An Exhibition: The Story Of Tuberculosis

Giant intellects have worn themselves out in trying to solve its riddles, and warm hearts have burned out in zealous endeavour to relieve the burdens which have come with it.

Lawrence Flick, Committee Chairman, International Congress on Tuberculosis, 1908

The BioLogica TB Trust, a charitable organisation set up to promote an improved understanding and appreciation of the disease Tuberculosis, has developed an extensive collection of exhibition materials.

Focussing mainly on scientific advances, the material includes more than 45 framed ‘vignettes’, each setting out a particular milestone in the development of our knowledge of Tuberculosis over the past 2000-3000 years. These feature major topics such as ‘TB in Ancient Egypt’; ‘The Ancient Philosophers’; ‘Contagious Diseases in the 16th Century’; ‘The Discovery of Bacteria’; ‘Laennec and the Stethoscope’; ‘Louis Pasteur’s Germ Theory’; ‘Robert Koch and the Tubercle Bacillus’; ‘X-Rays’; ‘The First TB Diagnostic Test’; ‘BCG Vaccine’, etc. Each vignette is accompanied by a page of text (A3 or A4) describing the significance of each ‘Milestone’ in advancing our understanding of the disease.

The collection includes artefacts such as original books and texts, journals, photographs, stamps and coins, all of which have played an important supporting role in our efforts to understand, control and cure TB. These artefacts are suitable for exhibiting in display cases.

The exhibition as a whole provides a unique insight into mankind’s efforts to grapple with a major infectious disease which today still kills more than 1 million victims per annum. The story is scientifically grounded, the information having been sourced from numerous medical books, learned articles and academic publications. Wherever possible, the original information (e.g. the key text in a book chapter) is shown in the vignette.

This display has considerable educational merit, in that it offers a graphical/visual approach to conveying medical information. The subject matter will appeal to the general public, as well as provide suitable learning material for those intending to take up, or further develop, a career in science or medicine. It should therefore be of particular interest to Science and Medical Museums, Universities, Institutes of Higher Education, Departments of the History of Medicine, medically-oriented Charities, and secondary schools offering A-level science courses.

Approximately 40 metres of horizontal wall space (at ‘head’ height) are required to house the complete exhibition, but vignettes can be selected to fit the available space, and accompanying texts modified to ensure continuity of the ‘History’ from vignette to vignette.

The Biologica TB Trust recently curated a large display entitled "Tuberculosis : Milestones of Discovery and Innovation" at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, UK.

No disease has taken so heavy a toll in service and martyrdom for its elucidation. Now that it is understood, and its mysteries cleared up, and the way paved for its extermination, the story of how this was done is of gripping interest.

Lawrence Flick

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Interested parties are invited to contact Dr Ron Cox at:

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