“Is Genesis History?”


It’s Friday night and many from our church met in the auditorium for yet another FREE MOVIE NIGHT!  Tonight we going to get to see the much awaited viewing of the new compelling and perhaps controversial documentary movie Is Genesis History?.

Dr. Del Tackett

Dr. Del Tackett

In a series of interviews with over a dozen scientists and scholars (archaeologist, astronomer, atmospheric physicist, biologist, geologist, herbraist, microbiologist, marine biologist, computer scientist, mechanical engineer, paleontologist, pastor, philosopher of science, taphonomist, and theologian), Dr. Del Tackett, creator of “The Truth Project, serves as a guide to help viewers understand how the world intersects with the bible’s Book of Genesis by exploring two competing views about how earth and its inhabitants came into being.

The interviews probe over 30 fairly complex topics to help us better understand each of them.  Among the topics:  the big bang, evolution, fossil records, paradigms, scientific dating methods, and major biblical historical events.

About the Bible’s Book of Genesis

The Book of Genesis answers the question, “Where did all this come from?” It is the first book of the bible and the first of Moses’ five books that make up his Pentateuch. Genesis is the story of how Israel began as a nation, described through a series of beginnings—starting with the creation of the universe and following a series of genealogies within of one family.

Some Background

The films explores two basic views about the history of the earth, with the fundamental difference being about the explanations of historical time vs. conventional time through scientific dating methods.

  1. In the historical book of Genesis, we are taught that the earth and universe are less than 10,000 years old and events recorded occurred in a literal way.
  2. In the conventional teachings about the earth and its times, we have been taught that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old and the universe 13.7 billion years.

My Conclusions

This film’s coverage on the subject was very comprehensive and extremely well organized.  It helped me better grasp both complex biblical and scientific topics. 

I very much favor the film’s website and its accompanying resources (that include a church and group/family discussion guide) for those who want to delve deeper into the topics and/or just reflect back on them.

In fact, our area’s churches are organizing discussion groups for those who want to learn more or just express their views about it, giving us yet another opportunity to get to know others within biblical community settings.

Thank you Jeremy Robinson for coordinating this event and  Chesapeake Church for giving us the privilege to learn more about these competing perspectives of who we are and how we got here. Genesis encourages me to continue trusting my faith in God and religion over the scientific world’s perspective that excludes God from its thinking. It reinforced for me the importance of reading, knowing, and better understanding those historical biblical writings.  The big flood or some other literally earth-shattering event may likely come again during my lifetime.  Until then, I will strive to understand the natural world as the bible teaches about it as best I can.

Acknowledging Ancestry.com’s Assembled Content and Delivery Systems


I am quite impressed with some major and recent improvements in Ancestry.com’s products and services marketing.  Yes, that’s right, I said “the ugly word–marketing, ” as inferred by those who haven’t been involved in it or have been the victims of marketing done poorly.  Yet, I’m here to give credit to Ancestry where credit is due because they are effectively using tools and techniques to reach me with the kinds of information and articles that I’m interested in while not being intrusive about it. I see it as a “take it or leave it opportunity” for me to learn more about a topic in which I am interested.

For example, one of the probably lesser known features on Ancestry’s site, is its blog page that I have occasionally visited, enjoyed, and all too often have forgotten about in the midst of all life’s goings on. Yet, I happened upon an ad about this blog today under CNN.com’s “Paid Content” when I opened their breaking news page. The image and headline that drew me in are on the left, here.

Now, I’m already a long time subscriber to Ancestry.com’s suite of online genealogical tools and features, so it costs me nothing more to follow down their marketing path and enjoy the extra wares provided.  And, when I find something that I like, I immediately think about others like me who also might be interested.  Needless to say, I share my finds regularly either in my blogs or on Facebook, or the like, as I am today. While I am not trying to be necessarily an unpaid/unsolicited advertisement for Ancestry.com, I believe in the power of word-of-mouth coming from peers who like me like what they see or read and are all into sharing.  Similarly, I appreciate others reaching out to me with items that they think I’ll like just because they know a bit about me and my likes.  Bottom line, if you are already an Ancestry.com subscriber these blogs and their interactive information are free.  If not, multiple times within the article appear clickable online banner ads like the one on the left of this text which takes you to Ancestry.com’s subscription page where you can see all your subscription options.  Now, let’s look more closely at the interactive and customized information that you can glean (if you choose) from today’s blog:

Do You Come From Royal Blood? Your Last Name May Tell You. – Ancestry Blog

 

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the London School of Economics conducted the study, which they published in the journal “Human Nature.” . . .

