Contact Information

Medical History Department

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
Biomedical Informatics
4301 Jones Bridge Road, C1094
Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4799
Phone: (301) 295-3168
DSN: 295-3168
Fax: (301) 295-3351

Resources for Medical History Papers

There are hundreds of university library catalogues available over the internet, some are available for subject searching. Two catalogues of extraordinary value are the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the Library of Congress (LC). The NLM catalogue may also be accessed from the NLM home page at The NLM is the largest medical library in the world and it's History of Medicine Division has a subordinate home page providing further resources. "Locator" is a library catalogue, it does not list the contents of serials and periodicals. To find journal articles and other subordinate information other resources are necessary. In medicine the most common computer based system is NLM's MEDLARS established in 1964. MEDLINE (MEDLARS on line) is now available without charge at the NLM home page and is the most commonly used search tool for medical literature. For history MEDLINE is limited by its origins -- MEDLINE DOES NOT CONTAIN REFERENCES TO LITERATURE PUBLISHED PRIOR TO 1964! A MEDLINE search therefore is a very limited search. There are projects to put older medical literature into online searchable formats but at the present time you must use printed bibliographies to search for literature prior to 1964. HISTLINE (History of Medicine on line) is available without charge from the NLM History of Medicine Division Home Page. HISTLINE is the history of medicine subset of MEDLINE. It has been supplemented with references to historical literature which do not occur in the MEDLINE database. HISTLINE is the best available source for finding secondary literature in the history of medicine. However, HISTLINE only contains material published in 1970 or later, you can not find older historical literature through HISTLINE but most use printed bibliographies.

The Library of Congress catalogue is searchable through the LOCIS database. The LC catalogue is not as user friendly as the NLM locator, take a few minutes to read the HELP section to gain an understanding of the differences among search commands such as browse, search, find and select. If you do not understand the system LOCIS can be very frustrating to use. There is also a simple search option which may be of value to some users. The strength of the LC collection is not medicine or biological sciences but it will get you to historical studies, social science literature, biographies and a wide variety of reference tools. The Library of Congress is found at

There is a third federal library which may prove useful - the National Agriculture Library (NAL), located in Beltsville, MD. The NAL collects agriculture related material thus some significant portions of biological sciences as well as veterinary medicine materials. NAL maybe accessed through

Locally the University of Maryland Library and the Montgomery County Public Library participated in the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries (CARL). The CARL system lets you access these and other libraries as well as a resource called "uncover". Uncover lists over 4 million general interest articles from both scholarly and popular periodicals. If you find a reference of interest CARL will fax you a copy for a fee. There are a growing number of full text projects of interest to historians of medicine but the web was not designed to find them, surfing and research are in these cases the same thing. An ongoing list of current internet resources related to medical history is maintained by A.J. Wright of the School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham. The History of the Health Sciences Scection of the Medical Library Association also maintains a web site of special value in finding Medical History resources,

Printed Resources

Introductory General Tools

The bulk of history of medicine resources remained in printed books. In almost any medical library one can find two standard surveys of reference sources. Roper and Boorkman and Morton and Godbolt. These basic texts have sections on the history of medicine.

Colville-Stewart, Sandra. History sources. In: Roper, Fred W., and Jo A. Boorkman. Introduction To Reference Sources In The Health Sciences. Chicago, Medical Library Association, 1980, pp. 215-233.

Gaskell, E. Historical, biographical and bibliographic sources. In: Information Sources In The Medical Sciences. Edited by L.T. Morton and S. Godbolt. 3rd ed. London, Butterworth, 1984, pp. 463-490.

These texts provide lists and discussions of selected history tools: dictionaries, encyclopedias, reprints, facsimiles, collections of readings. There are bibliographies that include both English language and foreign language works. There are no materials in either of these books from which you may write history. They lead you only to resources which will take you closer to the sources you want.

There are similar kinds of sources for history of medicine specifically, the most readily available is probably John Blake's bibliography of reference works.

Medical Reference Works, 1679-1966; A Selected Bibliography. Edited by John B. Blake and Charles Roos. Chicago, Medical Library Association, 1967.

