Late in his career, Vivien Thomas began writing a memoir of his time as a surgical technician at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. With the generosity and encouragement of Mark Ravitch, Thomas prepared a document from a perspective of exceptional insight. Thomas was the first black surgical technician at Johns Hopkins at a time of racial segregation and social inequality, and his memoir represents a fascinating account of being both at the forefront of surgical innovation and excluded from certain types of recognition.
Some fifteen years elapsed between the first recorded instance of Thomas’s idea to write a memoir and its eventual publication just before his death in 1986. The series consists of a large volume of drafts, both handwritten and typed, which eventually comprised the manuscript as published by UPenn Press (1st edition 1985, 2nd edition 1998). Between editions, a change of title occurred from "Pioneering Research in Surgical Shock and Cardiovascular Surgery: Vivien Thomas and His Work with Alfred Blalock" to "Partners of the heart: Vivien Thomas and his work with Alfred Blalock." These manuscripts regularly passed between Thomas and Ravitch, with Ravitch frequently providing handwritten edits on each draft at Thomas’ request.
These manuscripts have been ordered into eras of productivity rather than strict drafts. It appears that 1980-1983 was the period of highest productivity, with correspondence between Ravitch and Thomas also increasing during this period as the reality of publication approaches. The typed items were often photocopied numerous times and edited by hand. The most reproduced draft is dated November 1982, noted as 11/1982, which forms the foundation of the final manuscript and after this point undergoes only very cosmetic alterations. Because of the proliferation of photocopied drafts, it is important to remember that drafts labeled 11/1982 might actually reflect the editing processes of a later date. Where possible, this has been indicated by the placement of the manuscripts in different boxes. Because Thomas did not date much of his work, some materials have had to be placed in ‘undated’ and ‘undated handwritten’, but they are largely arranged in chapters. Both published editions of the book share the same chapter order and numbering, but the prologue of the 1985 edition is cut in the 1998 edition. Apart from the title and cover, presence of the prologue is the only difference between the two editions. During his writing process, Thomas includes the prologue as ‘chapter one’, which pushes all the other chapters forward one place. The collection arrangement, however, matches the chapter order to that of the published books. For example, a draft might be labeled by Thomas as ‘chapter ten’, but be titled in the arrangement as ‘chapter nine’.
Thomas was not necessarily the most systematic writer, and alternatives of the same drafts are not necessarily successive nor do they always incorporate recent edits. These alternatives are indicated with ‘a’ and ‘b’, or ‘1’ and ‘2’. Vignettes which did not make it into the manuscript have been indicated, with the most significant omissions being private commentary on Thomas’s lack of invitation to Dr. Alfred Blalock’s retirement party, race relations at Johns Hopkins, and reflections on the meaning of the honorary degree and portrait that are much more complicated than what appears in the published work.
Correspondence with potential publishers and regarding permissions is included in a seperate sub-series following the manuscript drafts.
Contains a number of requests from Vivien Thomas to reproduce various materials. Thomas writes to among others: American Medical Association, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Franklin H Martin Memorial Foundation,
Contains edited copy with unknown handwriting of 11/82 draft
[Folder 14/11] Handwritten note and comments on manuscript. — circa January 15, 1984
Comment handwritten by Vivien Thomas reflecting on the time it took to write the manuscript, efforts to find a publisher (trade vs academic press), and questions about how race relations at Johns Hopkins were portrayed in the manuscript. Thomas appears to feel that he needed to self censor issues of race relations in order to have the manuscript accepted for publication.
[Folder 21/1] Univeristy of Pennsylvania Press, Correspondence. — 1984-1989
Contains letters between the University of Pennsylvania Press, and the Thomases
[Folder 21/2] University of Pennsylvania Press questionnaire for authors. — December, 1984
Contains a letter from the University of Pennsylvania Press, with a questionnaire for authors.
[Folder 21/3] Correspondence between Ravitch, Thomas and various presses. — 1983-1986
Contains letters between Mark Ravitch, Vivien Thomas and the American Medical Writers Association, Warren H Green Inc., Harvard Univeristy Press, Hy Cohen Literary Agency, Pantheon Books, Joe Hartnett, Johns Hopkins University Press, Random House Publishing, Raven Press, Praeger, Univeristy of Chicago Press, University of Oklahoma Press, Yale University Press