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  • Battle cries of freedom

    first_imgOn the fifth floor of Countway Library at Harvard Medical School (HMS) is a wall-high glass case that contains a human femur cracked open by a Minié ball. The Civil War rifle projectile is the size of a bird’s egg. Considered a miracle of ballistics in its day, this conical bullet illustrates the gravity of injuries in a conflict that killed 750,000 Americans, with twice as many dying from disease as from battle.The exhibit that includes the Minié ball also features letters, photographs, and pamphlets of the era, and is designed to encourage reflection on the injuries from war. Soldiers then, as now, came home with stumps, shell-shattered faces, and lifelong intestinal diseases.The harsh realities are amply illustrated in “Battle-scarred: Caring for the Sick and Wounded of the Civil War,” open through at least next June. The exhibit officially launched on Thursday with a pair of afternoon lectures at HMS’ Tosteson Medical Education Center. Curating the exhibit was Jack Eckert, with help on some anatomical exhibits from Dominic W. Hall. Both are with Countway’s Center for the History of Medicine.The photographs of the injured that put a literal face on those who fought and died in the Civil War were not prurient, but were taken for their documentary value, explained Jeffrey Reznick, chief of the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine in Maryland. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff PhotographerHarvard President Drew Faust, Lincoln Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, delivered “Civil War and the End of Life,” a look at how the war violated longstanding ideals of death, burial, and grieving. Jeffrey Reznick, chief of the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine in Maryland, followed with “Disability and the Cultural History of Modern War.” The collection of today’s National Museum of Health and Medicine began in 1862 as the Army Medical Museum. That vast collection exists today, Reznick explained, as “a national monument in its own right.”Such was the scale of the Civil War, said Faust, that the conflict was “more destructive than all our wars combined.” In first 12 hours of the first battle of the war, at Bull Run, she said, the death toll climbed to half that seen in the entire Mexican-American War a decade before.The bloody confluence of modern weapons and ancient battle tactics overwhelmed not only the centuries-old culture of grieving, but the standards of medical care, identification, and burial that were weakly mustered to cope with it. Faust said  there were no identification tags, no system for notifying next of kin, no infrastructure for graves registration, no ambulance corps, and no war hospitals. (Eventually, in the North, there would be 400.)At the heart of the exhibit are photographs of the injured, putting faces on the humanity and suffering. One picture shows eight uniformed Union officers, with an array of the blunt nubs left by amputation.Such explicit photos were not prurient, said Reznick, but were taken for documentary value. Similarly, the specimens collected during the war — gruesome bone fragments included — were “not for curiosities, but data.” He said proof of that came with printing of “The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion (1870-1888),” a six-volume, 3,000-page natural history of the war’s toll of injury and disease.The short-lived Confederacy produced no parallel volumes. But the exhibit does sample the 14 surviving issues of the “Confederate States Medical and Surgical Journal,” published in 1864 and 1865.Amputations were the war’s signature wounds. The same glass case with the bullet-pierced artifacts includes a shiny bone saw that looks as capable as it was 150 years ago. But soldiers also came home with ailments less visible, disabilities that sound a modern echo. One was called “irritable heart,” a combat-induced anxiety disorder.