The Blake collection contains a 40 page section on the history of medicine, pages 50-91; as well as historical monographs and references on specific subjects that occur in the various subject sections. These texts are briefly annotated.

Information Sources In The History Of Science And Medicine Edited by Pietro Corsi and Paul Weindling. London, Butterworth Scientific, 1983. p. 531.

This bibliography of 23 contributed chapters deals with special topics. One is on the historiography of medicine, another on the history of American medicine. It presents a survey of literature as well as discussions of methods and concepts to provide an introduction to the bibliographic information needed by those studying the history of medicine.

Indices Replaced by Medline

There are a variety of text which were produced over the last 150 years to provide entre into the medical literature. Most of these text have now been superseded by computerized databases particularly MEDLINE and HISTLINE. For the history of medicine, the most important of these is probably The Bibliography of the History of Medicine, begun in 1965, it has been replaced by HISTLINE.

Bibliography Of The History Of Medicine. Bethesda, Maryland, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1965-1993. Annual, with quinquennial cumulations.

The bibliographies include material not in MEDLINE and because they go back to 1964/65, they include material not in HISTLINE. The bibliography has the virtue of being available for leafing so that one may get a sense of the nature of work in a subject area without the restrictions of computerized search specificity. This is sometimes valuable in identifying topics for research. Each bibliography begins with a section of biographies arranged alphabetically. The bulk of the bibliography is a subject list using MESH subject headings, which means that for the Medieval period, The Ancient World, and other non Modern Medical subjects, subject searching is a little more difficult. It concludes with a author listing of works referred to. Because you are doing the searching yourself, it is possible to pick up related articles which might not show up on a computerized search because of too great or too little specificity. If at all possible use the bibliography as you begin research in new areas.

Index Medicus. Bethesda, Maryland, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1960-1995. Monthly, with annual cumulations (Cumulated Index Medicus).

Index Medicus is the printed version of the MEDLARS system. The most recent printed series began, however, in 1960. It ceased publication in 1995. It was issued monthly with annual accumulations and provided subject and author listings for articles from over 2500 biomedical journals from around the world.

Prior to 1960, there were a variety of printed indices.

Current List Of Medical Literature. Washington, District of Columbia, v. 1-36, 1941-1959.

Contained a register of articles arranged as tables of contents from indexed journals with author and subject indices. It included some foreign language literature. A previous effort which overlapped the current list, was:

Quarterly Cumulative Index Medicus. Chicago, American Medical Association, v. 1-60, 1927-1956.

Quarterly Cumulative Index To Current Medical Literature. Chicago, American Medical Association, v. 1-12, 1916-1926.

These tools were efforts of the medical profession to continue the indexing begun by the surgeon general's library (predecessor name of the National Library of Medicine). These tools provided alphabetical listings of authors and subjects designed for the general practitioner reviewing the current literature of the day.

Index Medicus: A Quarterly Classified Record Of The Current Medical Literature Of The World. Washington, District of Columbia, series 1, v. 1-21, 1879-1899; series 2, v. 1-18, 1903-1920; series 3, v. 1-6(5), 1921-1927.

The original Index Medicus begun in 1879, was taken over by the Carnegie Institution of Washington between 1903 and 1927. It was, in its day, the standard current bibliography of medicine worldwide including resources from all the principle languages. Begun by John Shaw Billings as a tool for using the Army Surgeon General's library it was the prototype for all those that followed.

Index-Catalogue Of The Library Of The Surgeon General's Office. Washington, District of Columbia, Government Printing Office, series 1, v. 1-16, 1880-1895; series 2, v. 1-21, 1896-1916; series 3, v. 1-10, 1918-1932; series 4, v. 1-11 (Mh-Mn), 1936-1955; series 5, v. 1-3 (v. 1, authors; v. 2-3, subjects), 1959-1961.