Using Surnames to Follow the Wealthy

The researchers based their study on families with unique last names. Those unique last names made it possible to trace the families through genealogical and other public records. In England, those aristocratic names included Atthill, Bunduck, Balfour, Bramston, Cheslyn, and Conyngham.


Enter your last name to learn its meaning and origin.

Enter your last name to learn its meaning and origin.

The social scientists looked for those and other unique, upper-class surnames among students who attended Oxford and Cambridge universities between 1170 and 2012, rich property owners between 1236 and 1299, as well as probate records since 1858 — which are available on Ancestry.com.

So I entered my maiden name “Bolling,” using the older European version of it with the double “ll’s” instead of a single “l,” as we spell it today.  Voila!  Here’s what I got:

I was amazed at all the readily available and thoroughly interactive information at my fingertips.  Above, in the upper left top section, you can navigate an interactive geographic timeline distribution of people with the surname “Bolling” who lived in England, Wales, and the United States from 1840 to 1920.  In the upper right of this section, you can browse all the census and voter lists for Bollings.  It gives you the option to filter results and views by record or collection by years and/or collections by Country, or individual records.

In the lower section of the page, below, you have access to five drop down windows with even more detailed information about origin, immigration, life expectancies, occupations, and Civil War Service Records–all from various collections available through your Ancestry.com subscription.

And, more . . .

At the end of this very information-packed and fully interactive blog appeared the following series of images and headlines under the heading “More On Ancestry:” Similarly, they are packed with more fully interactive information from various Ancestry.com collections.

While I have chosen to focus this blog on Ancestry.coms paid content that I happened upon when browsing CNN.com’s site, I would suggest that all Ancestry.com subscribers visit/revisit Ancestry’s page to view firsthand the wealth of information and resources that can help make your family history journey more interesting, enjoyable, and rewarding.  And, remember, to check out Ancestry’s products and services in the right-hand column of your home page.  For example, video tutorials and short courses at Ancestry Academy, or learn more about AncestryDNA, their newest data collections, etc.

And a Big “Also Note”.

In the upper right hand corner of the “More From Ancestry” image, above, you see “by Taboola.”  Are you wondering what this is or means?  Well, here lies the secret to how Ancestry and other businesses are improving their content distribution and driving targeted traffic from their sites to us.   Taboola is one of the world’s leading content distribution companies that drives information to sites that we visit because they thought we would like it based on our interests and/or visits to previous websites (remember all those warnings about ‘cookies’). The delivered content is paid for by the company whose ad we clicked on–in this instance, Ancestry.com. ​ So, all these years of people talking about those horrid cookie files that invade our computer experiences–finally, I got a cookie that I enjoyed!

 

 

 

From Spit to SNPs: Decoding My DNA


A few years ago I spit a small amount (about two tablespoons) of my saliva into a specimen collection tube provided in a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) testing kit that I ordered through Ancestry.com. My goal was to learn about my ancestors’ through their genealogical beginnings and follow a familial chain of genetic links from generation to generation. Initially, I was disappointed with my scant results and what to me were already obvious findings. That is, that 77 percent of my ancestors originally hailed from Great Britain and Ireland–something I already had discerned from handed down family history and my own 35+ years of genealogical research looking back and identifying family branches across many generations of ancestors. Next came Ancestry.com’s sharing of likely genetic family matches through their own standards for confidence ratings based upon thousands of DNA tests purchased. As the growing number of persons getting tested grew, genetic scientists were busy decoding DNA into SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms), which occur normally throughout a person’s DNA. In fact, they occur once in every 300 nucleotides on average, which means there are roughly 10 million SNPs in the human genome.

