Collections in the Media

We’re proud to tell you about two new documentaries that used material from our collections and are hitting screens big and small near you.

Ken Burns’ new 3-part documentary, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, premieres on PBS tonight, March 30. The film “examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective and a biographer’s passion. The series artfully weaves three different films in one: a riveting historical documentary; an engrossing and intimate vérité film; and a scientific and investigative report.” It’s based on the book written by physician and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee and published in 2010, described as a “biography of cancer.”

[Note for UCSF Library fans: Mukherjee is married to Sarah Sze, the artist who created the mirror polished stainless steel sculpture in the front stairwell of the Parnassus library.]

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The film Merchants of Doubt, by the filmmakers of Food, Inc., is now playing in theaters in San Francisco (and elsewhere). It’s “the troubling story of how a cadre of influential scientists have clouded public understanding of scientific facts to advance a political and economic agenda.” The team was on-site for several days, interviewing UCSF Professor Stan Glantz in our reading room and filming in the vault.

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Let us know if you’re able to see either film! What did you think?

And, of course, contact us anytime via our online contact form to submit a question or comment. You can also email us directly at

Women’s History Month – Ellen Brown

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re spotlighting a few of the many talented and trailblazing women who have been important in the history of UCSF and you may not have heard of before.

Today, read a little about the remarkable life and career of Ellen Brown, MD. We are fortunate to have Brown’s manuscript collection, MSS 87-42, and her oral history in the UCSF Archives & Special Collections.

Ellen Brown was born in San Francisco in 1912. She and her older brother Fred were raised by her parents, Warner and Jessie Brown, in Berkeley. Jessie was a high school teacher and botanist and Warner was a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. Fred died at the age of 16 of respiratory complications of polio. His death had a lasting impact on Brown– she dreamed of becoming a doctor as a child.


Ed Fong, Tesauro, and Brown in June, 1939.

Brown attended University High School in Oakland and went on to study at the University of California Berkeley, graduating with a bachelors degree in 1934. She continued to the UC Medical School’s San Francisco campus and graduated with her medical degree in 1939. In a class of  63 students, she was one of a handful of women.

Following graduation, Brown became chief resident under William J. Kerr, UC Chair of Medicine, from 1939-1943. The two worked closely for years– prioritizing cardiovascular research at UCSF. Brown helped to found the , which opened in 1958. Kerr was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI), procuring the space on the 13th floor of Moffitt Hospital and funding from both UCSF and the National Heart Institute. The CVRI opened in 1958 with Brown as a co-founder and, later, a senior staff member. (Check out some of the CVRI’s milestones here.)


Ellen Brown at Harvard Medical School, 1946

Brown’s academic appointment at UCSF began with clinical instructor, 1943-1944, moved to associate professor, 1946-1959, and became professor of medicine in 1959. In 1944-1946 she was a Commonwealth Fund fellow in the Department of Physiology at Harvard Medical School (see photo above) and in 1958 she was a Guggenheim Fellow at Oxford University.

Brown operated a lab on campus for peripheral vascular research though the 1960s and 1970s. Concurrently, she worked on improving teaching techniques in predoctoral medical classes, initiating the “Introduction to Clinical Medicine” course and later serving as a residency evaluator for the School of Medicine.

This quote, from Brown’s oral history, demonstrates her zeal for education, enthusiasm for change in curriculum, and sense of humor: “The wonderful thing was how interested all these people in the non-medicine departments were. An ophthalmologist would sit down with a bunch of absolute nerds, and come and do that, four or five times, and teach them. The hardest thing to learn to do is to see in an ophthalmoscope. It is for most doctors. It’s one of the last things you feel comfortable about. That and a pelvic exam, I guess.”

Over the course of her illustrious career, Brown’s research interests included capillary pressure and permeability, blood volume and vascular capacity, cardiac failure, cardiac complications of pregnancy, and peripheral circulation in relation to pain syndromes and vascular diseases.


Brown on Edgewood Ave behind the CVRI on May 29, 1960.

When Brown officially retired from UCSF in 1979, she became a professor emeritus of medicine. Ten years later, in 1989, Brown received UCSF’s highest honor, the UCSF Medal, for outstanding personal contributions to the University’s health sciences mission.


Brown and Francis Sooy, UCSF Chancellor 1972-1982, at the time of her retirement.


