The MacKinney Collection of Medieval Medical Illustrations

About Loren C. MacKinney

  1. Loren C. MacKinney, 1891-1963
  2. The Works of Loren C. MacKinney

Loren C. MacKinney,

Professor of medieval history and specialist of medieval medical history, Loren C. MacKinney was born in Lake Crystal, Minnesota, and he spent his childhood in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota and Appleton, Wisconsin. He completed a Bachelor of Arts at Lawrence College (Appleton, WI) in 1913, and subsequently, he began teaching at North High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he continued to teach until 1918. Concurrently, he pursued a master's degree at the University of Wisconsin, which he completed in 1916. From 1918 to 1919, he served in the U.S. Army during World War I, and in 1919, he also completed graduate work at University of Grenoble, France, earning a certificate. After the war and his graduate training in France, MacKinney began instructing at the collegiate level. The years 1919 to 1930 saw him teaching at a number of colleges and universities: William Jewell College, Knox College, Louisiana State University, and Ohio State University. During this period, he also continued his graduate work: in 1925, he finished his Ph.D. in Medieval History at the University of Chicago, where he studied under James Westfall Thompson. Finally, in 1930 he began his tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was appointed Kenan Professor of History in 1955. He also enjoyed visiting professorships at the Universities of Chicago and Illinois, Stanford University, the University of Virginia, the University of California at Los Angeles, and elsewhere during this portion of his career.1 His professional memberships included the Mediaeval Academy of America, the American Association of the History of Medicine, the Southern Historical Association, the History of Science Society, the American Historical Association, and others. He also served the American Historical Association by helping arrange for the microfilming of handwritten inventories of archives and manuscripts found in European libraries.2 His role as an editor included serving on the boards of American Historical Review (from 1952 to 1957) and Manuscripta.3 He died at the age of 72 on October 27, 1963 after a partial recovery from a cerebral hemorrhage.4

"Recognized internationally as an outstanding authority in the history of medicine, particularly for his studies of pre-Rennaissance [sic] illuminated medical manuscripts," stated The Bulletin of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in 1957, "it has been said Dr. MacKinney has set medical history forward at least 150 years."5 Indeed, he devoted much of his career to expanding his photographic collection of medieval medical illustrations and producing scholarship on a wide variety of medical topics including anatomy, bloodletting, dentistry, animal doctors, ethics, nudes, pestles, tranquilizers, and many more. His major works on medieval history and medieval medical illustrations include Early Medieval Medicine (1937), The Medieval World (1938), Bishop Fulbert and Education at the School of Chartres (1957), Medical Illustrations in Medieval Manuscripts (1965), and more than fifty articles concerning mostly medical topics.

The 1936 Hideyo Noguchi Lectures at Johns Hopkins University inaugurated MacKinney's international reputation as an expert of medieval medicine. Titled "The Dark Age of Medicine in France," he gave three lectures on early medieval medicine, Merovingian and Carolingian French medicine, and French medical progress in the tenth and eleventh centuries.6 Johns Hopkins Press later published these lectures as Early Medieval Medicine, with Special Reference to France and Chartres in 1937.7 From this point in his career, MacKinney focused on primarily medical topics and the expansion of his slide collection.

MacKinney's interest in collecting was not limited to the images that made up his medieval medicine collection: he owned at least three manuscripts, including a 1586 Spanish-language illustrated family record of its famous members. Nevertheless, his real passion was medieval medical illustrations. Indeed, early on MacKinney recognized in himself what would become a life-long habit of acquiring images. In 1934, he wrote to a librarian at La Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal à Paris humorously framing his request for more photostats as an instance of proverbs coming to life: "In America we have a proverb; 'A BAD penny is always turning up'. We also have another proverb; 'It never rains but it POURS'. I am the bad penny, which is once more turning up to trouble you. My requests for photostats are like the pouring rain; they come in great multiplicity."8 His collector's drive would ultimately lead him to assemble approximately 1200 photographic images (many of which he took personally) from numerous European archives. Just as the current digitization of the MacKinney Collection of Medieval Medical Illustrations seeks to benefit scholars by providing easy access to the images, MacKinney also endeavored to share his medical miniatures with diverse audiences and at various venues.

