Molecular and Cellular Biology

Like with many of the science concentrations, it is difficult to find modern resources at Houghton that cater to the constant quest for progress in Molecular and Cellular Biology. However, the library has a large historical collection about some of the main topics covered in the field, including epidemiology.

Houghton’s archive, in fact, tackles the history of microscopy and microscopic biology from its very inception. The library owns a first edition of Micrographia by Robert Hooke, considered to be the father of microscopy (EC65 H7636 665m [A], 002386418). It also holds an abridged version of the treatise from 1745 containing copperplates of Hooke’s microscopic findings “reprinted and fully explained” (EC65 H7636 D745m, 005777100).

The library also contains plenty of early modern volumes discoursing on chemistry and medicine, many of them in Latin, the international scientific language of the period. They include a 1674 treatise from Oxford (Chem 367.3*, 006137118) and a 1715 tract from Germany (Chem 373.1.5, 003658899). However, it also holds a series of peculiar books on disease control and prevention, one of MCB’s areas of research. One of them is Reflexions sur l’Usage de l’Opium, des Calmants, et des Narcotiques, pour la Guerison des Maladies (Med 258.30.5*, 005225910), a 1726 French tract on the use of psychotropics in the fight against disease. Another is Discourses on Tea, Sugar, Milk, Made-Wines, Spirits, Punch, Tobacco, &c.: With Plain and Useful Rules for Gouty People (Med 269.18*, 001798118).

Houghton also has a more orthodox collection about early works on infectious disease, however. It holds plenty of items about smallpox and early inoculation attempts, such as Richard Mead’s 1763 Discourse on the Smallpox and Measles (Med 263.15.3*, 006078020). It also possesses early anti-vaccination material, such as a 1721 Boston pamphlet declaring that preemptive inoculation against the disease is “not contained in the law of physick, either natural or divine,” and is, thus, “unlawful” (Med 1857.21.2*, 007256720). Those materials, only a fraction of the library’s holdings about microscopic biology, demonstrate that the collection is not so far removed from modern debates about the topic; in fact, they can very well be used in an undergraduate thesis about vaccination.

Other items about epidemiology also showcase Houghton’s diversity of materials concerning MCB. The library owns a 1672 tract titled Great Venus Unmasked, about venereal disease (Med 1759.3.70*, 005712536); A Treatise on Epidemic Cholera (Med 1734.9*, 004808234), describing an epidemic of the disease in a New York hospital in 1834; and The War against Malaria (Med 1749.15*, 006168095), a 1923 study on the disease that still kills thousands globally.

Lastly, the W. V. Quine papers (MS Am 2587, 008937558) reference topics covered Molecular and Cellular Biology through a philosophical framework. Quine’s collection of academic papers includes titles such as Frontiers of the Biological Sciences (1620), and three of D. C. Dennett’s papers, two of them concerned with evolution (1626; 1628) and one with consciousness (1640), also make use of microscopic biological concepts.