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Diabetes Detectives

Artistic flourishes and marginal digressions

By Marcus Luciano, Carla Williams, and Jessica Yang

Much like today's Dartmouth medical students, those of the 1800s did not always have their noses to the grindstone. While their elegantly handwritten notes do cover subjects as serious as the anatomy of the head and chest, some student notebooks digress into more frivolous territory—such as garden layouts or faculty caricatures. Within the reams of 19th-century classroom notes and medical theses that are housed in the Dartmouth College archives, there are a number of artistic flourishes and marginal digressions. Depicted below are several of the more striking examples.

Samuel Elder's 1810 notebook includes this detailed anatomical drawing of the head and chest, with precise serifstyle lettering identifying the major arteries and veins.

But in the middle of his notes from a lecture by Nathan Smith and Cyrus Perkins, Elder plotted out his garden.

William Ellsworth's signature at the end of his 1806 notes from a chemistry lecture by Nathan Smith is a nearly perfect model of copperplate elegance. Note, however, that he appears to have gotten a little too carried away with his swashes and swirls—and as a result he ran out of space and was forced to insert the final two letters of his last name in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

Dartmouth medical students of the 1800s benefited from a wide-ranging curriculum; the sketch above is contained in notes taken during a lecture on veterinary medicine . . .

. . . while these drawings are from a lecture on dentistry.

The art of doodling in class was apparently well developed, as indicated by these 1858 notes by George Gove.

This cover sheet graces William Baldwin's 1880 thesis on gonorrhea.

Many students created elaborate frontispieces for their notebooks. Here, Calvin Gorham listed Nathan Smith's faculty appointments in 1811-12.

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The authors are all Dartmouth undergraduates. They assisted DMS faculty member Lee Witters with the adjacent feature and, in the process, came across the engaging asides here.

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