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Reply: Response to “Iconography in Anesthesiology”: The Importance of Society Seals in the 1920s and 1930s"

Bacon, Douglas R. MD, MA

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In Reply:‐I read with great interest the correspondence from Drs. Ichim and Welsh. After much reflection and further reading, I am convinced that the god represented in the Pacific Coast and Canadian [1] seals may well be Hypnos. The explanation offered by Ichim and Welsh certainly fits the illusion the seal designers were attempting to create.
However, if it is truly Hypnos and not Mercury, who can also be represented by wings on his head [2] or his feet, why did the seal makers choose this rather obscure and minor deity? What image would this project to the community that interacts with these seals? Did it assume a more classically learned community, at least among physicians, than we currently enjoy?
Although Dr. Ichim's interpretation of the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS) Seal is interesting, it conflicts with what the Society has published. [3] Without doubt, Francis Hoeffer McMechan, IARS founder, was educated in the classics. Originally, I too believed that the seal made more sense using Athena as the central figure. However, on close inspection, the woman does not resemble any illustration of the goddess with which I am familiar. Thus, I believed that the Society's publication was correct.
I would like to further suggest that either interpretation is valid. Lacking historical documentation as to the society's intent in designing the seal, it is difficult to fully understand the motivations almost 80 years later. I thank my colleagues for helping us learn about other possible interpretations to the historical record.
Douglas R. Bacon, M.D., M.A.
Department of Anesthesia; Veteran's Medical Center
3495 Bailey Avenue; Buffalo, New York 14215
(Accepted for publication March 26, 1997.)
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References

1. Bourne W: Mysterious waters to guard. Springfield, IL, Charles C Thomas, 1955, pp 149-50. Bourne describes the seal here as being the cave of Hypnos, although in the frontispiece fails to attribute the cave to either Mercury or Hypnos!

2. Bonnefoy Y: Roman and european mythologies. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1992, pp 136.

3. Back cover of the program, 50th Congress of the International Anesthesia Research Society, March 14-16, 1976.

© 1997 American Society of Anesthesiologists, Inc.

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