MacKinney took the opportunities of talks and publications to give his slide collection more visibility and to ensure its lasting contribution to scholarship on medieval medicine. Always willing to share his knowledge with various audiences, he delivered presentations ranging from a talk before the American Association of the History of Medicine concerning 30 slides shown at UNC in conjunction with UCLA's 1956 "Founders of Anatomy" presentation on a mid-nineteenth-century renaissance of Galenic anatomy9 and a 1958 lecture before the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection at Harvard University pertaining to Byzantine medical miniatures10 to a talk on pharmacy before UNC pharmacists in the mid-1950's.11 Thus, medievalists, historians, medical professionals, and many other species of scholar were enriched by MacKinney's collection and knowledge, a fact much appreciated by other departments on campus. As A. Price Heusner wrote to MacKinney, "You personify a thesis to which I have long ascribed, namely: a school of medicine is unlikely to flourish or even approximate its goals unless it operates within, and seeks out the available stimuli from, The Faculty of a general University. This School of Medicine is fortunate, indeed, to have you within ready reach!"12

However, MacKinney did not remain satisfied with simply collecting photographic copies; he also tried to facilitate the long-term preservation of these images: "I'm not jolted about textual revision," stated MacKinney in a letter to Owen Waller concerning a forthcoming publication, "but what about illustrations? You know me; I'm a fanatic on trying to get my microfilms of miniatures into color print (so I won't have to worry about slide deteriorztion [sic])."13 Indeed, while he was able to preserve a number of his images in diverse publications, undoubtedly, this posthumous digitization of his collection would have afforded MacKinney a great sense of relief.

Scholars may remember MacKinney for his rich contributions to the fields of medieval history and medieval medicine, but his students also recall fondly his energetic teaching style and willingness to engage the fascinating realities of antiquity. Staunchly opposed to calling the Middle Ages "The Dark Ages," he sought to infuse students with a sense of history as alive and vibrant. Eschewing the standard lecture format, MacKinney engaged students with an "aggressive Socratic method" which allowed for the development of "free-wheeling discussions with provocative questions thrown at students, such as: 'What percentage 'feudal' was Charlemagne?'; 'When did the Middle Ages begin?'; 'Did Jerome like Cicero, God, or women more?'"14 Former student Thomas Carrere always remembered the positive impact of MacKinney's talents as an instructor on his life. More than twenty years after MacKinney's death, Carrere lauded his exemplary teaching: "The time was the fall quarter of 1948. The place was Saunders 301. The occasion was the first class meeting of History 121—Medieval Cultural Life. The instructor was the late Professor Loren C. MacKinney. The class, as I recall, was rather a mixed bag of undergraduates with various majors. The result was sheer intellectual pleasure. The reason: The incomparable teaching skills, intelligence, enthusiasm and showmanship of L.C. MacKinney."15

Graduate students also valued and benefited from MacKinney's assertive teaching style. Former advisee John Riddle recalled his first graduate course, which became an encounter with the indefatigable MacKinney. Riddle, already uncertain about his decision to attend graduate school, was further confounded by this man who "kept talking about medieval miniatures" and who moreover insisted that students be able to read Latin, Greek, German, and French in order to complete their seminar papers. When Riddle chose to inform MacKinney that he did not, in fact, have the ability to read French, he was startled to become engaged in an argument with MacKinney over whether or not this lack of ability was in fact true. Assured of his complete lack of understanding of French, Riddle was stunned when MacKinney threw a copy of Histoire de France at him, catching him in the stomach and knocking the wind out of him. MacKinney demanded, "Read the damn book!" and Riddle successfully translated its title—History of France. Informing Riddle that, thus, he could indeed read French, MacKinney continued with the lesson. Riddle reported, however, "I was so scared I dropped the course. But I came to love the man. I've never had a professor throw a book at me but he made the point."16 Indeed, Riddle believes that he was "one of the most genuinely humane people I've even known," and that as an advisor, he was "very understanding and compassionate."17

MacKinney's humanity extended beyond his students to national and international inequities. For example, he never shied away from speaking out against racism in the United States. An advocate of civil rights in the '50s and the '60s, MacKinney often "wrote letters to the editor of the Greensboro Daily News advocating the equality of races and throwing sharp barbs at recalcitrant racists," and one of North Carolina's top newspapers the Daily News "declared MacKinney a leader in integration and claimed him as one of its own imminent writers."18 His commitment to intellectual rigor and precision extended to the community in which he lived, which allowed his keen mind to benefit more than the study of medieval medicine.