Brown passed away in October of 2006 at the age of 96. At that time, she gifted over $100,000 to the UCSF School of Medicine for the improvement of teaching for medical students.

Browns’ numerous contributions over the course of fifty plus years can still be felt today– through her impact on cardiovascular research as well as her in her insight and refinement of medical education.

Contact us if you have any questions or would like to learn more. And please don’t hesitate to use the calendar on the right to make an appointment to come in and use the collections!

Early MRI Scans

We’re currently processing the Radiologic Imaging Laboratory records, 1968-2000. The collection contains numerous images of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. The images help document the lab’s achievements in MRI research and illustrate dramatic developments in the technology.

MRI head scan from a patient logbook, 1986, MSS 2002-08. The image is from a Polaroid photograph of a computer screen.

MRI head scan from a patient logbook, 1986. The image is from a Polaroid photograph of a computer screen. MSS 2002-08

MRI scan images come in several formats in the collection. These include marketing prints and slides, transparent film sheets and negatives, and Polaroid photographs. Lab researchers used Polaroid cameras to capture images on computer screens created by in-development software and hardware.

MRI head scan from a patient logbook, 1988, MSS 2002-08. The image is from a Polaroid photograph of a computer screen.

MRI head scan from a patient logbook, 1988. The image is from a Polaroid photograph of a computer screen. MSS 2002-08

Several of the laboratory notebooks in the collection contain Polaroid photographs fastened right to the page, with research notes and data surrounding them.

Laboratory notebook of Lawrence Crooks with scan images, 1983. MSS 2002-08

Laboratory notebook of Lawrence Crooks with scan images, 1983 (subject’s name redacted). MSS 2002-08

As you move chronologically through the collection, you can see the MRI scans becoming clearer and clearer as lab researchers improved the technology. You can also chart changes in the lab’s research subjects. Image subjects transition from phantom objects (containers often filled with baby oil and water) to lab animals and RIL staff and patients.

Prints prepared for a 1985 Diasonics/RIL sales meeting. MSS 2002-08

Prints prepared for a 1985 Diasonics/RIL sales meeting. MSS 2002-08

Though the images present preservation challenges, they contribute greatly to the research value of the collection. Using the scans, you can witness the lab’s growth through different phases of MRI research and development.

Archival Outlook

Have you seen the November/December 2014 issue of Archival Outlook?

Archival Outlook, November/December 2014

Archival Outlook, November/December 2014

The cover photo comes from our Photograph Collection! Remember when we told you about our new Twitter account, @ucsf_archives, and how we’d be participating in #AskAnArchivist Day last October? Well, the photo on the cover is one that we tweeted out in response to a question about our favorite collection items and it caught the eye of the folks over at the Society of American Archivists.

Posing with cadavers was commonplace in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dissecting medical school cadavers was an intimate rite of passage for students. Such photographs weren’t viewed as inappropriate or offensive, as they most certainly would be today, but more as a kind of memorial to the experience. For more information on the ritual, check out Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine 1880-1930.

Notice the writing on the blackboard says “University of California Medical Center, Jan-7-96.” It was taken at the Toland Medical Building on Stockton Street in San Francisco, pictured below, in 1896.


Toland Medical Building, 1882-1885


The first-ever #AsAnArchivist Day was a great success, garnering over 2,000 participants who contributed more than 6,000 tweets. We had a lot of fun participating with curious patrons and other institutions. Follow us on twitter if you aren’t already and feel free to ask a question anytime!

Archival Outlook is published six times a year by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) which serves the education and information needs of its members and provides leadership to help ensure the identification, preservation, and use of the nation’s historical record.

UCSF Clock Tower

Millberry Union Clock Tower as it looks today.

Millberry Union Clock Tower, 2014

Have you ever noticed the large transparent clock on the exterior of Millberry Union? It looks like this:

I walk past it often without giving it a second thought, but the clock tower has quite an interesting history.

Often referred to now as the “Founders’ Clock,” it is also known as the “Toland Clock Tower” and “Seth Thomas Clock.” You may also have seen photographs of the Old Medical School building from time to time, with a large clock atop the center of the building– the same clock as Millberry’s clock.

