Louis Pastuer (1822-1895) started his scientific career as a chemist studying crystallography. His work with organic crystals led to the French Government to asked for his assistance in determining the cause of wine spoilage, leading to the development in "pasteurization." His work then turned to what would become the birth of microbiology with his investigations into the diseases of silkworms and the disproval of spontaneous generation. Next came the study of infectious diseases and immunology when he developed vaccines for chicken cholera, anthrax, and rabies.
The Blocker Collections holds a significant number of items once owned by Pasteur; including several handwritten letters, all of his offprints and reprints, hand corrected proofs, one of his microscopes, and works from his personal library in their first edition.
A student of the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the School of Art of Boston University, Doris Appel (1904-1995) confined her work to the interpretation of medical history. Albert Einstein, Max Neuberger, George Sarton, and Henry Sigerist each encouraged her throughout her career. Medical historian Arturo Castiglione characterized her work as “an important art contribution, unique in its kind in the history of medicine.”
Doris Appel’s sculptures appear in libraries, universities, and medical institutions across the country. Her most monumental installation is the Hall of Medical History, which she created in two nearly identical versions. One is installed at the Boston University School of Medicine and the other is in the foyer of the Ashbel Smith Building (“Old Red”) at UTMB. The Blocker Collections' exhibit follows along with Appel's handwritten lecture notes in which she describes each scientist featured in the Hall of Medical History accompanied by a combination of her art and rare books held within the Blocker Collections.
For the creation of each figure, Doris Appel studied and prepared for months. She was a member of the Medical History Society and made many deep and lasting friendships with medical historians. She worked with experts on each historical figure. Of particular interest is that she made very few sketches, no preliminary maquette (small figure); the vision was firmly in her head. After she and her husband, dermatologist Dr. Bernard Appel, had constructed the lead armature and heavy wire fencing to the back of a ten foot high wood panel, she would prepare the big pots of moist Italian clay. Next she would close her studio door and create the statue at high speed, finishing within three or four days. A plaster mold was made by throwing wet plaster onto the clay figure. The figure was laid face down and all the clay of the original statue dug out of the mold. The mold was soaped to oil the inside of the mold and fresh new tinted plaster was carefully thrown into the mold to retain all of the details. The inside plaster hardened; the statue was up-righted in place and the original mold chipped off.
The Blocker Collections is the fortunate holder of several pieces of Doris Appel’s work, all of which are on permanent display.
The UTMB Alumni exhibit highlighted 15 graduates of UTMB between 1892 and 1953.
Dr. Keiller, UTMB’s first professor of anatomy, used his art training to create over 200 oversized drawings of anatomical structures and relationships for use as teaching aids in his classroom. At least 60 other UTMB students and faculty members also contributed drawings to what is called the Keiller Collection. This collection of 2,540 drawings is among the largest of its kind in the nation.
An exhibit of materials from the archival collections of Dr. Charles A. Berry, Dr. William E. Thornton, and Dr. James G. Gaume was on display in 2019 to celebrate the end of a project which saw the digitization of over 7,500 photographs, documents, and film from these three collections. The exhibit also served as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.
Dr. Charles Berry (1923-2020) was the first doctor to the astronauts and helped select the Mercury 7. He also served as UTMB’s first director of the department of aerospace medicine.
Dr. William Thornton (1929-2021) was selected in the first class of scientist-astronauts in 1967 and flew on two shuttle missions. He was a professor at UTMB in the 1990s and invented what students today refer to as “heart sounds.”
Dr. James Gaume (1915-1996) was the only civilian in the early US space program and developed the “first house on the moon” in the late 1950s.
In the summer of 1920, Galveston fell victim to an outbreak of bubonic plague. The Truman G. Blocker, Jr. History of Medicine Collections had on display photographs, notebooks, and other items from that outbreak. Also displayed were rare books relating to the history of the Black Death from its first recorded appearance in 541CE through the discovery of the plague bacillus in 1894.