Monday, February 14, 2011

UNC Heart Surgeon Dr. Benson Wilcox Honored

Valentine's Day
is an appropriate day upon which to note that Dr. Benson Wilcox [1932-2010], a prominent cardiothoracic surgeon at the University of North Carolina for many years, has been honored with the renaming of the Special Collections Reading Room at the Health Sciences Library. Now known as The Benson Reid Wilcox Historical Collections Reading Room, the new name was approved by the UNC Board of Trustees on July 22, 2010; on January 14, 2011, a dedication ceremony, with family members, friends, and several library staff, was held to commemorate the occasion.

The Common Curator can personally attest to the contributions that Dr. Wilcox has made to the library's collections, both through his Rare Book Endowment and through the donation of over 1,400 volumes from his own personal library. The breadth and depth of the Wilcox Collection are truly remarkable, and make a significant impact upon students and researchers. An earlier post, Dr. Benson Wilcox: Surgeon, Scholar, Benefactor, describes this influence, and Dr. Wilcox' illustrious career is detailed in his obituary, also available at the Common Curator.

Note: The papier-mâché heart shown above was acquired with funds from the Wilcox Endowment. Designed by Dr. Louis Thomas Jérôme Auzoux (1797-1880) and fabricated circa 1870, this and similar anatomical models were an important tool in the teaching of human anatomy in the nineteenth century. As cultural, legal, and environmental concerns limited the efficacy of using cadavers for instruction, Auzoux pioneered the development of papier-mâché anatomical models, which were employed to represent the structures of humans, as well as animals and plants. For those interested in learning more, the Smithsonian Institution's online exhibition, Artificial Anatomy: Papier-Mâché Anatomical Models, is highly recommended.

Below are pictured three UNC medical students in the Wilcox Historical Collections Reading Room examining several early volumes from the rare book collections. All are members of the longstanding Bullitt History of Medicine Club, which Dr. Wilcox helped organize in the 1950s while himself a medical student.

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