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John Ballard Blake, PhD banner featuring three images and captions for the different sections of the website. John Blake, historian, librarian, and tree farmer.
A head and shoulders full face black and white photograph of John Blake. Below his picture is the word Historian in black lettering. A three-quarters black and white photograph of John Blake sitting on a table in the National Library of Medicine's Incunabula room. Below his picture is the word Librarian in black lettering. John Blake and his wife Jean standing in a stewardship forest. Below their picture is the word Tree Farmer in black lettering.

John Ballard Blake, Ph.D.

1922-2006

Librarian

A three-quarters black and white photograph of John Blake sitting on a table in the National Library of Medicine's Incunabula room

Dr. Blake joined the History of Medicine Division in 1961. At this time, the rare book collection was still in Cleveland, where it had been moved during the Second World War for protection against a possible attack on the Capital. The collection, separated for the first time from the general collections, returned to Washington as part of a new division of the Library, to be housed in its own section of the brand new library building in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Blake’s first duty was to supervise the packing and to accompany the four vans, guarded by Pinkerton detectives, that brought the books to Bethesda.

John Blake took over a glorious collection of pre-19th century books and manuscripts. However, it was badly organized, with severe difficulties of access. Catalogue records were divided among eleven different files. One of his first projects was to bring them together into a single file and have full catalogue records created. He began the collections of archival papers and modern manuscripts, initiated an oral history program, widened the focus of the collection to include photographs and prints, initiated the annual Bibliography of the History of Medicine, a subject listing of recent publications in the history of medicine, and encouraged to staff to carry out scholarly research in the field of medical history.

During his years as Division Chief, John Blake’s scholarly interests turned to bibliography and library history. He wrote and edited several books and essays about medical libraries and about particular works in the History of Medicine Collection.

John was honored by the Library with the NLM Director's Award, the NLM Board of Regents Award for Scholarly or Technical Achievement, and NIH Merit Award.


Title page of A short title catalogue of eighteenth century printed books in the National Library of Medicine compiled by John B. Blake, 1979
Title page from A short title catalogue of eighteenth century printed books in the National Library of Medicine compiled by John B. Blake, 1979.
See the LocatorPlus catalog Record
Title page from Medical reference works, 1679-1966; a selected bibliography by John B. Blake and Charles Roos, editors, 1967.
Title pages from Medical reference works, 1679-1966; a selected bibliography by John B. Blake and Charles Roos, editors, 1967.
See the LocatorPlus catalog Record

Mr. Smith and Dr. Rogers look on as John Blake adds a shovel of dirt to a cutting from the 'Hippocrates' plane tree presented to NLM by the Greek Ambassador Alexis Liatis.
John Blake (left) planting a cutting from the plane tree on the Isle of Cos, the tree under which, tradition says, the great Greek physician, Hippocrates, sat when he taught. A scion of the tree still stands across Center Drive from the Library.
Typed cover of John Blake's address on 'The Old and New in Medical Libraries.' An address delivered on the occasion of the gift of the rare book collection of the Denver Medical Society to the University of Colorado, March 18, 1982. In the top right corner is a handwritten note. For Brad and Barb Rogers in friendship John Blake.
'The Old and the New in Medical Libraries' by John B. Blake. An address delivered on the occasion of the gift of the rare book collection of the Denver Medical Society to the University of Colorado, March 18, 1982.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Award of Merit to John Blake, 1982.
Presentation of NIH award to John Blake from William D. Mayer, M.D., chair of the NLM Board of Regents

John Blake's National Institutes of Health Award of Merit, presented in 1982. John Blake receiving the award from William D. Mayer, M.D., chair of the NLM Board of Regents.


Cover of the menu from retirement dinner in honor of John B. Blake, signed by John Blake.
Menu from the retirement dinner in honor of John B. Blake