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Voices
Autumn 2015

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collections in countway

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a drawing of the vocal tract, late 1800s
SOUND SYSTEM: This drawing of the vocal tract is from a nineteenth-century album of color illustrations of vocal folds assembled by Franklin Henry Hooper, Class of 1877, professor of laryngology at Dartmouth College and instructor of laryngology at HMS. He died of mouth and neck disease in 1892.
 

When Ephraim Cutter, Class of 1856, developed “a most earnest desire” to see his own larynx, he got busy and designed a laryngoscope. Cutter thus became part of a tradition of fascination with the human voice and the mechanics behind it.

Manuel Garcia, a Spaniard who was a well-known singing teacher, discovered a way to observe how his own vocal folds moved while singing by using a mirror and illumination by sunlight. He demonstrated this technique on himself at a meeting of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1854; this act, as a news item in a 1905 issue of JAMA declared, laid “the foundation of modern laryngology.”

Cutter had heard of Garcia’s demonstration and had seen Prague native Johann Nepomuk Czermak, a physiologist, perform the technique on himself in Paris in 1856 using a more advanced version of Garcia’s laryngoscope.

A physician, a singer, and a physiologist, each with his own reasons to learn more about the larynx and vocal folds, put a personal stamp on the field of laryngology.

Photo: John Soares/courtesy of the Boston Medical Library

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Issue

Voices
Autumn 2015

Topics

collections in countway

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