Naming the invisible patient: the process of specimen identification.
Dr Aisling ShalveyZoom
Pathology has been one of the core aspects of history of medicine, where the origin and nature of diseases have been explained. However, the individual patients who led to these discoveries are often invisible, particularly in the case of pathology during the Nazi era. Throughout my PhD thesis I encountered previously unexamined pathology specimens that led to three main questions. Who were these people? What happened to them? What were their names? Armed with sparse pathology record books, I sought to reunite these anonymised specimen jars with identification numbers with their clinical record, their history, and most importantly, their names. While undergoing this process of searching for samples taken from children, I found myself asking what a medical historian can garner from both what is said in the patient record, but also what has not been said. This comes to the fore particularly in the case of these records which were created in the occupied city of Strasbourg during National Socialism. This research then also asks how a historian can reunite a name with an anonymous number, in turn, personifying the pathological, and granting a patient the dignity of their name long after their death.