Hours: Monday to Friday 8:30am-5pm
Location: 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894
Contact: (301) 402-8878
Access: open to the public
Website address: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/
The United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) is the largest medical library in the world, with a strong emphasis on the history of medicine. Its history of medicine collection includes manuscripts dating back to the 11th century; over 600,000 printed works, including 580 incunabula (Western books printed before 1501), some 57,000 16th-18th century books, and over 400,000 titles published between 1801 and 1913; modern manuscripts, including the personal papers of such figures as Joshua Lederberg, Marshall Nirenberg, Luther Terry, and C. Everett Koop; organizational archives from such groups as the Medical Library Association and the American College of Nurse-Midwives; and over 150,000 historical prints and photographs. The Library celebrates its historical collections through Hidden Treasure, a full-color book with 450 images and over 80 essays by distinguished scholars, artists, collectors, journalists, and physicians.
The Rare Book collection includes Andreas Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica (1543), William Harvey's Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis (1628), William Withering's An Account of the Foxglove (1785), and Edward Jenner's An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae (1798), as well as comprehensive holdings of the works of major medical figures such as Hippocrates, Galen, Paracelsus, Boerhaave, and Osler. The collection also contains popular and ephemeral material, such as home health guides, pharmaceutical almanacs, patent medicine catalogs, medical equipment catalogs, personal narratives, first-hand accounts, broadsides, pharmacopoeias, illustrated herbals, and botanical name indexes (materia medica). The East Asian Collection contains approximately 3,000 books, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and pieces of ephemera from Japan, China, and Korea from the 15th-20th century. There is also an online exhibition, Classics of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The Archives and Manuscripts collection contains material from the 11th to the 20th century, including Islamic Manuscripts and Western Manuscripts. Finding Aids are available online.
The digital projects provide historical and contemporary sources for research and education. Featured projects include: Medicine in the Americas 1610-1920, which highlights American medical books; Films and Videos, contains historical public health and training films, with searchable transcripts; Profiles in Science, features archival collections of 20th century leaders in biomedical research and public health; Historical Anatomies on the Web, provides images from significant anatomical atlases; Cholera Online, features English-language monographs from 1817-1900 that focus on the cholera pandemics of that period; Turning the Pages, provides access to medical masterpieces; and Visible Human Project, contains complete, anatomically detailed, three-dimensional representations of male and female human bodies.
Images from the History of Medicine provides online access to over 70,000 digitized images from the Prints and Photographs collection at the NLM. The Images collection contains a variety of different images, such as fine art, photographs, engravings, and posters, illustrating the social and historical aspects of medicine from the 15th to the 21st century. The Images collection is searchable online.
The NLM also holds a lecture series in the History of Medicine, and information about the lectures is provided online.
The NLM also has extensive digital projects and online exhibitions. The Exhibition Program advances public awareness about medicine, science, and history. Exhibitions and special displays focus on a variety of topics including the history of forensic medicine; U.S. Civil War doctors, nurses, and disabled veterans; African-American academic surgeons; the history of women physicians; and the story of Frankenstein as it relates to medical ethics. The Exhibitions are divided into categories: medicine & the arts; science & society; patients & practitioners; and the technology of medicine.