His research also carried him across the Iron Curtain, and while in East Germany he collected 338 medical miniatures, and more importantly, established lasting scholarly connections with those he met while abroad. Quick to praise the assistance he received while visiting East German libraries, MacKinney strove to undermine any notions of East German inferiority: "Another favorable reaction was due to the graciousness and efficient aid of library staffs in almost every center. This included not only occasional transportation by auto, but helpful telephone calls to other libraries so as to assure us that they would be open, and not least, occasional coffee—or tea—breaks with plates of delicious pastries provided along with refreshing drinks at the four-o'clock nadir of the human spirit. The weeks in East Germany resulted in noteworthy manifestations of good will on the part of both the American visitors and their generous hosts."19 MacKinney's praise was not limited to evidence of hospitality; he also valued the intellectual exchange with East German scholars. In a letter to Jürgen Mau, who had helped arrange his travels in East Germany, MacKinney assures him: "I was honored to be associated with you and the other people I met at the Berlin Academy. Apropos of my willingness to have my work published in the East, rest assured and please pass this word on to all of those I know in East Berlin: I am proud to be associated with them, and both my wife and I remember and speak with the greatest of pride of the wonderful way in which we were received during the summer of 1960. We only hope that some such relations may be restored in the future so that they will be more than mere memories."20

Unsurprisingly, MacKinney also seriously engaged the political role of the university in a series of review essays published after World War II. He delved into the problems the humanities faced during and after the war. In a series of bibliographic reviews published in the South Atlantic Bulletin, A State University Surveys the Humanities (published by UNC), and the co-authored text The Humanities in Review: Bibliography and Discussion of Some of the Literature of Analysis, Criticism and Defense, he provided insightful commentary on the burgeoning scholarship on the humanities and the future of liberal education in the United States in the post-war years. Arguing against what he considered to be old-fashioned and excessively self-congratulatory positions advocating the natural centrality of the humanities to higher education, he identified the need for a reassessment and reformulation of humanities curricula to meet the demands of students looking for both vocational training and an appreciation of the arts. His desire for a more collaborative relationship between the humanities, social sciences, and sciences was partially realized in the post-war years, as large public institutions such as UNC began to craft cross-disciplinary programs. His opinions on this subject remain relevant; they resonate with the two-cultures debate, science wars, and culture wars that arose after his death and continue to be touchstones for current discussions of interdisciplinarity.

"More than anyone I had ever known up until that point and in the years afterward, he maintained throughout the decades of his life a desire to learn something new; he loved intellectual challenges," commented Riddle. Indeed, MacKinney will be remembered for what his intellectual drive contributed to his friendships, his relationships with colleagues and students, his scholarship, and his national and international communities: a love of knowledge. Hopefully, the MacKinney Collection of Medieval Medical Illustrations will perpetuate the spirit of intellectual commitment so central to his life and work for many generations of scholars and students.

1 William S. Powell, "Loren C. MacKinney," Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1979-1996): 163.
2 "Notes and Events: Loren C. MacKinney, 1891-1963," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 19, no. 1 (1964): 73. The author of this piece is most likely F. N. L. "Noel" Poynter—MacKinney's longtime friend and colleague—who was on the editorial board of this journal at the time of the publication of this note. Poynter worked at Wellcome Historical Medical Library, which published MacKinney's opus Medical Illustrations in Medieval Manuscripts in 1965. Poynter assisted MacKinney in the final editing process of this book.
3 Powell, 163.
4 Journal of the History of Medicine and Applied Sciences, 73.
5 The Bulletin of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine 4, no. 4 (April 1957): 19. This quote comes from a footnote to "Epistola Ad Fredericum Wellmanum Magnum," a piece where MacKinney caricatured himself as a "faithful scribe, Laurenitus Mackinnicus," revealing his unfailing sense of humor and his commitment to rigorous scholarship. He included a copy of this bulletin in his notes, which is now archived in the Loren Carey MacKinney Collection on Medieval Medicine #3665, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
6 Program from 1936 Hideyo Noguchi Lectures, in the Loren Carey MacKinney Collection on Medieval Medicine. For the impact of these lectures on one noted scholar, Henry Sigerist, see Michael McVaugh, "'I Always Wish I Could Go Back': Sigerist the Medievalist," in Elizabeth Fee and Theodore M. Brown, eds., Making Medical History: The Life and Times of Henry E. Sigerist (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997): 162-178.
7 Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 73-74.
8 Letter to M. Van Moe requesting photostats 7 January 1934, in the MacKinney Collection on Medieval Medicine.
9 Library Notes: University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill 55 (April 16, 1956): 1. MacKinney also kept a copy in his notes in MacKinney Collection on Medieval Medicine.
10 Letter exchange with Dumbarton Oakes 1957-1958, in the MacKinney Collection on Medieval Medicine.
11 Letter to Otto L. Bettman 24 October 1960, in the MacKinney Collection on Medieval Medicine.
12 Letter from A. Price Heusner, in the MacKinney Collection on Medieval Medicine.
13 Letter to Owen Waller, in the MacKinney Collection on Medieval Medicine.
14 This information courtesy of an informal biography written by Dr. John Riddle, the Alumni Distinguished Professor of History and Botany Emeritus at North Carolina State University.
15 Thomas Augustus Carrere, "My Favorite Professor: Loren C. MacKinney, " North Carolina Biographical Clipping File, 1976-1989. Article clipped from University Report May 1987.
16 Interview with Riddle on April 8, 2008.
17 Interview with Riddle on April 8, 2008.
18 This information courtesy of Riddle's biography.
19 Loren C. MacKinney, "Medieval Medical Miniatures in Central and Eastern European Collections: Three Months of Search behind the Iron Curtain" Manuscripta 5, no. 3, (1961): 135.
20 Letter to Jürgen Mau in 1962, in the MacKinney Collection on Medieval Medicine. Although Mau was teaching in Göttingen (West Germany) in 1960, he helped arrange MacKinney's travels in East Germany.