Recent and rapid scientific, forensic, and technological advances in DNA analysis and the increased understanding and use of these DNA studies has brought forth even more relevant and interesting information about me and my family that goes beyond the former traditional genealogical links to my past.  In fact, studying these SNPs that make up genetic differences has proven to be very important to broadening my understanding of our family’s health issues. These studies also have helped medical geneticists discover how SNPs can help predict individual’s responses to certain drugs, susceptibility to environmental factors such as toxins, and risks of our developing particular diseases. SNPs also can be used to track the inheritance of disease genes within families.  Along this short but fast-paced trek into DNA I have been given new proof of more familial relationships than I had ever been unaware of and have discovered some family members that I hadn’t seen or heard from in years.

Before these new DNA discoveries, when visiting doctors or discussing family health conditions among others, I relied upon personal histories and documentation of conditions, diseases, and  causes of death.  Now, moving forward I can potentially use these new genomic analysis results to look at calculations of risks for genetic health conditions and potentials to increase my quality of life and have a clearer understanding of my inherited conditions and propensities to specific diseases.

So, a few days ago, I simply Googled “advanced analysis of genetic data,” which led me to:  www.impute.me.  Next, I attached my DNA test results from Ancestry.com that I received a couple of years back to their form and emailed them.  Just two days later, free of charge, I received a return email that gave me a web site address so I could download my personal imputed genome analysis file.  They also provided their web site address to modules that would help me explore specific findings of my genome analysis.  Absolutely interesting and amazing data!

On impute’s site appears a GWAS (genome-wide association study) Calculator module, among other modules.  The GWAS module focuses on associations between SNPs and traits like major human diseases. By just entering my assigned unique genome ID, I was able to see if any variant within my SNPs was associated with a trait; in this instance: Acne. The results showed 13 SNPs in my genome (from Navarini AA et al (PMID 24927181), which were reported to be associated with severe Acne.  And, the narrative included a genetic risk score for this trait that “was higher than 36% of the general population. This is a fairly average score.”  The chart below shows 5 of the 13 SNPs examples present in my DNA that present a risk for severe Acne.  I filtered the SNP-score column (fifth column) to display in descending order so you could see my first four SNP scores and reported genes (last column) that resulted in this risk for Acne. Note the fifth row (and, similarly, the remaining 8 rows not shown) indicated a “0” SNP-score.  This is the kind of presentation given throughout this module to describe my risks among about hundred traits provided in the GWAS calculator.

Looking more closely at my GWAS Calculator and appearing before my eyes were confirmations of the presence of specific diseases that exist(ed) among various family members and the higher risk percentages of my having these same diseases. For example, I have a 76 percent higher than the general population risk of being within the Autism spectrum disorder, adhd, bipolar, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia–some family members have suffered from some of these maladies, but I can’t say that I have personally; a 52% higher than the general population risk of having Cardiovascular Disease; an 82% higher than average risk of food addictions; a 99% higher than average risk of having freckles (if you know me, you know I do or did); then there were the risks of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and allergies, restless leg syndrome, and hip osteoarthritis (75% higher risk than the general population–all me! And the list continued.

BUT . . . Just how much of who we are, our strengths, capabilities, and limitations is determined by our DNA and genetics?

The newest studies of DNA suggest that both genetic and environmental factors play a role in who I am, what I look like, my singularities or uniqueness, and my biological, mental, intellectual and physical conditions and capabilities.  Studies suggest that multiple genes are involved, so our inheritance patterns are not straightforward. For example:

