dr. David Miller at the United States Public Health Hospital in Brighton. Dr. Miller arranged for dialysis for his patient at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. Knowing of the identical twin brother, Dr. Miller was the first to perceive the possibility of an operation to take advantage of genetic identity for transplantation of a kidney from the well twin to his sick brother. Within a few weeks, the identity of twinning being assured, the plan for a transplantation was set in motion.


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"The First Operation Under Ether"

Take a look at the painting

The "First Operation Under Ether", oil on canvas begun at Paris, 1882 and completed at Washington, DC, 1894 was acquired by the Boston Medical Library in 1903.

The Massachusetts born artist Robert C. Hinckley (1853-1940) undertook, while still an art student in Paris, to recreate an event that was much talked about during his youth in Boston -- the introduction of anesthesia into surgery. Obtaining photographs and other pictorial matter from contacts in Boston, he made his preliminary sketches and even began his canvas in Paris in 1882 and during early 1883 . In order to make it as authentic as possible, he returned to Boston in the summer of 1883 and interviewed surgeons and others who had knowledge of the first operation under ether. He sought out photographs and pictures of those who had participated in it, and looked for pictures of "New England faces" to paint in as spectators. While achieving authenticity in many respects,the author took liberties to make his picture artistic as well. For example, it actually required three operations to convince the medical community of Boston that painless surgery had at last been achieved. Hinckley's picture shows the faces of surgeons and others who were present at one or the other of these three operations -- but not necessarily at the first! Hinckley was much concerned with perspective when planning his picture; he wanted every spectator in the picture (and the viewer outside) to focus on the dramatic action that was taking place in the center of the arena -- the discovery of anesthesia -- and in this he succeeded admirably.

His picture is known world-wide as one of the best depictions of a surgical operation, as well as for its recreation of the "first operation under ether."

If you would like more information on the "The First Operation Under Ether" painting, The Boston Medical Library published a book in 1993 by Richard J. Wolfe on the subject. Check out the publications page.

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