The Works of Loren C. MacKinney

Medieval History, Medieval Medical History, and Medieval Medical Illustrations

MacKinney, Loren C. "Pre-Gothic Architecture: A Mirror of the Social-Religious Renaissance of the Eleventh Century." Speculum 2, no. 1 (1927): 11-32. ———. "The Laity in French Church Councils of the Eleventh Century." The Journal of Religion 9, no. 4 (1929): 568-588. ———. "The People and Public Opinion in the Eleventh-Century Peace Movement." Speculum 5, no. 2 (1930): 181-206. ———. "Bishop Fulbert of Chartres: Teacher, Administrator, Humanist." Isis 14, no. 2 (1930): 285-300. ———. "Tenth-Century Medicine as Seen in the Historia of Richer of Rheims." Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine 2 (1934): 347-375. ———. "'Dynamidia' in Medieval Medical Literature." Isis 24, no. 2 (1936): 400-414. ———. Early Medieval Medicine: With Special Reference to France and Chartres. Publications of the Institute of the History of Medicine, the Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1937. ———. "Medieval Medical Dictionaries and Glossaries." In Medieval and Historiographical Essays in Honor of James Westfall Thompson, edited by James Lea Cate and Eugene N. Anderson, 240-268. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938. Reprinted Port Washington, N.Y: Kennikat Press, 1966. MacKinney, Loren C. and Wallace Everett Caldwell. The Medieval World. The Civilization of the Western World, vol. 2. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1938. MacKinney, Loren C. "Research on the History of Medicine, in American Universities: 1. in the University of North Carolina." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 8, no. 8 (1940): 1252-1257. ———. "A Query on Eleventh-Century Humor and Folklore." Speculum 16, no. 1 (1941): 121. ———. "The Vulture in Ancient Medical Lore." Ciba Symposium (Ciba Pharmaceutical Products) 4, no. 3 (June, 1942): 1258-1271. ———. "An Unpublished Treatise on Medicine and Magic from the Age of Charlemagne." Speculum 18, no. 4 (1943): 494-496. ———. "Oleum Savininum: An Early Medieval Synthesis of Medical Prescriptions." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 16 (1944): 276-288. ———. "Manuscript Photoreproductions in Classical, Mediaeval, and Renaissance Research." Speculum 21, no. 2 (1946): 244-252. ———. "Animal Substances in Materia Medica: A Study in the Persistence of the Primitive." Journal of the History of Medicine and the Allied Sciences 1 (1946): 149-170. ———. "Medieval History and Historians During World War II." Medievalia et Humanistica 5 (1948): 24-35. MacKinney, Loren C., Carl Purington Rollins, and Frank H. Netter. "Medical Illustration . . ." Ciba Symposium (Ciba Pharmaceutical Products) 10, no. 6 (1949). MacKinney, Loren C. "Query no. 127: The Third Printing of Galen's Opera Omnia, 1511 or 1513?" Isis 41, no. 2 (1950): 198-201. ———. "Multiple Explicits of a Medieval Dynamidia." Osiris 10 (1952): 195-205. ———. "Medical Ethics and Etiquette in the Early Middle Ages: The Persistence of Hippocratic Ideals." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 26, no. 1 (1952): 1-31. Reprinted in Legacies in Ethics and Medicine, edited by Chester R. Burns, 173-203. New York: Science History Publications, 1977. ———. "A Half Century of Medieval Medical Historiography in America." Medievalia et Humanistica 7 (1952): 18-42. ———. "Tenth Century Medicine, Classicism and Pragmatism." Medievalia et Humanistica 9 (1955): 10-12. ———. Bishop Fulbert and Education at the School of Chartres. Texts and Studies in the History of Mediaeval Education, vol. 6. Notre Dame, Ind.: Mediaeval Institute, University of Notre Dame, 1957. ———. "Medical Illustrations in Medieval Manuscripts of the Vatican Library." Manuscripta 3, no. 1 (1959): 3-18; 3, no. 2 (1959): 76-88. ———. "Childbirth in the Middle Ages, as seen in Manuscript Illustrations." Ciba Symposium (Ciba Pharmaceutical Products) 8, no. 5/6 (December, 1960): 230-236. ———. "A Thirteenth-Century Medical Case History in Miniatures." Speculum 35, no. 2 (1960): 251-259. ———. "Medieval Medical Miniatures in Central and Eastern European Collections: Three Months of Search behind the Iron Curtain." Manuscripta 5, no. 3, (1961): 131-150. ———. "Post-War Microfilming of Mediaeval Research Material." Speculum 37, no. 3 (1962): 492-496. MacKinney, Loren and Thomas Herndon. "American Manuscript Collections of Medieval Medical Miniatures and Texts." Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 17, no. 2 (1962): 284-307. MacKinney, Loren C. "The Beginnings of Western Scientific Anatomy: New Evidence and a Revision in Interpretation of Mondeville's Role." Medical History 6, no. 3 (1962): 233-239. ———. "Moon-Happy Apes, Monkeys and Baboons." Isis 54, no. 1 (1963): 120-122. MacKinney, Loren C. and Boyd H. Hill, Jr. "A New Fünfbilderserie Manuscript: Vatican Palat. Lat. 1110." Sudhoff's Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin und der Naturwissenschaften 48, no. 4 (1964): 323-330. MacKinney, Loren C. "Abnormal Cranial Sutures in Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Anatomical Treatises." In vol. 2 of Classical Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies in Honor of Berthold Louis Ullman, edited by Charles Henderson, 413-426. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1964. MacKinney, Loren C. and Thomas Herndon. Medical Illustrations in Medieval Manuscripts: Part I: Early Medicine in Illuminated Manuscripts and Part II: Medical Miniatures in the Extant Manuscripts: A Checklist Compiled with the Assistance of Thomas Herndon. London: Wellcome Historical Medical Library; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965. Gottschalk, Louis Reichenthal, Loren C. MacKinney, and Earl Hampton Pritchard. The Foundations of the Modern World [1300-1775]. Vol. 4 of History of Mankind: Cultural and Scientific Development. International Commission for a History of the Scientific and Cultural Development of Mankind. London: Allen & Unwin, 1969.