The index catalogue was the book catalogue of the Army Surgeon General's library and much that it contains is, of course, available through the NLM locator. However, its subject headings contained lists of articles (in the first three series) that supplement Index Medicus. At the same time it includes a vast array of theses and pamphlets that are not indexed in locator and can only be found through the index catalogue or card catalogues physically located in the National Library of Medicine. Each alphabetical series records the material added to the library since the previous volume was published. Thus there may be material from the Renaissance in any series depending upon when the library acquired it. So, a thorough literature search requires that one use all the series. Series 5 has fewer subject headings and becomes essentially a listing of materials held by the Library of Medicine when it was the Army Surgeon General's library. These volumes are the sine qua non of history of medicine research. A retrospective index at the time of publication, it provides guidance on almost any subject in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Also of value are The Cumulative Index to Nursing Literature 1961-1976 and its modern equivalent Modern Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature which began in 1977 and is currently available on line as CINAL. It indexes some 300 nursing and allied health related journals as well as, including, articles from biomedical journals and popular magazines.

Science Citation Index 1955-Quarterly with annual accumulation.

As the name implies, this is a citation index relating an earlier known reference to later articles which site it. It may also be used as a subject or author index but is not particularly efficient when used this way. For tracing citations and examining the impact of particular papers and ideas, (especially techniques) nothing supersedes the Science Citation Index.

Excerpta Medica the International Journal of Medical Abstracting published in Amsterdam by Excerpta Medica Corporation it appears monthly. It has 44 sections covering specific fields within medicine with an annual author and subject index. It provides abstracts from medical journals in all countries including the significant foreign literature.

Statistical Source

United States. Bureau of the Census. The Statistical History Of The United States From Colonial Times To The Present. Introduction and user's guide by Ben J. Wattenberg. New York, Basic Books, 1976. p. 1,235.

Data collected by the Bureau of Census of the United States provides the summary in 24 chapters of available statistics in American history. There are chapters on vital statistics, health and medical care which are particularly valuable in the history of medicine.

Dodd, Donald B., and Wynelle S. Dodd. Historical Statistics Of The South, 1790-1970. A Compilation Of State-Level Census Statistics For The Sixteen States Of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia. University, Alabama, University of Alabama Press, 1973. p. 85.

This collection, using both national and state level census data provides supplements for the states of the old confederacy to the Bureau of Census data.

Mitchell, Brian R. European Historical Statistics, 1750-1970. New York, Columbia University Press, 1976. p. 827.

The Mitchell collection provides the single easily available source of statistical data for 23 European countries including a section on vital statistics.

The American Statistics Index (ASI), 1974- . Is a guide to federal statistics by agency. ASI is issued in two parts; an index and an abstract. The primary organization of the index volume is by subject and/or name with a unique identifying number assigned to each collection of statistics identified. The number can be broken down into an agency number and a topic or code number identifying the individual volume. These codes will lead you to an abstract in the abstract volume of ASI which will identify the contents of the statistical document including the presentation through charts, tables, and other formats for collections of data. These materials are frequently found in government documents libraries, the Library of Congress is the national source but most major universities (including the University of Maryland) have an excellent government documents library. ASI also provides additional entry points through major statistical classes. Some experience with these categories (sex, race, age, and so on) is required to use ASI effectively.

Statistical Reference Index, 1980- The SRI is an effort to do for state and private, particularly, non-profit private sector, statistical issuers what ASI does for the federal government. There are microform collections of SRI documents which make available statistical publications of state government agencies, various institutes, associations, universities and independent research centers.

Index to International Statistics, 1983- IIS is an effort to provide statistical publications of international organizations it focuses primarily on economic development although includes sections on health.

Quick Facts

Dictionary Of The History Of Science. Edited by W.F. Bynum, E.J. Browne, and Roy Porter. Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1981. p. 494.

Focusing on the modern period (1450-the present), this dictionary gives brief accounts of important ideas in natural science, focusing on philosophical connections and metaphysical principles within the sciences. It will provide information on core concepts in the natural sciences as well as a little bit on the social sciences as they impinge upon the natural sciences. There are no biographical entries but there are references appended to most of the articles and many cross references.

Kelly, Emerson C. Encyclopedia Of Medical Sources. Baltimore, Williams & Wilkins, 1948. p. 476.