  • A person’s fingerprints are unique as you know and are based on the patterns of skin ridges (called dermatoglyphs) on the pads of the fingers. Dermatoglyphs develop before birth and stay the same throughout life. The ridges begin to develop during the third month of fetal development, and they are fully formed by the sixth.The basic size, shape, and spacing of dermatoglyphs seem to be influenced by genetic factors. Studies suggest that multiple genes are involved, so an inheritance pattern is not straightforward.
  •  A child’s eye color often can be predicted by the eye colors of his or her parents and other relatives.   In fact, both my parents and my siblings have blue eyes; my grandparents had blue eyes; and most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins (direct relatives) have blue eyes.   Yet, genetic variations sometimes produce unexpected results.  There are several disorders that can affect the color of our eyes.  One of these examples is ocular albinism characterized by severely reduced pigmentation of the iris.  This causes very light-colored eyes and significant problems with vision.
  • Another condition called oculocutaneous albinism affects the pigmentation of the skin and hair in addition to our eyes. Both ocular albinism and oculocutaneous albinism result from mutations in genes involved in the production and storage of melanin.
  • Hand preference is the tendency to be more skilled and comfortable using one hand instead of the other for tasks such as writing or throwing a ball. It was initially thought that a single gene controlled handedness. However, more recent studies suggest that multiple genes, perhaps up to 40, contribute to this trait. Although the percentage varies by culture, in Western countries 85 to 90 percent of people are right-handed and 10 to 15 percent of people are left-handed and then there are those who have this uncommon trait and are known to be ambidextrous.  They interchange hand preferences depending upon a task.  All the people in my family are right-handed–except for me!  I may have been right-handed at birth, but when I was 18 months old I received second and third degree burns all over my body from a spill of hot bacon grease.  The only part of me that wasn’t bandaged for months on end was my left hand.  I guess like other creatures, I adapted to my situation.  Or, just maybe my left-hand preference is related to differences between my right and left halves (hemispheres) of my brain. Our right hemisphere controls movement on the left sides of our body, while the left hemisphere controls movement on the right sides of our body.  These same studies on hand preference suggest that at least some of these genes help determine the overall right-left asymmetry of the body starting at our earliest stages of development.
    • For example, the PCSK6 gene has been associated with an increased likelihood of being right-handed in people with the psychiatric disorder schizophrenia. Another gene, LRRTM1, has been associated with an increased chance of being left-handed in people with dyslexia (a condition caused by a defect in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols and causes difficulty with reading and spelling).

Is the probability of having twins determined by genetics?

The likelihood of conceiving twins is a complex trait. It is probably affected by multiple
genetic and environmental factors, depending on the type of twins. The two types
of twins are classified as identical and fraternal.  My genealogical research shows twins and even triplets go back generations on both my paternal and maternal sides of my family.  My maternal great-grandmother had three sets of twins among the 13 children she birthed –extremely rare and perhaps unprecedented.  And, yes, I am happy to say that our grandson is a fantastic father of 5-year-old twins – a girl and a boy.

So, did I get my blue eyes and freckles from my mother or my dad? Where did I get my fearless personality and the absence of a talent for singing, as much as I love to sing? Did my intellect come from my mom’s two X chromosomes, or was it predetermined by my genes? It’s still not clear to me how many of my physical characteristics are purely hereditary, and my genetic waters get even murkier when it comes to nature vs. nurture factors like behavior, intelligence, and personality. This argument has never really been won.  So, let’s leave it at this:  we do not yet know how much of what we are is determined by our DNA and how much is contributed by our life experiences. But we do know that DNA and life experiences each plays a part.

 

Our Ancestors’ Died From What?


Death Certificates Validate Our Lives

The primary purpose of a death certificate is to explain how or why people died. The only thing we know for sure is that people died because they were born; because they were mortal.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that roughly fifty million people in the world this year will die.  This figure includes every fatality in every developed nation on earth. Yet, only about half of all deaths will be recorded with a death certificate. The other half of the world’s people will die in the poorest of places, which maintain no end-of-life documentation.

Before modern death certificates, England, in the early 16th century, had a form known as the Bill of Mortality. No earlier civilizations kept track of their people’s deaths. However, church records of baptisms and burials and recordings of these events by family members within their family bibles offer good proxies for formal records of births and deaths.

