Sept. 22, 2009| As a Confederate surgeon in the Civil War, Roscoe Jennings, one of the founders of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), was sent to Helena and Vicksburg, Miss., to establish field hospitals.
It’s not a stretch to imagine that one of his most valuable tools was the small microscope that was donated recently to the UAMS Library from a Jennings descendent, Richard Leatherwood, of Ridgewood, N.J.
“I can see that going in a saddle bag,” said Amanda Saar, who directs the Historical Research Center in the UAMS Library. “Its size indicates that it was used for travel.”
Leatherwood, who made the donation to the UAMS Library on behalf of the Jennings family on Sept. 4, said his family also assumes that was the case.
Leatherwood said he played with the microscope as a child, and when his grandmother died in the 1970s the family agreed that it should be donated to UAMS.
“We were going to do it and everybody forgot,” he said. “I found it last week and called the family and said let’s donate it to the school, and they said OK.”
UAMS Library Director Mary L. Ryan and Jonathan Wolfe, Ph.D., an historian and associate dean of the College of Pharmacy, attended the informal presentation.
The microscope is still in good condition, along with its original wood case, but little is known about it.
Ryan said she had never seen a microscope quite like it.
“We’ll use catalogues and other resources to identify it and figure out the time period it was made,” she said, noting that the maker’s label is missing.
The microscope is among a handful of artifacts entrusted to the library from UAMS founders or their descendents, she said.
“As we get further away from that time period the chances are not very likely that we’ll get more artifacts,” Ryan said. “It’s really great when somebody decides to give things to us so we can preserve them and share them with others.”
Saar said the timing of the Jennings microscope donation is nice, too, because 2009 marks the 130th year since the UAMS College of Medicine was formed.
Jennings, who died in 1899, was one of the eight founders of the Arkansas Industrial University Medical Department in 1879, now UAMS.
Numerous UAMS and Arkansas health sciences artifacts are maintained by the UAMS Historical Research Center on the second floor of the library. Most can be viewed online at http://libcontentdm.uams.edu/HRCDigitalCollections.htm.