“When I left my good home,” a broadside poem, uses a variant on the idea of the disabled man’s empty sleeve. The final verse (“Stranger, pardon, if I ask you, / ‘Buy a one-armed Soldier’s song.’”) is common to other broadside poems of the era. Courtesy of the Harvard Medical Library Rare Books CollectionThe exhibit and its captivating online version open a window onto the culture that grew up around soldiers who returned home without arms or legs, about 70,000 from both sides, by one estimate.There are examples of the mendicant literature that enabled hobbling and hampered veterans to make a living on the streets by selling pamphlets and broadside poems. “Please buy a copy of my song,” reads one, the work of Pvt. James R. Thomas, who lost an arm at the Battle of South Mountain. “Please assist the work of this one hand, and I will return many thanks to you.”There are advertisements of the day for artificial limbs. (Between 1861 and 1873, American inventors filed more than 80 patents for such prosthetics, made of wood, cork, rubber, iron, and leather.) The Salem (Mass.) Leg Company produced ads using endorsements from injured soldiers, including one who expected to resume dancing “once winter is over.”Competition for the prosthetics market was hot. An ad for Douglass Patent Artificial Limbs of Springfield bragged that their “limbs have never been dependent on the Government for their support.” After the war, federal authorities promised prosthetics to every veteran who needed them, prompting the phrase “government legs.” These free limbs were one feature of U.S. government benefaction after the war; another was the country’s first elaborate pension system.During her lecture, Faust noted that the Civil War not only challenged old paradigms of what made a good death, it also started up the vast machinery of the pension system that transformed the government into an active player in the welfare of its citizens.One recipient of that support was Philon C. Whidden, M.D. 1866 (1839-1900), one of the faces of war shown in the exhibit. He interrupted his Harvard medical studies to join the Union Army as a private. Wounded at Antietam, Whidden used what he called his “slight medical knowledge” to convince surgeons not to cut off his massively avulsed left leg. But by 1891, after years of increased suffering, he submitted to an amputation below the knee, and the next year applied for an increase to his pension of $24 a month.Also damaged in the war were the families of soldiers who fretted over their loved ones, often with cause. Even mourning could be difficult, since half of those killed in battle were never identified, Faust said.Such was the scale of the Civil War that the conflict was “more destructive than all our wars combined,” said Harvard President Drew Faust, Lincoln Professor of History. The first 12 hours of the first battle of the war, at Bull Run, she said, matched one-half of the death toll of the entire Mexican-American War a decade before. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff PhotographerThe death of Mary Louisa Bodge Glover in 1864 was ascribed to grief, coming a year after her husband, Lt. Alfred R. Glover of Cambridgeport, died in battle. Their pictures appear in the exhibit, along with a leather folder containing Lt. Glover’s portable kit of homeopathic medicines. It looks ready to use.There also are deft sketches by Massachusetts battle surgeon Lucius M. Sargent, an 1857 graduate of HMS. One drawing of a camp scene in Virginia illustrates a letter to his son, George. Sargent wrote, in what could be a summary of every war, “I have not got anything to love here.”last_img read more

