Friday, August 13, 2010

Bicentennial Corner 8.13.10

DURING THE month of August, the MGH marks two notable anniversary dates. While one is more of an unusual factoid -- the supposed 2,672nd birthday of the MGH's longtime Egyptian mummy Padihershef -- the other represents a truly significant moment in the history of the MGH -- the 200th anniversary of the MGH Circular Letter, the cornerstone document that led to the establishment of the MGH.

On Aug. 20, 1810, Drs. James Jackson and John Collins Warren circulated a petition calling for the establishment of a hospital in Boston. The "circular letter" included the meaningful words, "When in distress, every man becomes our neighbor," a phrase that continues to inspire the MGH community. In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Circular Letter, the MGH will host a number of celebratory activities on Aug. 20, including the publication of the first bicentennial issue of MGH Hotline; a series of full-page, full-color advertisements in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald; and the launch of an MGH Bicentennial Intranet Toolkit, where MGHers can access bicentennial logos, historical vignettes, archival images and posters. MGHers also are invited to attend a public reading of the complete Circular Letter Aug. 20 at 12:15 pm on the Bulfinch Lawn. In case of rain, the event will take place in the Bulfinch Tent.

Among the first gifts acquired by the MGH at its establishment is the mummy Padihershef. According to a birth certificate written in Egyptian hieroglyphics, the date of birth of Padihershef -- also known as "Padi" -- is estimated to be Aug. 5, 662 BC. Padi was a gift to the City of Boston from Dutch merchant Jacob Van Lennep in 1823. City officials gave the mummy to the MGH, and Padi has been a resident of the MGH Ether Dome ever since. He is believed to have been the first complete Egyptian mummy to be exhibited in America. In 1846, Padi "observed" the first public demonstration of ether as an anesthetic during a surgery.

For more information about Padi and MGH history, become a friend of "Padi Hershef" on Facebook at MGHPadi. For more information about the MGH Bicentennial, contact Lynn Dale, director of MGH Bicentennial Programming, at