One of our rotating banner images here on Brought to Light depicts the old Medical Building, including the Seth Thomas Clock, through the lens of well-known photographer Ansel Adams. It’s a slice of this photograph:


Ansel Adams, Clock Tower of old Affiliated Colleges building, with new structures in fog, August 1964

The above building was the College of Medicine, and the first building to have been erected on the Parnassus campus in 1897. Seth Thomas was a well-known clockmaker in Connecticut in the early and mid 19th century. The clock was brought to San Francisco via ship that traveled around Cape Horn, South America to be a crown jewel in the Affiliated Colleges campus. The image, taken in 1964, shows the old College of Medicine building surrounded by the more modern campus buildings of today in the background and on the left. When the old College of Medicine building was torn down in 1967, a group of “friends of the clock”, led by Alison Saunders, MD and assisted by Meyer Schindler, MD ’38, formed to ensure it’s safekeeping until it could be moved to a new location on campus. “We have salvaged the granite pillars and blocks as well as the clock from the old building that was a landmark on Parnassus Heights . . . ,” Dr. Alison Saunders declared in 1969 as chair of the UCSF Campus Court Development Commission.

The process to find the famous clock a new home took 14 years. Finally, in 1982 the inner-workings of the clock were reinstalled on Millberry Union, 500 Parnassus Ave, where it lives today.

Founders Clock, Millberry Union, circa 1982

Founders Clock, Millberry Union, circa 1982

Next time you’re walking around the Parnassus campus, take a closer look at the historic clock. It is a work of art worthy of our attention.

The inscription reads: “Carried by ship around Cape Horn, this Seth Thomas Clock was installed on the Medical School of the Affiliated Colleges in 1897. Surviving the 1906 earthquake, it served the University and community for 70 years. Members of the UCSF family have made possible its restoration as a campus landmark.”

Check out this article that details the historical inspiration for a new clock, “Saunder’s Clock,” in the Mission Hall courtyard of the UCSF Mission Bay campus.

Commemorating UCSF Dental Alumni WWI Veterans

In honor of Veterans’ Day this year, we bring you a scrapbook from our collection, titled Dental College Alumni Serving in the First World War, 1917-1919. The scrapbook is filled with letters written to Dr. Guy S. Millberry by both former and on-leave students during their military service. Millberry began working at UCSF in 1906, was appointed Professor in 1910, and became Dean of Dentistry in 1914– a role he continued in for twenty-five years.

The collected letters were written from a variety of places– Camp Greenleaf, GA; Camp Fremont, CA; Vancouver, WA; Royat, France; Oakland, CA; Camp MacArthur, TX; San Pedro, CA; Camp Lewis, WA; Khabarovsk, Siberia; New York, NY; Fort D.A. Russell, WY; Camp Greene, NC; Camp Shelby, MS; Camp Lee, VA; La Ferte, France. They were sent from forts, camps, ships, submarines, and hospitals. Most of the the letters are handwritten, a few are typewritten.

Dental College alumni Serving in the First World War, 1917-1919 scrapbook

Dental College Alumni Serving in the First World War, 1917-1919 scrapbook


The soldiers ask Dr. Millberry for letters of recommendation, job advice, proof of graduation, if their leave of absence will be honored or extended to allow them return to school after the war ends, and give updates on their lives. One soldier, who wrote on September 21, 1918, included a copy his records detailing the dental work he did in one week.


Dental College Alumni Serving in the First World War, 1917-1919 scrapbook

A graduate of the 1917 UC College of Dentistry class, Edwin Busse, wrote a letter on October 18, 1918 from his station in Paimboeuf, France that included several photographs (the letter is transcribed in full at the end of this post). Busse is pictured in the 1917 Blue and Gold UC yearbook as a member of the Psi Omega dentistry fraternity. Below, a photograph of the Arch de Triumph in Paris, France. The caption reads: “Note how French have protected statue on right with sandbags.”

Dental College alumni Serving in the First World War, 1917-1919 scrapbook

Dental College Alumni Serving in the First World War, 1917-1919 scrapbook

Included with same letter, a photograph of a “portable dental outfit.”

Dental College alumni Serving in the First World War, 1917-1919 scrapbook

Dental College Alumni Serving in the First World War, 1917-1919 scrapbook

As well as a photograph of a “dental office at Paimboeuf.”

Dental College alumni Serving in the First World War, 1917-1919 scrapbook

Dental College Alumni Serving in the First World War, 1917-1919 scrapbook


Clark R. Giles received his Degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery from UC in 1914 and had been an instructor in Prosthetic Dentistry here before serving in World War I. He wrote a detailed letter to Millbery on on October 7, 1918 from Royat, France describing the work that goes on at Base Hospital 30, the war, his recent leave, and even mentions Busse.