  • Bacterial blockade

    first_imgFor decades, doctors have understood that microbes in the human gut can influence how certain drugs work in the body — by either activating or inactivating specific compounds — but questions have remained about exactly how the process works.Harvard scientists are now beginning to provide those answers.In a paper published July 19 in Science, Peter Turnbaugh, a Bauer Fellow at the Center for Systems Biology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), and Henry Haiser, a postdoctoral fellow, identify a pair of genes that appear to be responsible for allowing a specific strain of bacteria to break down a widely prescribed cardiac drug into an inactive compound, as well as a possible way to turn the process off.“The traditional view of microbes in the gut relates to how they influence the digestion of our diet,” Turnbaugh said. “But we also know that there are over 40 different drugs that can be influenced by gut microbes. What’s really interesting is that although this has been known for decades, we still don’t really understand which microbes are involved or how they might be processing these compounds.”To answer those questions, Turnbaugh and his colleagues chose to focus on digoxin, one of the oldest known cardiac glycosides. The medicine is typically prescribed to treat heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia.“It’s one of the few drugs that, if you look in a pharmacology textbook, it will say that it’s inactivated by gut microbes,” Turnbaugh said. “John Lindenbaum’s group at Columbia showed that in the 1980s. They found that a single bacterial species, Eggerthella lenta, was responsible.”Researchers in the earlier study also tried — but failed — to show that testing bacterial samples from a person’s gut could be used to predict whether the drug might be inactivated.“To some degree the research was stalled there for a number of years, and the findings in our paper help to explain why,” Turnbaugh said. “Originally, it was hoped that we would simply be able to measure the amount of E. lenta in a person’s gut and predict whether the drug would be inactivated, but it’s more complicated than that.”Beginning with lab-grown samples of E. lenta — some cultured in the presence of digoxin, some in its absence — Turnbaugh and Haiser tested to see if certain genes were activated by the presence of the drug.“We identified two genes that were expressed at very low levels in the absence of the drug, but when you add the drug to the cultures … they come on really strong,” Turnbaugh said. “What’s encouraging about these two genes is that they both express what are called cytochromes — enzymes that are likely capable of converting digoxin to its inactive form.”Though he warned that more genetic testing is needed before the results are definitive, Turnbaugh said other experiments support these initial findings.The researchers found only a single strain of E. lenta — the only one that contained the two genes they had earlier identified — was capable of inactivating digoxin. In tests using human samples, bacterial communities that were able to inactivate the drug also showed high levels of these genes“We were able to confirm that simply looking for the presence of E. lenta is not enough to predict which microbial communities inactivate digoxin,” Turnbaugh said. “We found detectable E. lenta colonization in all the human fecal samples we analyzed. But by testing the abundance of the identified genes we were able to reliably predict whether or not a given microbial community could metabolize the drug.”In addition to being able to predict whether a given microbial community would inactivate the drug, Turnbaugh and colleagues identified a possible way to halt the process.“It was previously shown that in the lab E. lenta grows on the amino acid arginine and that as you supply more and more arginine, you inhibit digoxin inactivation,” he said.Tests conducted with mice showed that animals fed a diet high in protein, and thereby arginine, had higher levels of the drug in their blood than mice fed a zero-protein diet.“We think that this could potentially be a way to tune microbial drug metabolism in the gut,” Turnbaugh said. “Our findings really emphasize the need to see if we can predict or prevent microbial drug inactivation in cardiac patients. If successful, it may be possible someday to recommend a certain diet, or to co-administer the drug with an inhibitor like arginine, ensuring a more reliable dosage.”last_img read more

  • Damian Woetzel to receive Harvard Arts Medal

    first_imgBallet dancer, director, and now arts leader Damian Woetzel, M.P.A. ’07, has been announced as recipient of the 2015 Harvard Arts Medal, which will be awarded by Harvard President Drew Faust at a Farkas Hall ceremony on April 30 at 4 p.m. The medal honors a distinguished Harvard or Radcliffe graduate or faculty member who has achieved excellence in the arts and through them has made a contribution to education or the public good.Woetzel was a principal dancer at New York City Ballet from 1989 until his retirement from the stage in 2008. He holds an M.P.A. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and in the fall of 2010 he was a visiting lecturer at Harvard Law School, where he co-taught a course on performing arts and the law. Currently he is director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program, which under his leadership aims to further the value of the arts in society, focusing on education, social justice, economics, and diplomacy. He has created events and programs furthering this work in venues from the National Performing Arts Center in Beijing to the Delacorte Theatre in New York City’s Central Park, the home of Shakespeare in the Park. In addition to his role at the Institute, Woetzel is a producer and director of dance and music performances, including the artistic directorship of the Vail International Dance Festival.The ceremony, presented by the Office for the Arts at Harvard and the Board of Overseers of Harvard College, will include a discussion with Woetzel moderated by actor John Lithgow ’67, Master of the Arts at Harvard and host of the event. This is the official opening event for Arts First, the University’s annual festival showcasing student creativity in the arts, April 30-May 3.Admission is free but tickets are required, and are available in person at the Harvard Box Office at Smith Campus Center, 1450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, or by calling 617.496.2222 or visiting (phone and online ticket orders are subject to service fees). Ticket distribution for Harvard affiliates (two per person, with valid ID) begins April 21; ticket distribution for the public (two per person) begins April 23. Some remaining tickets may be available at the door one hour prior to event start time.For more information, visit the Office for the Arts website.last_img read more