Other Vital Statistics Information

The registration of births, marriages, and deaths has a long history in the United States, beginning with a registration law enacted by Virginia in 1632 and a modification of this law enacted by Massachusetts in 1639. Later, when the U.S. Constitution was framed, provision was made for a decennial census but not a national vital registration system; this latter function remained with the states. To obtain national data, the decennial censuses in the latter half of the nineteenth century included questions about vital events, but the method was recognized as inefficient and the results as deficient.

Deaths Registered in Harwich, MA, for the Year 1870

The copy below of a page from the death registry of 1870 in Harwich, Barnstable County, MA, includes one of my ancestors, “Betsey Doane,” who died of “childbirth fever,” soon after giving birth.  “Childbirth fever,” is explained later in this post.

Death Records - MAAccordingly, in 1902, when the U.S. Bureau of the Census was made a permanent agency of the federal government, legislation authorized the Director of the Census Bureau to get, annually, copies of records filed in the vital statistics offices of those states and cities having adequate death registration systems and to publish data from these records. A few years earlier, the Census Bureau had issued a recommended death reporting form (the first “U.S. Standard Certificate of Death”) and requested that each independent registration area adopt it as of January 1, 1900. In 1915, the national birth-registration area was established, and by 1933 all states were registering live births and deaths with acceptable event coverage and providing the required facts to the Census Bureau for the production of national birth and death statistics.

In 1946, responsibility for collecting and publishing vital statistics at the federal level was transferred to the U.S. Public Health Service, first in the National Office of Vital Statistics and later (1960) in the NCHS. In 1987, the NCHS became part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which in turn is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Lives, Deaths, And Medicine Over The Past 300 Years

For over two centuries doctors have defined people’s medical conditions like burns, asthma, epilepsy, and angina–terms still familiar to us today. However, they also used terms for other commonplace causes of death that we may not recognize today. For instance: ague (malaria), dropsy (edema), or spontaneous combustion (especially of “brandy-drinking men and women”).  Sometimes you might see Causa Mortis Incognita, which means the cause of death was not known and the doctors  wrote it in Latin and not admit in English they didn’t have a clue! Happily, many early 19th and 20th century health conditions that led to death have all but disappeared not only from doctors terminology but the diseases and illnesses themselves, thanks to dramatic advances in hygiene and medicine.

Yellow fever was the noted cause of death on the majority of 5,000+ death certificates issued in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, between August 1 and November 9, 1793.  This virus, like malaria, and today’s Zika virus, was carried and transferred by mosquitoes.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, hundreds of thousands of women died needlessly following childbirth from puerperal fever.  Unwashed hands and medical instruments introduced bacteria into women’s uterine tracts triggering this killer infection.

Before the mid-20th century, my family and I were fortunate enough to be among the first people in the United States to receive vaccines to fight smallpox, polio and measles – diseases which once killed thousands of people each year.

Prior to Sir Alexander Fleming’s, accidental discovery of Penicillin in 1929, the use of maggots to clean away dead tissue from infected wounds was commonplace.  Leeches were popular with doctors for blood-letting to “balance” the four humors (blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile) and to bring an ill patient back into good health. Many quacks also peddled “snake oil elixirs,” as “cure-all medicines.

Below, I used my genealogy software to generate this sample report of 15 persons causes of death from various branches of my ancestral tree dating back to 1617-1944.  Aside from name, birth and death dates, it gives age at death and causes as written by physicians on their death certificates, with only one exception.  The last entry–Pocahontas’ cause of death description–comes from many historical writings about her life and death.

Causes of Death - My Family Tree Sample

 

 

You can follow and understand my ancestor’s causes of death rather easily with only a few exceptions of now archaic terms like “acute gastrointestinal auto intoxication,” “childbirth fever,” and “diphtheria,” similar to other now dated causes of death that I mentioned earlier. In today’s terminology infant “Bessie Charlotte Chambers,” died of blood poisoning; i.e., “toxemia,” a condition in which the blood has toxins produced by body cells at a local source of infection or derived from the growth of microorganisms, possibly from her milk.