Schmidt, Jacob E. Medical Discoveries: Who And When. A Dictionary Listing Thousands Of Medical And Related Scientific Discoveries In Alphabetical Order, Giving In Each Case The Name Of The Discoverer, His Profession, Nationality, And Floruit, And The Date Of The Discovery. Springfield, Illinois, Thomas, 1959. p. 555.

Jablonski, Stanley. Illustrated Dictionary Of Eponymic Syndromes And Diseases And Their Synonyms. Philadelphia, Saunders, 1969. p.355.

Lourie, J.A. Medical Eponyms: Who Was Coude? London, Pitman, 1982. p. 207.

These volumes provide various alphabetical listings of largely epinemal contributions. The Lourie does not provide reference to original descriptions, the other three do.

Logan Clendening Source Book of Medical History (New York: Hoeber, 1942) reprinted in paper by Dover.

Ralph Major, Classic Descriptions of Disease with Biographical Sketches of the Authors, 3rd ed. (Springfield: Charles C. Thomas, 1945).

These texts are representative of the tendency to republish seminal contributions in medical history. Each collection represents an author's opinion sometimes they are abridged at other times they are given in their entirety. Other sources of similar nature include the no longer published journal Medical Classics as well as a variety of other collections. The Clendening and the Major seem to be the most popular in English.

M.B. Strauss, ed. Familiar Medical Quotations (Boston: Little Brown, 1968).

Biographical Dictionaries

There are seven 19th century biographical dictionaries of American physicians. The early ones; Thatcher, Williams, and Gross include relatively few individuals. But the ones from the end of the century are much more eclectic and depended heavily on who responded to requests to biographical information. The Kelly and Burrage describes more than 2,000 American physicians; mostly 19th century who in the words of Howard Kelly, "Have done the noteworthy".

James Thacher, American Medical Biography 1828 reprinted New York: Milford House, 1967).

Stephen Williams, American Medical Biography, 1845 reprinted New York: Milford House, 1967)

Samuel D. Gross, ed., The Lives of Eminent American Physicians and Surgeons of the Nineteenth Century (1861).

Atkinson, William B. The Physicians And Surgeons Of The United States. Philadelphia, Robson, 1878. p. 788.

Stone, Richard F., editor. Biography Of Eminent American Physicians And Surgeons. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. Indianapolis, Hollenbeck, 1898. p. 857, (the first addition was briefer, published in 1894).

Watson, Irving A., editor. Physicians And Surgeons Of America...A Collection Of Biographical Sketches Of The Regular Medical Profession. Concord, New Hampshire, Republican Press Association, 1896. p. 843.

Kelly, Howard A., and Walter L. Burrage. Dictionary Of American Medical Biography; Lives Of Eminent Physicians Of The United States And Canada, From The Earliest Times. New York, Appleton, 1928. p. 1,364.

There are several sources of information about American physicians. Over 17,000 American physicians are briefly listed in Lisabeth Holloway's Medical Obituaries. Other sources of information include AMA and specialty directories which present a snapshot in time of a practitioner's life.

Holloway, Lisabeth M., Ernest N. Feind, and George N. Holloway. Medical Obituaries: American Physician's Biographical Notices In Selected Medical Journals Before 1907. New York, Garland, 1981. p. 513.

Directory Of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929: a genealogical guide to over 149,000 medical practitioners providing brief biographical sketches drawn from the American Medical Association's Deceased Physician Masterfile, 2 vols. Chicago, IL, AMA 1993).

American Medical Dictionary 1906-

Directory Of Medical Specialists 1940 -

Of course, there are practitioners in other places and similar dictionaries exist for the international medical community. Most of these dictionaries are country specific and almost all country have an equivalent of the American Medical Directory such as Britain's Medical Register.

Talbott, John H. A Biographical History Of Medicine; Excerpts And Essays On The Men And Their Work. New York, Grune & Stratton, 1970. p. 1,211.

Baily H, Bishop WJ Notable Names in Medicine and Surgery. 4th ed. (London: H.K. Lewis; 1983).