  • Two SEAS faculty named 2015 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellows

    first_imgComputer scientist Ryan Adams and applied mathematician Ariel Amir, assistant professors at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), have been named 2015 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellows.They are among 126 Fellows, including two others at Harvard, selected from the United States and Canada this year “in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field.”The $50,000 award to each Fellow will support Adams’ research in the field of machine learning, and Amir’s research on condensed matter and biophysics.“We are delighted that Ryan Adams and Ariel Amir are among the early-career bright lights recognized by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation this year,” said Harry R. Lewis, Interim Dean of SEAS and Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science.Adams is an expert in the fields of machine learning and computational statistics, and his research interests span artificial intelligence, computational neuroscience, machine vision, and Bayesian nonparametrics. Amir applies the theory of complex systems to problems in a wide range of domains, from physics to materials science to biology.“These researchers are outstanding examples of how knowledge can be pursued across disciplines and of the scientific breadth needed to discover solutions to the problems of the world,” Lewis said.The other 2015 Sloan Research Fellows at Harvard are Kang-Kuen Ni, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology and of physics; and Tasho Kaletha, Benjamin Peirce Lecturer on Mathematics.Previous Fellows at SEAS have included Stephen Chong (2014), Krzysztof Gajos (2013), Vinothan Manoharan (2011), Marko Loncar (2010), Todd Zickler (2008), and Maurice Smith (2007). Read Full Storylast_img read more

  • Stories get an A+

    first_img Deeper creativity Related Transcript Project gives students a chance to show that there’s more to Harvard than grades Dean Robin Kelsey talks about the future of the arts and humanities at Harvardcenter_img While filming a documentary about relationships between longtime white residents of Lewiston, Maine, and the city’s Somali refugee community, Jacob Roberts ’19 attended his first Somali wedding, almost crashed in a hot air balloon, and learned that academic fulfilment extends far beyond a transcript.Roberts recounted these experiences at an open mic celebration for The Transcript Project, a creative contest in its second year that offers undergraduates the chance to rethink their academic trajectory at Harvard through artistic expression. This year, students were asked to submit reflections on a transformative semester on campus, and the entries were celebrated at the open mic event on Tuesday.Roberts’s submission focused on “Nonfiction Video Projects,” a course in which students filmed a documentary during the summer and edited the footage in the fall. His experience exemplified the mission that Robin Kelsey, dean of arts and humanities and Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography, set for the Transcript Project.“The transcript is a source of anxiety, shame, or inappropriate pride, depending on whose it is,” Kelsey told an audience of students and faculty at the celebration. “Instead of looking at the grades, what if we looked at all the stories that are latent in the transcript?”“[At Harvard], there are opportunities for academic engagement that force you to go out into the world and have real, exciting, odd experiences,” said Roberts, who’s concentrating in Theater, Dance & Media. “In this setting, outside of traditional academia, you can find a way to put yourself into the shoes of and understand people of different backgrounds who have stories that are completely different from yours, and your stories can intersect.”At the event, students highlighted their experiences taking specific classes, studying abroad, and learning outside the classroom. The grades they got were inconsequential; instead, students focused on the life lessons they gained from their course materials.For Laura Murphy, the celebration and contest offered a chance to combine self-reflection and love of creative writing. In an essay, “Narratives Beyond Letters,” Murphy ’22 recounted her first semester on campus as one of personal and academic discovery. While taking intimate first-year seminars alongside foundational humanities and science classes, Murphy looked to her readings to guide her through the transition to college.“It was a fresh challenge to think in a new way about classes and to think more retrospectively about the stories beyond a few letters,” said Murphy, whose submission highlighted the ways that the settings of the stories she read for class permeated her everyday environment. “There’s a lot that goes into each class and you don’t realize it until you look back.”Lauren Spohn ’20 explored the connections between the various seminar- and tutorial-based courses she took in the fall. To illustrate this, Spohn, who is concentrating in English, created a collection of her work on poster board, calling it a “hermeneutic circle of life.” She included papers and assignments from history, English, and philosophy classes covering subjects from “One Thousand and One Nights” to Nietzsche. In the spirit of the contest, Spohn also included part of her transcript on her poster, with the titles of her work written over her grades.“For the first time [last semester], I felt like I was a storyteller,” said Spohn. “Most of my time in the humanities had been spent taking stories apart, and to use those analytical skills to make stories of my own was just amazing. I could think of myself as a scholar in a way that was not limited to the classroom but applies so far beyond it.” A number of exemplary submissions to The Transcript Project, as selected by a faculty jury, will be celebrated at the end of the month. How college rocked my worldlast_img read more