Death Certificate-Bessie Charlotte ChambersDiphtheria once was a major cause of illness and death among children.  It is transmitted from person-to-person through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include sore throat, loss of appetite, and fever. The most notable feature of diphtheria, is the a thick gray substance called a pseudomembrane that forms over nasal tissues, tonsils, larynx, and/or pharynx. The United States recorded 206,000 cases of diphtheria in 1921, resulting in 15,520 deaths. Diphtheria was the third leading cause of death in children in England and Wales in the 1930s.

Since the introduction of effective immunization, starting in the 1920s, diphtheria rates have dropped dramatically in the United States and other countries that vaccinate widely. Between 2004 and 2008, no cases of diphtheria were recorded in the United States. However, the disease continues to play a role globally. In 2007, 4,190 cases of diphtheria were reported, which is likely an underestimate of the actual number of cases.

Finally, below, I have included a table many more terms that genealogists and family historians may come across in their research of family members lives.

Obsolete Medical Terms and Definitions

TERM:

DEFINITION:

AGUE

Used to describe recurring fever and chills of malaria; can mean any fever with chills

BILIOUSNESS

Jaundice or other symptoms associated with liver disease

CHLOROSIS

Iron deficiency anemia

CHOLERA INFANTUM

Summer diarrhea of infants usually the first summer after weaning from breastfeeding

CORRUPTION

Infection

CORYZA

A cold

COSTIVENESS

Constipation

CRAMP COLIC

Appendicitis

CREEPING PARALYSIS

Tabes dorsalis (syphilis)

DENTITION

Infantile convulsions; febrile seizures; infected dental caries (cavities); mercury poisoning from teething powders

DEBILITY

“Failure to thrive” in infancy or old age or loss of appetite and weight from undiagnosed T.B. or cancer.

DROPSY

Edema (swelling), sometimes caused by kidney or heart disease.

DYSPEPSIA

Acid indigestion

ECLAMPSIA

Convulsions of any cause; later applied more specific

EXTRAVASATED BLOOD

Rupture of blood vessel

FALLING SICKNESS

Epilepsy

FLUS OF HUMOUR

Circulation

FRENCH POX

Venereal disease

GALLOPING CONSUMPTION

Rapidly progressing tuberculosis

GREEN SICKNESS

Anemia

HEMORRHAGE AND INFLAMMATION

Ruptured aneurysm or swollen lymph nodes or superficial cancer with ulceration and bleeding; swollen lymph nodes from chronic infection, such as T. B., brucella, anthracis, staphylococcus, etc.

HIP GOUT

Osteomyelitis

JAIL FEVER

Typhus

KING’S EVIL

Scrofula (T.B. of lymph glands, especially of neck)

LUES VENERA

Venereal disease

LUMBAGO

Back pain

LUNG FEVER

Pneumonia

LUNG SICKNESS

Tuberculosis

MALIGNANT FEVER

Fever with hemolysis; malaria with hemorrhagic skin rash; meningococcal infection; putrid malignant fever; typhoid.

MANIA

Insanity

MARASMUS & DROPSY OF THE BRAIN

Hydrocephalus and wasting of the body

MILK LEG

Thrombosis in femoral vein, often after childbirth; death from pulmonary embolism or pelvic infection (usual cause for milk leg)

MORTIFICATION

Gangrene usually of the leg; trauma; infection; diabetes; aneurysm of aorta

NOSTALGIA

Homesickness

A PERIPNEUMONIA

Pneumonia plus pleurisy (inflammation of the pleura usually with fever, painful & difficult respiration, cough and fluid into the pleural cavity)

PUTRID FEVER

Diphtheria

PUTRID SORE THROAT

Gangrenous pharyngitis; tonsillitis with peritonsillar or retropharyngeal abscess.

QUINSY

Tonsillitis

REMITTING FEVER

Malaria

ROSE COLD

Hay fever incorrectly thought to be caused by rose pollen.

