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2010 Henry Allen Moe Prize

Spring General Meeting
Clyde Barker

The American Philosophical Society’s 2010 Henry Allen Moe Prize in the Humanities is awarded to Clyde Barker in recognition of his Jayne Lecture delivered to the members of the Society on November 9, 2007, and published in the Society's Proceedings, March 2009, entitled "Thomas Eakins and His Medical Clinics."

The central theme of Barker’s paper is a great American painting, Thomas Eakins’ The Gross Clinic (1875). Barker shows that the characteristics ascribed to Eakins by his contemporaries – boorish, eccentric, outrageous – had a secure basis in fact. Moreover, he exploits contemporary accounts in order to understand the background both of this painting and of another of Eakins’ masterpieces, The Agnew Clinic (1889). He shows how both portraits reflect their subjects – the flamboyant Gross, the "Emperor of American Surgery," and the aloof, patrician Agnew. Between the painting of the two pictures occurred the revolution brought about by the acceptance of antiseptic surgery, largely through the efforts of the Scotsman Joseph Lister. Gross was contemptuous of this innovation, whereas Agnew embraced it wholeheartedly. Another change was the growing use of electric rather than natural light in operating rooms. The pictures reflect these changes as much as the character and style of the subjects. Gross, dressed in ordinary clothes, dominates the frame as he gestures rhetorically in a dark operating room; Agnew, dressed in a white surgical smock, stands to the left of the frame under a strong electric light. Barker has much to say on other aspects of Eakins: the sexual scandals, his exploration of photography, and the effect of his personality on those closest to him. While Barker claims "no expertise as an art critic or art historian," this wonderful study will surely enter the literature on Eakins and on the history of American painting.

Clyde F. Barker was appointed to the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in 1966.  Since then he has been Chief of Transplantation Surgery, Chief of the Division of Vascular Surgery, John Rhea Barton Professor, chairman of the Department of Surgery, and Director of the Harrison Department of Surgical Research.  Dr. Barker’s research interests have been primarily in transplantation, especially transplantation of the kidney and pancreas and of isolated pancreatic islets.  He has authored more than 400 scientific papers.  He is recognized as one of the leading investigators in the transplant field in the United States. He initiated the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s transplant program in 1966 and is credited with building it into the largest and most successful program in the area.  Dr. Barker was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1997 and has served as its Vice President since 2005.

Endowed by Edith N. Moe in 1982, the prize honors Henry Allen Moe, paying particular tribute to his firm commitment to the humanities and those who pursue them. Early in his career, Dr. Moe became President of the Guggenheim Foundation, and for the next forty years shaped and ran the organization to become one of the nation’s chief benefactors of creative scholars, scientists, and artists.  Dr. Moe served as President of the American Philosophical Society from 1959 to 1970.

The Moe Prize Selection Committee consists of chair Christopher Jones, George Martin Lane Professor of the Classics and History at Harvard University; Louis Begley, novelist and former partner at Debevoise & Plimpton; and Elfriede R. Knauer, Consulting Scholar of the Mediterranean Section at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.