August 16, 2010

Infant Stool Illustrations By The Inestimable Mrs J.D.Z. Chase

infant stool of 1907

Sure, she produced, for the purposes of diagnosis and education, the hand-drawn illustrations of the contents of various infant diapers included in Dr. Harry Lowenburg's 1916 A practical treatise on infant feeding and allied topics, for physicians and students. This much we know from flickr, where artist Martin Bromirski posted a selection of her work almost four years ago.

And we know from the credits in Dr. Otto Hensel's 1905 text, The Urine and Feces in Diagnosis, of Mrs Chase's specialty in deft depictions of dung.

But her illustration career seems highly circumscribed. Of her eight current citations on Google Books, six date from between 1900 and 1907. One is from 1916. The last, which garnered the greatest praise ["There are thirty-one full-page illustrations covering vaginal hysterectomy, beautifully drawn by JDZ Chase."] was published in The Therapeutic Gazette in 1927. Alas, it is unavailable online.

Aha, in the preface to Dr. Charles Prevost Grayson's The diseases of the nose, throat, and ear (1906), we find she executed her drawings at "the Pepper Laboratory of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania," the nation's first institution of microbiology to combine research and clinical work. Grayson was a leading laryngologist with Penn, but not within the Pepper Lab, so perhaps he sought Mrs. Chase's work out.


Not so fast. Though the illustrations are clearly signed by J.D.Z. Chase, Dr. William G Spiller thanks one "Mrs P.P. Chase" for the illustrations accompanying his analysis of a brain edema published in Brain: a journal of neurology Vol. 22 (1899).

And look, a Google Books search for Mrs. P.P. Chase not only fills the gaps in her resume, but it overflows with praise for her work and process. From the preface to Dr. Barton Cooke Hirst's Atlas of operative gynecology (1919), which, 1927 hysterectomies notwithstanding, sounds like Mrs. Chase's opus:

These illustrations have been made, after repeated observation of the operations as they were performed, by the artist, Mrs. PP Chase. This method enables even the student without previous operative experience to comprehend modern operative technic.
The text has been subordinated to the illustrations, saving the reader's time and lighteneing the burden of obtaining a grasp of the subject. [emphasis added]
I will leave you to study Mrs. Chase's episiotomazing 165 full-page, full-color plates [!] at your own pace.

So Mrs. PP/JDZ Chase's remarkable career unfolds, from early tentative sketches of brains in a jar to a commanding contribution in what sounds like a milestone in the treatment of female reproductive health. Do we know any more than when we stared, slightly freaked out, into that diaperful of meconium? A little, but not much.


If you wish to know more -- even "much" -- regarding the contents of Mrs. Chase's diapers, you might wish to review the Bristol Stool Form Scale. Extremely useful, should one be gazing, for instance, into contemporary diapers or potties, rather than merely gazing at ancient illustrations.

Yes, well, I guess there's that. Though it doesn't seem to show what happens if I'm giving the kid too much bismuth.

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