Skip Navigation Bar

NLM Lends Historical Collections to Yeshiva University Museum Exhibition, "Trail of the Magic Bullet"

Multi-Media Show Examines Jewish Relationship with Modern Medicine


The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is pleased to be a part of a multi-media exhibition on view at Yeshiva University Museum in New York City ( until August 12, 2012. Trail of the Magic Bullet: The Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine, 1860-1960 examines the modern Jewish experience through the lens of medicine.

It was only about a century and a half ago that scientific medicine began to emerge, radically shaping the way we live.  For Jews-and for the Jewish community at large-this transformation presented new opportunities, new challenges, and new ways to engage with modern society. Trail of the Magic Bullet: The Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine, 1860-1960 explores this transformation from the personal to the communal level through a series of case studies: first of individuals - the "new Jewish doctors" and their participation in creating modern medicine; then the impact of modern medicine on Jewish communities; and finally the intersection of Jewish tradition and modern medicine. Through the display of vintage medical instruments and artifacts, documents, photographs, and video, the exhibition focuses on the period from the emergence of scientific medicine up through the end of anti-Semitic discrimination in the mid-20th century. 

Featured in Trail of the Magic Bullet are several items from the NLM's historical collections, including selected papers of Dr. Joseph Goldberger, the eminent Hungarian Jewish physician and epidemiologist who studied the connections between disease and poverty. Dr. Goldberger's research as a physician in the US government's Hygienic Laboratory, the predecessor of the National Institutes of Health, led to the discovery of the cause of the pellagra in diet, not germs. Also included in "Trail of the Magic Bullet," from NLM's rich collection of Islamic medical manuscripts, is an 1826 copy of Risālah fī al-bawāsī, an Arabic treatise on hemorrhoids, by Moses Maimonides. This manuscript is featured in the exhibition's prologue, which examines the historical roots of the Jewish engagement with medicine.

Trail of the Magic Bullet also features images from the NLM's collection of prints and photographs, including portraits of Joseph Goldberger and other important Jewish contributors to medical specialties such as psychiatry, dermatology, microbiology, and pathology.

To learn more about Yeshiva University Museum and its new exhibition, Trail of the Magic Bullet: The Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine, 1860-1960: or

To learn more about the NLM's Archives and Modern Manuscripts Program: //  

To learn more about the NLM's collection of Islamic Medical Manuscripts: //

To learn more about the NLM's collection of nearly 70,000 historical images: //

The National Library of Medicine (, a component of the National Institutes of Health, is the world's largest medical library.

Yeshiva University Museum is dedicated to the presentation and interpretation of the artistic and cultural achievements of Jewish life. The Museum, founded in 1973, is distinguished by its wide-ranging and intellectually rigorous exhibitions and, as the cultural arm of Yeshiva University, by its strong educational mission. As a partner in the thriving Center for Jewish History and a participant in New York's lively downtown cultural scene, Yeshiva University Museum makes a distinctive and important contribution to Jewish life and to the world of culture and the arts. 

 Dr. Joseph Goldberger

Dr. Joseph Goldberger 

Courtesy NLM/Images from the History of Medicine