Dental College alumni Serving in the First World War, 1917-1919 scrapbook

Dental College Alumni Serving in the First World War, 1917-1919 scrapbook

Royat France
Oct 7, 1918

My dear Dr. Millberry:

I have been a long time in writing to you but rest assured it is not because I have not thought many times of you and of the University.

We are located in Royat near Claremont-Ferrand a city of 60 thousand. We have the hospital well established in 17 or 18 summer hotels and at present have a little more than 1700 patients and within a few months expect to be able to care for 3 thousand if necessary.

Our department is very comfortably (not lavishly, naturally) equipped and just at present we are five dentists and six assistants. However we expect to lose our extra help ere long but in all probabilities they will be replaced by men from incoming organizations. We are kept very busy for example last month we saw some 650 patients and we try to have each man who comes in, go out with his mouth in a completed condition. We naturally have a great amount of routine work to do but mixed with it are also numerous very interesting wound and fracture cases from which we learn a great deal in the surgical and fracture line. All cases involving facial or other structures than the jaws or teeth are as you probably know handled in conjunction with the surgical department.

Click through to read the rest of the letter written by Giles followed by the letter from Busse that included the photographs, written to Millberry a week later than Giles’, also from France.  Continue reading

National Hospital Week (May 11-17)

More historic images brought to you this week in honor of National Hospital Week! Celebrated May 11-17, Hospital Week serves to recognize the dedication of all hospital professionals.

Operating Room at City County Hospital, circa 1890

Operating Room at City County Hospital, circa 1890

UC Hospital Men's Ward, circa 1920s

UC Hospital Men’s Ward, circa 1920s

UC Hospital, circa 1918

UC Hospital, circa 1918

UC Hospital Lobby, 1920s

UC Hospital Lobby, 1920s

UC Hospital Kitchen, 1924

UC Hospital Kitchen, 1924

Read more about the history of San Francisco’s hospitals on the UCSF History website.

Celebrating National Nurses’ Day (May 6) and National Nurses’ Week (May 6-12)

Happy National Nurses’ Day! Here’s a selection of a few of our favorite images of nurses from the UCSF Historic Photograph Collection. For more images, check out our Digital Collections.

Moffitt Hospital Nurses' Station, circa 1970s.

Moffitt Hospital Nurses’ Station, circa 1970s

UC Nurses, World War I, Base Hospital # 30

UC Nurses, World War I, Base Hospital # 30

Nurses at the 30th General Hospital, June 1943

Nurses at the 30th General Hospital, June 1943

Tuberculosis service, circa 1930s.

Tuberculosis service, circa 1930s

Three UC Nurses-- Rigney, Dubois, and Catton-- in the nursery with infants an unidentified man in 1912.

Three UC Nurses– Rigney, Dubois, and Catton– in the nursery with infants an unidentified man, 1912

UCSF School Of Nursing students watching TV in the Nursing Dorm, circa 1955

UCSF School Of Nursing students watching TV in the Nursing Dorm, circa 1955

UCSF School of Nursing students in the Nursing Dorm archway, circa 1950s.

UCSF School of Nursing students in the Nursing Dorm archway, circa 1950s

UCSF School of Nursing class in Toland Hall, 1941.

UCSF School of Nursing class in Toland Hall, 1941

Historic Panoramic Photograph of San Francisco, circa 1933-1935

Use our slideshow below to view this beautiful panoramic photograph of San Francisco taken in the 1930s from the Parnassus campus of UCSF. The photograph is comprised of ten discrete photographs taped together to form an almost seamless panoramic image measuring 4.5″ x 54″ looking north and spanning west to east.

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge the images and see the slideshow.

Unfortunately, the photograph lacks accompanying information about its creation, however, several significant qualities have helped us to narrow down the date. Most significantly, in the second portion of the close-ups, on the right side, the unfinished Golden Gate Bridge is visible. The pylons closest to San Francisco can be seen, but not the suspension cables which, according to the Golden Gate Bridge Construction Timeline, puts the image somewhere in 1933-1935.

Other things of note include the presence of the original Kezar Stadium (former home of the SF 49ers and Oakland Raiders), the absence of the Bay Bridge (which was also under construction from 1933-1936), and the generally bare Presidio area.

What strikes you most about the photo? Let us know! We’d love to hear your insights into the old San Francisco landscape.