Embryology History - David Berry Hart

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Introduction

David Berry Hart
David Berry Hart (1851-1920)

David Berry Hart (1851-1920) United Kingdom obstetrician and lecturer on developmental genital topics.

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Obituary

DAVID BERRY HART, M.D., F.R.C.P.Edin. (1920). British Medical Journal, 1(3103), 852–853.


British obstetrics and gynaecology would surely been impoverished had David Berry Hart turned, as-he might well have done, to anatomy or to surgery at his graduation as M.B. and C.M. in 1877 ; but the attention of the late Sir Alexander Simpson was directed to the promising young doctor, and secured him for midwifery by appointing him to be his assistant in that department in the University of Edinburgh, so giving him the opportunity for doing the life work which he so brilliantly accomplished. He carried over into obstetrics and gynaecology the exactness of the anatomist, and in 1880 gained with the M.D. degree a gold medal and the Syme Surgical Fellowship for his thesis on “The structural anatomy of, Later in life he added to his ?? the female pelvic floor. anatomical bent the scientifically directed curiosity of the biologist, and explored the early beginnings of vital activity in the ovum and embryo.


Dr. Berry Hart’s death took place at his home in Edinburgh on June 10th almost at the very hour when the Library Committee, of which he was convener, was meeting in the Royal College of Physicians. During the winter months he suffered from influenza, and to the sequelae of that disease he attributed the weakness which forced him to cease his lectures at Surgeons’ Hall on May 24th. It was anticipated that a few days’ rest would enable him to resume his greatly loved teaching, but signs of more serioustrouble became manifest to his doctors, and he passed away in his sixty-ninth year. He was born in Edinburgh, and from his maternal grandfather, Mr. David Berry, builder, came the part of his name which was to distinguish it from others who bore the Hart cognomen.


Dr. Berry Hart received his medical education at the University of Edinburgh between the years 1872 and 1877, displaying then the same originality of thought and enthusiasm of application which marked him in later life. He visited Vienna soon after graduation in 1877, and then settled down to the work of teaching midwifery tutorially in Edinburgh in connexion with Professor Simpson's classes. He was appointed assistant physician to the Royal Maternity gynaecologist to the Royal Infirmary in 1886, moving on to the “senior posts in these two institutions in 1889 and 1901 respectively. In the early nineties he also acted as gynaecolcgist to ‘Leith Hospital. At the time of hisdeath he was consultant to allthese three hospitals. In 1883 Dr. Hart commenced systematic lecturing. in the School of Medicine of the Royal Colleges," and gave courses of lectures on midwifery and gynaecology there till within a few weeks of the ‘end. He also collected a large museum of specimens, and gave to their investigation and preservation many hours of his already full life. He was all the while teaching clinically in the various hospitals, was engaged first in a general and later in a specialist practice, and was preparing and publishing many important books and papers. From outside Edinburgh recognition — came to him, and he was made an honorary-Fellow of the American Gynaecological Society. of the Berlin Obstetrical Society, and a Corresponding Fellow of the Leipzig Obstetrical Society. He opened a debate on placenta praevia at Brussels at the international-medical meeting there. and on several occasions he was similarly honoured at the annual gatherings of the British Medical Association. He was secretary of the Edinburgh Obstetrical Society from 1879 to 1883, and became president in 1890. He was examinerin midwifery in the universities of Edinburgh, Oxford, Birmingham, and Liverpool; and he held other appointments of honour and responsibility, such as that “of librarian to the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

Whilst this was the setting, so to say, of Berry Hart's life, there were three directions in which his activities were particularly fruitful — in scientific research, in medical literature, and in teaching; in each of these he revealed the note of distinction and showed the hand of a master.

he performed for the first time in Scotland successfully, the operationsof Caesarean section for ruptured tubal gestation, and for advanced broad ligament pregnancy; but he was ‘at heart an anatomist, a research scholar, and an inspiring teacher rather than a full-time clinician.


With regard to scientific research, Berry Hart was the first in Scotland to employ the method of frozen sections in anatomical studies, and by-this means to throw a flood of light upon the structure of the-female pelvic floor and its behaviour in labour, in prolapsus uteri (“sacro-pubic hernia”), in the genu-pectoral position, and during the passage of the Sims speculum. A by-product of Hart's work, although carried out by other bands, was the development of cystoscopy in its modern form. Further, those who in Edinburgh followed him in the Midwifery Department applied, always with fruitful results, the frozen sectional method to the investigation of the anatomy of labour, of the fetus and new-born infant, and of the puerperium; he himself carried it into the study of ectopic pregnancy.


These, however, by no means‘ exhausted the range and scope of Hart’s researches; they were, in very truth, only the beginnings. He dealt in turn, and always originally and suggestively, with the mechanism of labour, with the mode of separation of the placenta in the third stage, with the nomenclature of transverse presentations and positions, with the tuberose fleshy mole, with the morphology and development of the genito-urinary tract, with hermaphrodism, with the theory of enzygotic twins, and with the kyphotic pelvis.

