History of Science & Medicine at Yale

Over the centuries, Yale-affiliated scientists and doctors have conducted (in)famous experiments, refined neurosurgical procedures, collected countless specimens (fossils, minerals, brains), and exerted considerable influence on today's scientific knowledge and medical practice. This ~2.5-mile tour will take you by the historic homes of paleontologist Othniel Marsh and geologist James Dwight Dana, among others. You'll also stop in for visits at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and the Cushing Center (also known as the "brain room").

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Marsh Hall (Othniel C. Marsh House)
This house belonged to Othniel Charles Marsh, a paleontologist and Yale professor during the 19th century who became famous for his skeletal reconstructions and studies of vertebrate fossils. The brontosaurus in the Peabody Museum (Brontosaurus Excelsus Marsh) was named after him. He hired J. Cleveland Cady to design the house, which was built between 1875 and 1880 at a cost of $30,000. Cady was a well-known architect in New Haven and also designed numerous buildings for Yale (many of which no longer survive). Marsh lived here until his 1899 death. Yale now owns the building, which is used by the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
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Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
The idea for the Peabody Museum at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut was first considered just after the end of the American Civil War. In 1866, Othniel Charles Marsh was appointed as the first Professor of Paleontology at Yale University (only the second such professor in the country). His uncle, George Peabody, financed the construction of a new museum at the university to house Marsh’s vast natural history collection. Ten years later, in 1876, the first, small building containing Marsh’s assemblage of bones and fossils was opened to the public. The museum is one of the oldest and grandest natural history museums in the United States, and is best known for its Great Hall of Dinosaurs. Other featured exhibits include the Hall of Ancient Egyptian Artifacts, The Hall of Mammalian Evolution, a collection of over 700 birds, and an important collection of Native American artifacts that were created by the first inhabitants of the region. The original building was quickly overwhelmed by the vastness of the collections. Construction began on a new building less than fifty years after the original was opened. The current museum was dedicated in 1925.
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James Dwight Dana House
Built in 1849, this building was home to James Dwight Dana. Architect Henry Austin designed the Italianate-style house with a trim inspired by designs from India.The Dana family sold the house to Yale in 1962. James Dwight Dana (1813-1895) graduated from Yale College in 1833 and became one of the most prominent geologists and mineralogists of his time. He was a member of the Wilkes Expedition (United States Exploring Expedition), a five-year trip around the world during which he observed and wrote on numerous aspects of natural history. Once back in New Haven, he continued to write prolifically on geological topics, producing his Manual of Mineralogy and Manual of Geology (which you can read at the links below).
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Russell Henry Chittenden House
Russell Henry Chittenden, Yale professor and the "father of American biochemistry," lived in this house from 1887 until 1943. It is one of several historic homes in the Hillhouse Avenue Historic District. The asymmetrical three-story house features gabled dormers and a square tower in one corner. Born in 1856, Chittenden earned his PhD from Yale in 1880 and was appointed Professor of Physiological Chemistry at Yale's Sheffield Scientific School in 1882, where he worked until 1922. He served as president of the American Physiological Society from 1896 to 1904. Chittenden made notable scientific advances in the fields of nutrition and toxicology, and his nutritional expertise was called upon during WWI. Among his students was Lafayette B. Mendel (PhD 1893), who followed in Chittenden's footsteps as a Professor of Physiological Chemistry at Yale.
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Lafayette Mendel House
This Italianate house was designed by prominent architect Henry Austin and served as the home of Yale professor Lafayette Mendel from 1900 to 1924. The building now houses a law firm. Mendel was a scientist who studied under Russell Henry Chittenden at Yale, earning his PhD in 1893. In 1903, Mendel became a Professor of Physiological Chemistry at Yale's Sheffield Scientific School alongside his mentor. Mendel's scientific contributions occurred in the field of nutrition. In particular, he is known for his partnership with Thomas B. Osborne from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station to study the nutritional value of proteins and vitamins. Mendel was among Yale's earliest tenured Jewish professors and was Yale's first Jewish Sterling Professor.
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Linsly-Chittenden Hall
Linsly-Chittenden Hall (LC) is a Yale building containing seminar rooms and lecture halls. During the 1960s, it was the site of Stanley Milgram’s famous social psychology experiments. Milgram was interested in the human tendency to obey authority figures. He wanted to test the limits of obedience: to what extent would someone follow orders that seemed immoral or evil? His experiments took place in the aftermath of the Holocaust, at a time when countless people were questioning how ordinary people had allowed such atrocities to occur. Milgram, the child of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, sought to shed light on these questions. He recruited Yale students and New Haven residents for his experiment. Study participants took on the role of "teacher." They were told by the a scientist to ask another person, a "learner," a set of questions and deliver electric shocks as punishment for wrong answers. The shocks became more intense over the course of the questioning until the "teachers" were administering lethal levels of electricity. 65% of them obeyed orders to use deadly force. What the study volunteers didn't realize was that they themselves were the subject of Milgram's research, and that he was testing their obedience to authority despite their own consciences. The shocks were fake, and the "learners" were actors. The Milgram experiment proved controversial. Critics were appalled at the treatment of experimental subjects, arguing that it was unethical to deceive unsuspecting volunteers and induce them to participate in such an upsetting experiment. The experiment's notoriety contributed to new developments in experimental procedure (most notably, an informed consent policy). Below you can watch Milgram's documentary "Obedience."
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Cushing Center, Yale Medical Library
Yale's fascinating "brain room" showcases the collection of Harvey Cushing, the "father of neurosurgery." Over the course of his career, he compiled what is now known as the Cushing Brain Tumor registry: 2200+ medical case studies consisting of notes, microscopic slides, tumor specimens, photo negatives, and even entire brains. These materials span several decades, from the late 19th century up to the 1930s, documenting a time of considerable change and advancement in neurological medicine. Today, these brain specimens and other materials reside in the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library. An active Yale Proximity ID Card is required to visit on your own. Visitors without one should register at the Medical Library’s Circulation Desk to receive a Cushing Center Proxy Card. Before traveling to visit the Center, you may want to call ahead to confirm its availability.

This tour was created by Amelia Kennedy on 05/26/17 .

This tour has been taken 81 times within the past year.