SANGUINEOUS CRUST

Scab

SCREWS

Rheumatism

SCROFULA

See KING’S EVIL

SHIP’S FEVER

Typhus

SOFTENING OF THE BRAIN

Dementia (Syphilitic or nonsyphilitic); cerebral hemorrhage; stroke

STOMACH TROUBLE

Complication of gastric ulcer perforation plus pancreatitis, hemorrhage, cancer.

STRANGERY

Rupture

SUMMER COMPLAINT

Diarrhea and vomiting; gastroenteritis

THROAT DISTEMPER

Tonsillitis; diphtheria

VENESECTION

Bleeding

 

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Nurse!


Yes, a nurse is what I said I wanted to be for many of my developmental years. In third grade, I checked out a lot of biographical books from my school library.  Two of them were on the lives of Clara Barton (the pioneer nurse who also founded the American Red Cross), (1821-1912) and Florence Nightingale, (a celebrated English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing, (1820-1910).

Yet, throughout my youth, my parents stressed the importance of marrying and raising a family–“that’s what women are meant to do,” they said.   I’m not sure how so many parents of our baby boomer generation got caught up in such nonsense, especially since these parents were the same people who had to adapt traditional male and female roles during the Great Depression and World War II.  Or, perhaps, it was because they had so many struggles during these times that they couldn’t see the opportunities and possibilities.

Throughout history, women who were given opportunities, or made a personal commitment to advance their education shined and usually excelled at leading fully successful professional and happy family lives.  Let’s just say if I had it to do over again, I, too, would have chosen college and a career in medicine.  That’s not to say that I would have foregone marriage and children.  The world now allows us to be known for more than one fragment of our lives.  And, if the truth be told, I probably worked just as hard or harder to gain a professional status and raise a family, too, than if I first went to college and then took on family life.  Thank you to all those women who came before me to give me today’s choices.  And cheers, here, for just one them:

Susan Dimock ImageSusan Dimock (1847-1875) is a 19th Century achiever who on August 20, 1872, became the resident physician at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston. Susan’s family came over on the Mayflower with the infamous Massachusetts’ Fuller’s and Lathrop’s and she is my cousin through these families intermarriages.  Her parents were Henry Dimock (a newspaper journalist) and Mary Malvina Owens of Washington, NC.

Susan Dimock Newspaper Article

Letter, 1868

From Susan Dimock to her mother soon after arriving in Zürich to attend medical school:

 

October 18, 1868

 

Sunday finds me safely through with last week’s Herculean labors. You know I had a hundred formalities to go through with, and with no German to speak of. Looking back upon it, I do not see how I managed it; however it is all plain sailing now, and I have nothing to do except listen to lectures, study hard, and learn German, etc. Oh, it is so nice to get here, at a word, what I have been begging for in Boston for three years. I have every medical advantage that I can desire. I told the professor of anatomy, for instance, that I wanted a great deal of dissecting; and he immediately bowed, and said so kindly, “You shall have it; I only desire you shall tell me what you prefer.” And so it is with everything. . . in every respect I have equal advantages with the young men; and then I find also the warmth and protection and feeling of interest which a young man finds in a university.

 

From Memoir of Susan Dimock, resident physician of the New England Hospital for Women and Children. (n.p., 1875.)

 

A Physician with a Mission

It was July 1872,  when Dr. Dimock returned from medical school in Europe.  She attended there because Europe was less hostile to women becoming doctors. She remained three years at the New England Hospital.  There, she handled day-to-day patient management and care while also performing surgeries.   But her best contribution in the field of medicine was to start a program  to improve patient care through improved training of their nurse caregivers. As student nurses, they worked in the wards and attended medical lectures and studied anatomy.  In between her studies and teachings Susan liked to travel.  Unfortunately, she died at age 28 on board the steamship “Schiller” that struck the Scilly Rocks in fog and sunk near the coast of Cornwall, England.

Dr. Dimock is buried in Boston’s Forest Hills Cemetery, along with a couple of her colleagues:

Pioneering activists and professionals in medicine, women’s healthcare and women’s professional education, including Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, surgeon Susan Dimock, and America’s first trained nurse, Linda Richards.

