History of Medicine

History of Medicine Division at the National Library of MedicineThe National Library of Medicine’s History of Medicine Division “collects, preserves, interprets, and presents materials documenting the history of medicine, biomedical science, health and disease in all time periods and cultures.” On their web site you’ll find links to historical collections (and how to use them), exhibitions (traveling exhibitions, online exhibitions, and digital projects), and pages especially for first time visitors, scholars and historians, image and film researchers, and teachers and students.

Much of the National Library of Medicine’s historical collections must be accessed through the History of Medicine Reading Room (often after submitting a request through the LocatorPlus library catalog), including tens of thousands of books, hundreds of manuscripts, and thousands of films.

But before you make the trip, check out the immense digital collections, online syllabi, and digitized images available on the NLM History of Medicine site.

Digital Collections
The Digital Collections of the History of Medicine Division pull selected materials from the complete NLM collection to explore a topic. Here are just a few of the collections available online.

Greek Medicine – Learn about Greek medicine “from the Gods to Galen” and how it laid the foundation for modern medicine. The text in this section of the site is complemented by digitized images of paintings, sculptures, and documents.

Greek Medicine

Islamic Medical ManuscriptsExplore “Islamic medicine and science during the Middle Ages and the important role it played in the history of Europe.” Within this section view the Catalogue for to explore various topics and their related images. For example, Natural History, Prophetic Medicine, Veterinary Medicine.

Islamic Manuscripts

Historical Anatomies on the Web – This digital project incorporates a selection of many images from the NLM’s collections chosen for “their historical and artistic significance, with priority placed upon the earliest and/or the best edition of a work in NLM’s possession.” Browse all the titles offered.

Historical Anatomies on the Web

Online Syllabus Archive
Teachers may be especially interested in the History of Medicine: Online Syllabus Archive. This archive contains “college and university syllabi in the history of medicine, public health, the biomedical sciences, nursing, and related areas.” Search by professors, titles, institutions, and subjects. Topics covered include (the following links are to PDFs) “The History of Objectivity in Medicine,” “Asian Medical History,” “Epidemics and Economic and Social History: From the Black Death to the Present,” to name a few.

History of Medicine Online Syllabus Archive

Images from the History of Medicine
The Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) database is so extensive it really deserves its own blog post (and we may revisit it more thoroughly in the future). Browse 70,000 images, including “portraits, photographs, caricatures, genre scenes, posters, and graphic art illustrating the social and historical aspects of medicine dated from the 15th to 21st century.”

Images from the History of Medicine database

This post has only scratched the surface of what’s available on the National Library of Medicine’s History of Medicine Division web site. Visit and find out for yourself all the site has to offer.

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