New addition to the Archive: Papers of Morris Myer Datnow

Earlier this month, the College received a remarkable donation of unique archives from the descendants of the late Morris Myer Datnow (1901-1962, FRCOG 1939). Datnow was a founder member of the College and a close colleague and friend of RCOG co-founder Professor William Blair-Bell.

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Morris Datnow (left) relaxing with his mentor, Professor William Blair-Bell and one of Blair-Bell’s dogs, c.1920. Credit: Datnow Estate.

Datnow was born in South Africa in 1901 and did his pre-clinical studies at Cape Town University. He came to Liverpool in 1924 to complete his training and continued to work in the city’s maternity hospitals throughout his life. He became a member of the Liverpool University staff in 1925 and built up a considerable private practice in the Liverpool District.

He was later appointed to the staff of the Women’s Hospital, the Liverpool Maternity Hospital and the Royal Southern Hospital. He also delivered the Blair-Bell Memorial Lecture in 1940 at the RCOG.

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Morris Datnow (right) treating a young patient, circa 1930-1940. Credit: Datnow Estate

Datnow died in 1962 and is remembered as a kind and attentive medical professional, as well as committed researcher and generous patron of Liverpool’s medical libraries.

His papers, nine whole boxes worth (!), feature hundreds of original gynaecological case record cards from Datnow’s private practice dating from the 1920s to the 1960s. The papers also feature unique correspondence between Datnow, Blair-Bell and their colleagues around the time of the RCOG’s foundation in 1929.

The new accession into the RCOG Archive: the professional papers of Morris Datnow, circa 1930-1960

Of particular interest in the collection are envelopes of original material charting years of early medical research into the treatment of cancer using lead. Datnow was a member of Liverpool Medical Research Association’s research team into the nature of cancer and the use of chemotherapy. Along with Blair-Bell, Datnow treated dozens of cancer sufferers in the 1930s. His extensive and meticulous records contain his correspondence with patients and other medical professionals, treatment details, and photographs of x-rays of tumours. While some of Datnow and Blair-Bell’s patients survived for many years after treatment, tumour free, the majority unfortunately died while still under treatment due to the severity of their cases.

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One box of Datnow’s cancer patient case records, individually enveloped with patient details on the cover. Credit: Datnow Estate.

In his personal life, Datnow was an enthusiastic farmer and an expert cook. He sold milk produced by his dairy herd and his archive contains a file of his correspondence with the Milk Marketing Board, who surveyed the quality of his farm’s produce.

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Receipts from the Milk Marketing Board from Datnow’s farm. Credit: Datnow Estate.

Another wonderful addition from this donation is a beautiful photograph of baby triplets Raymonde, John and Pauline (possibly delivered by Datnow) and signed ‘with gratitude’ from Ruby Cara.

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Photograph of baby triplets from Datnow’s archive. Credit: Datnow Estate.

These records have been re-boxed and stored in the safety of our Archive where they have joined the other papers donated to the College by the Datnow Estate in 1990 and 2011. Once the collection has been cleaned of fifty years’ worth of dust and properly boxed, this extraordinary archive will be made ready for researchers interested in early 20th century British obstetrics, cancer research and maternity care, as well as researchers looking into Datnow’s illustrious career.*

The RCOG Archive is immensely grateful to Edward Datnow (son of Morris Datnow) and Jane Datnow for their kind donation of these records.

*excluding records to be closed temporarily for reasons of data protection.

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