Medical Philately - What Now?

“Currencies which existed from ancient times have often been used as important historical evidence. The use of stamps as research material for medical history has just begun; however it will provide a promising research resource in the near future” - Dr. Fielding H. Garrison, MD (1870-1935)


I was only introduced to the concept of Medical Philately recently. As the name suggests, this branch of collecting deals with towering figures, events, and mythologies in medical history. Any country can release a stamp fitting these categories, meaning medical philately offers a unique lens for global medical history. This is an especially meaningful area of collection for medicine-related professionals, from physicians and nurses to medical historians (1).

“Currencies which existed from ancient times have often been used as important historical evidence. The use of stamps as research material for medical history has just begun; however it will provide a promising research resource in the near future” - Dr. Fielding H. Garrison, MD (1870-1935)
Dr. Garrison: Credited as founder of medical philately (6)

The term "Medical Philately" was coined in 1929 by Dr. Fielding Garrison, an American military physician and medical historian, who saw the value of stamps as tools for sharing the history of medicine (1). This was especially logical given that ample subject material was available even in 1929. As noted in the 1949 British Medical Bulletin by Dr. Douglas Guthrie, another giant among 20th century medical historians, the first physician to appear on a stamp was the Ecuadorian doctor, writer, and journalist Eugenio Espejo in 1899 (2). Early medical philately seems to largely focus on portraiture of relevant historical figures.

Dr. Eugenio Espejo: The first physician on a stamp (7)

For example, Dr. Gerhard Newerla published a catalogue in 1964 dubbed Medical History in Philately, which "relates to personalities who have distinguished themselves in the medical field and to the times in which they lived" (3). However, the definition of medical philately has expanded since then to also encompass topics of interest, like genetics or endocrinology (1). Moreover, medical philately articles continue to populate academic journals, albeit sporadically, almost a hundred years since Dr. Garrison's famous words. For example, the Journal of the Association of Physicians of India has published multiple informative articles by Dr. J.V. Pai-Dhungat (1, 4, 5). Oftentimes, the authors share some representative stamps and explain their context and importance in medical history.


I am very excited to approach medical philately as the first topic on this site. As I only learned about this specific genre relatively recently, I have not deliberately built a collection around it (thought I hope that changes in the future). However, I do have a few interesting stamps in this category that would be meaningful to explore. I look forward to learning what stories they hold.


References:

  1. Pai-Dhungat, J. "Medical Philately - Introduction." Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, vol. 63, Mar. 2015, pp. 14-15., PMID: 26540794

  2. Guthrie, Douglas. “Medical And Scientific Philately.” British Medical Bulletin, vol. 6, no. 1-2, Jan. 1949, p. 88. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.bmb.a073485“Medical History in Philately.” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 61, no. 4, Dec. 1964, p. 825., doi:10.7326/0003-4819-61-4-825_3

  3. Pai-Dhungat, J. “Medical Philately (Medical Personalities on Stamps).” Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, Sept. 2002, www.japi.org/september2002/Medical Philately.htm

  4. “Medical History in Philately.” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 61, no. 4, Jan. 1964, p. 825., doi:10.7326/0003-4819-61-4-825_3.

  5. Pai-Dhungat, J.V. “Medical Philately (Medical Personalities on Stamps).” JAPI, Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, Oct. 2002, https://japi.org/october2002/Medical%20Philately.htm

  6. “Fielding Hudson Garrison, MD (November 5, 1870 – April 18, 1935).” Wikimedia Commons, National Institutes of Health, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?sort=relevance&search=fielding+garrison&title=Special:Search&profile=advanced&fulltext=1&advancedSearch-current=%7B%7D&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns12=1&ns14=1&ns100=1&ns106=1#/media/File:Fielding_Hudson_Garrison.jpg. (Public Domain)

  7. Krosto. “Bust of Eugenio Espejo Placed at the Casa De La Cultura, Quito, Ecuador.” Wikimedia Commons, 13 Jan. 2010, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?sort=relevance&search=Eugenio+Espejo&title=Special:Search&profile=advanced&fulltext=1&advancedSearch-current=%7B%7D&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns12=1&ns14=1&ns100=1&ns106=1#/media/File:Eugenio_Espejo_bust.jpg. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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