  • UN slams killing of anti-dam activist in southern Mexico

    first_imgMEXICO CITY (AP) — The U.N. human rights office in Mexico is calling for justice in the case of an anti-dam activist who was killed in the southern state of Oaxaca on Jan. 23. Fidel Heras Cruz had opposed plans to build dams on the Rio Verde river, and the U.N. office said he had reportedly received a death threat two days before he died. Heras Cruz was shot to death near the town of Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, near  Puerto Escondido. The office said that seven rights activists were killed in Mexico in 2020, and the lack of punishment makes activists more vulnerable.last_img read more

  • Ex-Boy Scout chaplain gets long sentence on abuse charges

    first_imgSOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) — A 76-year-old former volunteer Boy Scout chaplain has been sentenced to serve 40 years in prison after pleading no contest to sexually assaulting six young men, including a developmentally disabled victim. James Glawson, of Exeter, was sentenced Thursday after pleading no contest to 11 charges. Glawson told the judge in court that prays every day for those he hurt. The state attorney general’s office says Glawson committed multiple acts of sexual assault against five victims beginning in the 1980’s when he served as a volunteer Catholic chaplain for the Boy Scouts and his most recent victim in 2019 was developmentally disabled.last_img read more

  • Turkish FM says 2-state deal the only way for divided Cyprus

    first_imgNICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Turkey’s foreign minister says reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus in line with the long-established formula of federation is off the table in any future peace talks, and a peace deal should be negotiated between two equal sovereign states. Mevlut Cavusoglu’s remarks after talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar on Tuesday could further complicate a meeting that United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres intends to convene next month to gauge chances of resuming dormant peace talks. Greek Cypriots strongly reject any deal that would legitimize the east Mediterranean island nation’s ethnic partition that came about in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aimed at union with Greece.last_img read more

  • NDAA partners with schools

    first_imgNotre Dame added two Catholic elementary schools in Florida to the Notre Dame ACE Academies (NDAA) program. The two schools — Sacred Heart of Pinellas Park and St. Joseph of Tampa — will be the program’s newest partners. Christian Dallavis, director of NDAA, said the program conducted a feasibility study to determine which schools in the Diocese of St Petersburg would have the greatest potential for growth. “We want to do two things: increase the number of kids that enjoy the benefits of the education offered at these two schools, and ensure that the schools are providing education of the highest possible quality,” Dallavis said. Dallavis said the program chose these two schools after focusing on areas with mechanisms like parental choice programs, vouchers and tax credits for low-income families to send their children to private schools. The relationship between Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg and Notre Dame also played a factor. “Lynch has always been a great friend to the University and a big supporter of ACE,” Dallavis said. “He’s a great champion of Catholic schools.” Andy Shannon, principal of Sacred Heart, said despite recent efforts to combat low enrollment, the number of students at Sacred Heart remains far below its capacity. “In K-8, we have 140 students,” Shannon said. “I could easily put another 100 students into my school… and be under standards for accreditation.” Dallavis said the program would focus on bolstering enrollment, while increasing the quality of education. “We want to prepare kids for the economic and social mobility [that will] get them to a place where they can break the cycle of poverty,” Dallavis said. Dallavis said these schools will give students the skills they need to succeed by essentially being “college prep” elementary schools. “We want to make sure that … they get the message that we expect them to be prepared to go to college,” Dallavis said. “High school graduation and college attendance are critical to jobs in the current economy, and [this trend] is only going to become more pronounced.” Shannon said for his school, being offered the chance to partner win Notre Dame is like winning the lottery. “We realize how blessed we are by God to get this opportunity,” Shannon said. “It’s a game changer. It’s going to position us for future growth and development.” Both schools will be under the jurisdiction of a board dedicated to facilitating their advancement, Shannon said. The schools will also benefit from the advice of a learning specialist and an advancement director. “The learning specialist will work with both principals and teachers in both buildings … to make our education the best it can be,” Shannon said. “The advancement director will help to raise significant funds, especially to get more students and more families into our schools.” Though the will not be immediate, Shannon said the impact on the St. Joseph and Sacred Heart communities will undoubtedly be enormous. “I think what it’s going to do for our families is give them a lot of hope,” he said. “I just think that hope is what a follower of Christ has to give out.”last_img read more

