Popular and Medical Attitudes toward Cancer Virus Research and Cancer Vaccination, Drawn from the Collections of the Rockefeller Archive Center

by Robin Wolfe Scheffler

Jan 1, 2013
In 1913 Richard Broadman, a lawyer from Jersey City, New Jersey, wrote to the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research (RIMR) with an urgent inquiry. He and his wife had just come into possession of mattresses used during the care of his wife's aunt, who had died after a long illness a decade earlier. Broadman feared that it might pass the illness to those who used the mattress in the future (although this had not prevented him from allowing the household maids to use it). Amidst widespread concern over germ theories of disease in the early twentieth century, this was perhaps not remarkable What was remarkable, was what disease Broadman wrote about to assuage his wife's concerns, querying the staff of the Institute if there was a risk from "the danger of communication of the disease of cancer … whether there is any danger lurking in the use of these mattresses." Broadman himself was skeptical, but only because he doubted cancer "germs" could have survived in the mattress, not because he doubted the existence of such germs themselves!
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