Hospital in 1884, and assistant,

The a clinical side ,of his life was far from featureless; indeed,

To prove their worth it may be noted that hardly one of these nieces of research failed to arouse and by his antagonists. In his later work Dr. Berry Hart roamed almost solitarily (so far as obstetricians were concerned) in the mazes of Mendelism, a subject which, especially in its mathematical aspects, had a strange fascination for him. To explain the various forms of hermaphrodism, to introduce an entirely novel nomenclature, to prove that after all the “free-martin” was not a cow; and to do all. this with the help of "Mendelian principles was an invigorating. exercise to Hart, although to others it seemed nothing; less than a to,u.r'de, force of dubious utility. He was head and shoulders above the little thinkers on these matters, and he enjoyed these speculations with his whole soul. Almost his most recent Work, an article in the new edition of the Encyclopaedia Medica on hermaphrodism in man, illustrates these features of his later work admirably.

Dr. Berry Hart was the writer of nine books and of more than seventy papers, and would therefore demand attention even if the - work were not of the high standard it has just been shown to be. He was a literary man. In the first place, his articles, with whatsoever subject they dealt, were invariably written in strong readable English, terse, clear, arresting, forcible. In the second place, he scored two distinct successes with textbooks ; the Manual of Gynaecology (written in collaboration with Freeland Barbour) has passed through many editions and has been translated into several European languages ; and his Guide Midwifery has appealed to the best minds amongst his colleagues and has been already fruitful in many directions. The Manual is now, after nearly forty years, ‘quietly accepted as a textbook like many others; but in the year of its publication it stood out alone as a pioneer. Work establishing gynaecology as atrue, self-contained, and scientifically founded speciality. But, in the third place, Hart was successful as the writer of what may justly be termed medical belles-lettres. His fascinating book called Some Phases of Evolution and Heredily came as a delightful surprise even to many who knew him well. He revealed in it literary grace, a power of epigrammatic description, delicate fancy, brilliant critical instinct, and genuine humour; yet on every page of it real facts of vital importance were being set forth. Take, for instance, his pregnant phrase, “man and Woman are equipotential but not equivalent,” or his summing up of eugenics, “it is not Nature's way,” or his reflection, “in time Cupid, before he shoots, will look up the lovers’ dossier, and read-his chapter on men (such as Pepys) who have revealed themselves. The whole work teems with what may be called sportive marginalia on the scientific andsemi-scientific books and beliefs of the time.


The third directionin which Berry Hart’s work was fruitful beyondthe average wastliat of teaching. In part his teaching was through his books anjl papers, and it was never of the coaching kind, attracting the student whose horizon was coterininous-with the walls of the examination ball; but his oral and clinical teaching showed even more the absence of anything approaching the popular style. It appealed rather to the postgraduate or to, the undergraduate with the -post-graduate mind, who appreciated it tothe full, even if for the time being he could not follow out the avenues of thought which were being opened up. The fact that an important but novel matter was not likely tobe asked in an examination paper did not "deter Hart from giving a whole lecture to it if he thought it deserved it. The desire to teach in this sort of fashion went with Hart to a-medical society meeting and gave a sharpness to his criticism of papers read there which some were inclined to resent; but such comments from his tongue were rather to be regarded as compliments than as condemnations. The poor paper he left uncriticized, for the one that had a spark of originality or of merit in it Hart had a word or two which showed how the spark might be converted into a flame, and he took the author (if he were willing) into the circle of those whom he delighted to engage in combat and measure swords with. It was considerations such as some of these referred to which no doubt led the College of Physicians to bestow upon Dr. Hart in 1918 the Cullen Prize, awarded every four years for the greatest benefit done to practical-medicine, and with that distinction one may suitably close this sketch of his life.


Sides to his life have been left untouched, amongst them his kindly relations with his patients, his devotion to was to give birth to several other researches by Hart himself Liberalism in politics and to his church (the United Free) in religion; but in the main the man, David Berry Hart, was such an one as has been indicated. He has left a widow and four children, two sons and two daughters.


References

Hart DB. and Gulland GL. The Anatomy of Advanced Pregnancy in Macacus rhesus studied by Frozen Sections, by Casts and Microscopically. (1893) J Anat Physiol. 27(3): 360.1-376. PMID 17232038

Hart DB. Preliminary Note on the Development of the Clitoris, Vagina, and Hymen. (1896) J Anat Physiol. 31(1):18-28.11. PMID 17232227

Hart DB. Preliminary note on the development of the clitoris, vagina and hymen. (1896) Trans Edinb Obstet Soc. 21: 106-116. PMID 29613163

Hart DB. Transverse septal atresia of the lower third of the genital tract. (1897) Trans Edinb Obstet Soc. 22: 18-21. PMID 29613129

Hart DB. The nature and cause of the physiological descent of the testes. (1909) J Anat Physiol. 43(3): 244-65. PMID 17232805

Hart DB. The nature and cause of the physiological descent of the testes. (1909) J Anat Physiol. 44(1): 4-26. PMID 17232824

Hart DB. The nature and cause of the physiological descent of the testes. (1909) Trans Edinb Obstet Soc. 1909;34:101-151. PMID 29612220

Hart DB. The physiological descent of the ovaries in the human foetus. (1909) J Anat Physiol. 44(1): 27-34. PMID 17232822


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