In 1996, the marble marker at her Boston grave was replaced with a more durable granite duplicate, and the original moved to her home town of Washington, NC, where it was erected as a cenotaph.

The following is an excerpt from MassMoments.org “This Day In History,” for August 20, 2016:

Well into the nineteenth century, nursing was considered undesirable and menial work, suitable only for women whose circumstances left them no better options for supporting themselves. It took Florence Nightingale many years to convince her family to allow her to study nursing. She trained in Germany before returning to London to take up her profession. Britain’s involvement in the Crimean War (1854-1856) gave her the chance to demonstrate the benefits of having nurses in military hospitals, but first she had to overcome doctors’ opposition to the presence of women in the wards. Once she did, she quickly earned the respect and gratitude of the soldiers and in time their families. After the war, contributions from a grateful public enabled Nightingale to start the first nurses training school at a London hospital.

Meanwhile, in Washington, North Carolina, a young Susan Dimock was borrowing anatomy books from the family doctor and accompanying him on his calls. The Civil War disrupted her education — the local academy she was attending closed — and her family life. Her father died, and most of the family property was lost. In 1864 17-year-old Susan and her widowed mother joined relatives in Sterling, Massachusetts. A year later, Susan took a job teaching school in Hopkinton. She spent her evenings poring over medical books recommended by Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, the founder and head physician at the New England Hospital for Women and Children.

Zakrewska had helped to establish the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the first institution in the world devoted to the care of women and children. Female doctors and surgeons directed the hospital and tended all the patients. In 1862 “Dr. Zak,” as she was known, moved to Boston and founded the New England Hospital for Women and Children.

In 1865 Susan Dimock finally persuaded her mother to allow her to study medicine. In January of 1866, a few months shy of her 19th birthday, she arrived at the New England Hospital as a medical student. Although Harvard, like almost every other American medical school, refused to admit women, it did allow women “under certain restrictions” to follow doctors on their rounds. This increased Susan Dimock’s determination to obtain a medical degree. She decided to go to Europe, where medical schools were more welcoming of women students than those in the U.S. In 1868,with help from her mother, Dr. Zak, and several Boston philanthropists, she began studying medicine at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

In between her studies, she traveled. She visited Florence Nightingale in London and observed her nursing education program. She spent time at Kaiserswerth, Germany, where Nightingale had been trained. She returned to Boston in the summer of 1872 eager to put her knowledge and newly acquired medical degree to use.

She accepted a three-year appointment at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, where she set out to reorganize the training program for nurses. Hospitals traditionally viewed student nurses as a source of cheap labor. They took no classes but learned on the job, by following instructions they received on the ward. After the Civil War, doctors began exercising more oversight of nurses’ training. All but a handful of American doctors were men, and they had no expectation (or wish) that nurses would make independent judgments or carry out tasks on their own.

Thanks to Florence Nightingale, however, Susan Dimock saw things differently. “No man, not even a doctor,” Nightingale once observed, “ever gives any other definition of what a nurse should be than this – devoted and obedient. This definition would do just as well for a porter. It might even do for a horse. It will not do for a nurse.” Nightingale believed that the nurse had a special role as a health care provider and hospital administrator, and that her education should prepare her for that role. Dimock agreed with Nightingale — up to a point. She understood and was eager to lower the obstacles nurses faced to gaining knowledge, credentials, and respect; but as a doctor herself, she also understood the value of the nurse’s traditional role. Florence Nightingale saw nurses in training as students, not workers; Susan Dimock believed they could be both.

She started a one-year training program for student nurses at the New England Hospital and soon added a second year. Students began their day before sunrise and finished at 9 pm. Dimock and other women doctors lectured on a variety of topics, including nutrition, bandaging, inflammation, and surgery. A number of the graduates of the program were instrumental in helping nursing become a respectable profession, one that a middle-class woman could pursue without seeming “unwomanly.”

After Susan Dimock’s sudden death at sea in 1875, friends and admirers endowed a “free bed” for indigent patients in her name at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. Today the hospital is home to the Dimock Community Health Center in Roxbury, MA.