national medical museum



When invasive organisms were introduced to the body via gunshot wounds, a “phagedenic condition” (“eating-sloughing”) can occur. It was treated the same way as all other ulcers developing wet gangrene - amputation

Charles F. Barnum, Private in Co. E, of the 187th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, was shot in the Battle of Petersburg, VA, and was photographed and illustrated when his ulcer extended 6.5 inches from his ankle. The amputation was performed just below the tubercule of the tibia, and healed fully. No prosthetic was recorded before discharge.

Photograph from National Museum of Health Archives. Contributed Photograph 1183.

Vertical Longitudinal Section - Human Head

Sagittal section taken slightly right of the median line of the body. The grey matter of the brain is tinted red, everything else is painted “natural hues”. Designed to show the relations between the head and neck structures, particularly the brain, turbinate bones, nares, mouth, and pharynx. 

From the National Museum of Health and Medicine on Flickr. Preparation created in 1886. Photograph taken in the 20th century.

Gross Pathology of Melanoma Tumor of the Brain

Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocytes (pigmented cells). While the majority of melanocytes are in the basal layer of the epidermis, giving us our skin pigment, they also exist in the meninges, uvea (in the eyes), inner ear, bones, and colon. As most melanomas are a result of UV radiation damage of melanocytes, the skin is the most common origin of this form of cancer. However, any melanocyte can give rise to it.

While most skin cancers are survivable and detectable, melanomas originating in the skin are the most deadly, causing 75% of all deaths related to skin cancer. Their 5-year survival rate is still over 91% if treated early, however. When not treated in a timely manner, or when originating elsewhere in the body, melanomas frequently spread to the thyroid, brain, and colon.

Reeve Collection at the National Museum of Health. Date unknown.

Veterinary X-Ray Procedure - 1918

Dog having radiographs taken at veterinary hospital in Dijon, France.

Dijon was one of the first hospitals outside of Roentgen’s own labs to integrate x-ray technology as a regular part of diagnostic testing. Though the first x-rays of humans were taken in 1895 and x-ray therapy was used (in the most crude form) since the early 1900s, the diagnostic value of the imaging procedure was not widely regarded in the United States until well into the 1930s.

From National Museum of Medicine Archives.


Horse, Dog and Soldiers With Gas Masks

Though many filtering masks existed for both mining operations and chemical exposure before the First World War, they were not widely known, and many of their designs could not have stood up to the chemical attacks that were perpetrated on a scale never before seen by humanity.

The first mass use of poison gas (chlorine, specifically) at the Second Battle of Ypres was a massive failure - though many Canadian soldiers were exposed, the prevailing winds shifted, and the German troops that deployed the gas were overcome. Still, this battle showed the Allies that the Germans were serious about using chemical agents, and both sides began to develop gas masks not only for themselves, but for their combat animals.

Dogs and horses both had specially-fitted gas masks, and while the canines learned quickly to work with theirs, horses had the significant problem of mistaking their breathing-boxes for feed bags, since the shape and feel was so similar. This was overcome by training and lengthening the gas masks, so that the filter boxes did not touch their lips.

National Museum of Health on Flickr. USA Army Signal Corps, ca. 1915-1918.