  • Club emphasizes green initiatives

    first_imgAs Kermit the Frog famously said, it’s not easy being green.Nevertheless, a new group is working to push Notre Dame toward a green, sustainable future.Juniors Katie Otterbeck and Garrett Blad started the “We Are 9” campaign in the fall with the overall goal of making Notre Dame a fossil fuel-free campus, Otterbeck said.Otterbeck said the idea grew out of their shared involvement in the sustainability club GreeND and desire to do even more.“We wanted to bring a more goal-oriented campaign to campus,” Otterbeck said.Blad said the name “We Are 9” is drawn from United Nations projections about the global population in 2050 and the need to protect the environment for the people of that future.“We’re trying to emphasize the human element and show the connection between the issues of justice and climate change,” he said. “We stand in solidarity with the nine billion people that will be on Earth by 2050.”Under the overarching goal of a fossil fuel-free campus, the group is emphasizing fossil fuel divestment and carbon neutrality, Blad said. The group is currently focusing their efforts on achieving carbon neutrality.Blad said the campaign is currently circulating a petition on their website that asks University President Fr. John Jenkins to sign the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which has already been signed by more than 650 college and university presidents nationwide. Otterbeck said the online petition also presents the goals of the campaign and represents student support for those goals.The group hopes to be able to submit the petition to the Office of the President by the end of the semester as a sign of student support for moving the campus toward carbon neutrality, Blad said.Blad said another “We Are 9” project was a promotional video for the new group featuring 15 professors and student leaders from around campus. He said the group filmed in the fall and screened the video at their official campaign launch Feb. 7 in the LaFortune Student Center.Otterbeck said the majority of the campaign’s efforts thus far have been devoted to bringing together various groups and individuals in the Notre Dame community concerned about sustainability.“We’re gaining momentum all the time,” she said.The “We Are 9” campaign has identified three “standpoints” that they use in their appeals to the University and members of the campus community, Otterbeck said. Preventing climate change is compelled by human compassion, Catholic identity and competition with other top-tier institutions, she said.Otterbeck said her personal involvement stems from service work she performed in Africa while in high school, which involved teaching the students and teachers how to compost and recycle.“My experience [in Africa] made me realize my passion for sustainability and environmental concerns,” she said. “I am involved in sustainability issues because I recognize the enormity of climate change as a problem around the world, a humanitarian issue.”Catholic Social Teaching calls members of the Church and Catholic institutions like Notre Dame to protect the natural environment as a gift from God, Otterbeck said.Notre Dame has fallen behind most other high-profile universities in terms of sustainability and environmentally conscious efforts, Otterbeck said. She said implementing the measures advocated by “We Are 9” would eliminate that disparity.Blad said carbon neutrality is a realistic goal for any university of Notre Dame’s caliber.“[Carbon neutrality] is relatively feasible on a college campus with the endowment we have, but we still burn coal on campus,” he said. “It is not a priority, so students should make it a priority.”Blad said the next “We Are 9” event would be a screening of the documentary “Chasing Ice” on Feb. 27 in the Andrews Auditorium of Geddes Hall.Otterbeck said more information and the online petition could be found on the group’s website: carbon neutrality, fossil fuel, GreeND, sustainability, We Are Ninelast_img read more