Fox, DM, Meldrum M, Rezak I; eds. Nobel Laureates in Medicine or Physiology: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Garland; 1990).
Perhaps the greatest single resource for medical scientists is the Dictionary of Scientific Biography Gillispie, Charles Dictionary of Scientific Biography 18 volumes, New York: Scribners, 1970-1990. However, the DSB does not include physicians qua physicians and most entries relate to physical sciences but there are several hundred medical scientists included. There are also several bibliographies of biographies published elsewhere.

Barr ES. An Index to Biographical Fragments in Unspecialized Scientific Journals. (University of Alabama Press; 1973).

Fruton JS A Bio-bibliography for the History of the Biochemical Sciences since 1800. (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society; 1982).

Leslie Morton, A bibliography of medical and biomedical biography (Brookfield, VT: Gower, 1989) 208 p.

Other general sources based on either contribution or nationality include the following:

Bayle A, Thillaye A. Biographie M?dicale par Ordre Chronologique. Two volumes (Amsterdam: B.M. Israel; 1967).

Fischer, I. Biographisches Lexikon der Hervorragenden ?rzte der letzten f?nfzig Jahre. Two volumes (Berlin: Urban & Schwarzenberg; 1932-1933).

Hirsch A; ed. Biographisches Lexikon der Hervorragenden ?rtze aller Zeiten und V?lker. 2d ed. Six volumes (Berlin: Urban & Schwarzenberg; 1929-1934).

Lindeboom GA Dutch Medical Biography: A Biographical Dictionary of Dutch Physicians and Surgeons, 1475-1975. (Amsterdam: Rodopi; 1984)

Munk W. The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London, Comprising Biographical Sketches. Three volumes. (London: Royal College of Physicians; 1878).

Who Was Who In American History -- Science And Technology: A Component Of Who's Who In American History. 76 bicentennial ed. Chicago, Marquis Who's Who, 1976. p. 688.

World Who's Who in Science; A Biographical Dictionary Of Notable Scientists From Antiquity To The Present. Edited by Allen G. Debus. Chicago, Marquis Who's Who, 1968. p. 1,855.

Chambers Biographical Dictionary International,

Dictionary of American Biography, 1928-1958 and supplements,

Dictionary of National Biography and supplements (British),

Historical Biographical Dictionaries Master Index,
McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Biography,

New Century Cyclopedia of Names,

New York Times Obituaries Index, 1858-1968; also 1969-1978, Notable American Women, 1607-1950, and supplements,

Who Was Who in America, 1897-1942, and succeeding volumes.

Book Reviews

It is sometimes useful to find reviews of scholarly book as you enter a new field. The most complete reference source for book reviews since 1976 is Current Book Review Citations (1976-) This text includes some foreign language books and is based on indexing of over twelve hundred periodicals by the HW Wilson Company (the producers of Reader's Guide and other periodical indices). Prior to Current Book Review Citations, two other references were useful.

The Book Review Index which began publishing in 1965 covering 350 quite specialized journals and the Book Review Digest which began publishing in 1905 recovering 85 major book review journals and periodicals. It frequently includes excerpts from the reviews as well as citations. It was a cumulative author title index for 1905 to 1974.

There are international guides to book reviews, an excellent among the best is the Internationale Bibliographie der Rezensionen Wissenschaftlicher Literaturer. (1971-) source for reviews of non-English books, it covers scholarly journals from 30 countries. It is supplemented by the Bibliographie Der Rezensionen which was published from 1900 to 1943 covering about 5,000 journals in major European languages.

For books on American history the abstracting service America: History and Life has, since 1974, provided book review citations. The 1974 volume includes 1969-1974 and it covers about 100 journals.

John W. Brewster is compiling an index to book reviews in historical periodicals beginning in 1972 but its appearance is irregular.

There is a larger scholarly project to produce Combined Retrospective Index to Book Reviews in Scholarly Journals 1886-1974 which will include many books published outside the United States and covers about 450 journals in the social sciences.

For more specialized book review guides, see Richard A. Graw, A Guide to Book Review Citations. An annotated listing of book review sources in a variety of subject areas.