On the Humanities

Coffman, George Raleigh and Loren C. MacKinney. The Humanities in Review: Bibliography and Discussion of Some of the Literature of Analysis, Criticism and Defense. Washington: American Council of Learned Societies, 1940-1949. MacKinney, Loren C. "The Humanities." South Atlantic Bulletin 10, no. 1 (1944): 1, 7-8. ———. "Humanities to Date." South Atlantic Bulletin 10, no. 2 (1944): 1, 10-12. ———. "Humanities After Three Years of War." South Atlantic Bulletin 10, no. 3 (1944): 1, 7-8. ———. "A Humanistic Dilemma." South Atlantic Bulletin 10, no. 4 (1945): 5-6. University of North Carolina (1793-1962). Division of the Humanities, Loren Carey MacKinney, Nicholson B. Adams, and Harry K. Russell. A State University Surveys the Humanities. The University of North Carolina Sesquicentennial Publications. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1945. MacKinney, Loren C. "Post War Humanities." South Atlantic Bulletin 12, no. 4 (1947): 1, 6-8. ———. The Liberal Arts in Medical Education, Ancient, Medieval and Modern. The Bulletin (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) 2, no. 3 (February, 1955).

Archival and Biographical Materials

MacKinney, Loren C. Loren Carey MacKinney Collection on Medieval Medicine, 1930's to 1963 #3665. Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. McVaugh, M. R. M.R. McVaugh's Index to the Collection of Microfilms and Other Photocopies of Loren C. MacKinney. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Library, 1965. This index is a set of 3 x 5 cards that have been photocopied three to a page and bound together. Powell, William S. "Loren C. MacKinney." Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 163. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1979-1996.


MacKinney, Loren C. Group Consciousness in Certain Phases of the Religious Life of the Eleventh Century. Thesis--University of Chicago. 1925.

The scene above depicts a Caladrius bird looking away from a patient. The image is a part of a manuscript held by Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, MS 22, folio 166r.
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