History of Medicine
Reference Services and Information
The History of Medicine Reference staff responds to history of medicine inquiries from across the U. S. and abroad by e-mail, telephone, mail, fax, and in person.
Reference staff members are available to help researchers during regular hours, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (EST), except on Federal holidays. Material is retrieved from the stacks to the History of Medicine Reading Room on the hour from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
- Ask a Reference Librarian
- How do I look for...
- Books, journals, historical images, and films?
- Islamic and Western manuscripts?
- A person or organization's papers?
- Sources for genealogical and biographical research?
- Information on the history of NIH?
- Information on the history of NLM?
- Journal articles in the history of medicine?
- Primary source material in the history of medicine?
- NLM historical material that is online?
- How do I borrow (interlibrary loan)?
- How do I request copies?
- Donations and Appraisals
- Forms and Policies
- Copyright Information
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Contact a Reference librarian at the History of Medicine Reference desk by phone 8:30 a.m - 5:00 p.m. (EST) Monday - Friday or send an e-mail or fax.
Reference Librarians: Stephen Greenberg, Anne Rothfeld, Crystal Smith
Search Islamic manuscripts in Library catalog (LocatorPlus). Many but not all Western manuscripts are in LocatorPlus. See a complete list of Western manuscripts in Early Western Manuscripts in the NLM: A Short Title List.
The Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection can be searched in the Library catalog (LocatorPlus). Manuscript collections are identified by an "MS" call number. Oral histories have an "OH" call number.
For more information see Archives and Modern Manuscripts Program.
Historical collections include medical biographies, medical directories, and obituary indexes, primarily from the 19th century. See Selected Sources for Biographical Information about 17th-Early 20th Century American Physicians (pdf). An especially useful source is the Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929, published by the American Medical Association. This directory is available in the History of Medicine Reading Room, and at many large research and medical school libraries.
For information to help you prepare for your genealogical research at NLM, please see Genealogical Research in the History of Medicine. While there are no actual records, you will find bibliographical citations, finding aids, and information on how to conduct research using a variety of materials in the collection.
See Historical Resources at the DeWitt Stetten, Jr., Museum of Medical Research web site.
To find journal articles in the history of medicine, use the following online and print resources:
MEDLINE/PubMed (Online) - To find journal articles in the history of medicine that were published after 1964, click Limits on the PubMed homepage and select Subset History of Medicine.
For articles published from 1958-1965, select Subset OLDMEDLINE for Pre1966.
For information about PubMed, see FAQ MEDLINE/PubMed and Other Databases.
Bibliography of the History of Medicine (Print) - Includes journal articles, book chapters, and conference papers and proceedings published from 1965-1993. The Bibliography is a print version of the discontinued HISTLINE database.
Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General’s Office (Print) or IndexCat (Online) - Includes journal articles in the history of medicine published from the 17th-20th century.
Index-Medicus (Print) - Index to journal articles in biomedical journals worldwide published from 1879-1927.
The printed Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office (online version IndexCat), U.S. Army (61 volumes in 5 series, 1880-1961) is a valuable resource, especially for pamphlets, dissertations, and journal articles from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Index Medicus (1879- ), which indexes articles in the medical journal literature, is another useful resource that is widely available.
The Bibliography of the History of Medicine, a printed version of the discontinued HISTLINE database, was published in six cumulative volumes (1964-1993), and is useful for pre-1993 material.
For more information, see Printed Catalogs and Guides.
Selected material from historical collections can be viewed in Online Exhibitions, Related NLM Web Sites, and digitized books, manuscripts, and pictures. For a complete list of digitized historical material, see Digital Collections.
The Library does not lend historical material in its original format; however, we do lend copies of journal articles; copies of selected manuscripts; books; and manuscripts on microfilm (when available); and copies of films and videos. The Library's interlibrary loan services are available only to libraries, not to individuals. Individuals who want to borrow NLM material should make a request through a local library. For more information see Interlibrary Loan Fact Sheet.
Self-service photocopying of historical material is not permitted. For onsite patrons, History of Medicine staff will do limited photocopying for a fee of 20¢ per page, depending on the condition of the material. Patrons may pick up completed orders at the History of Medicine Reading Room or have them mailed free of charge.
Off site requests for photocopies of journal articles require an interlibrary loan request. See How Do I Borrow?
How to get copies of pictures from books, journals, manuscripts, etc., in NLM historical collections
Photographs or scans may be available at the discretion of the History of Medicine Conservation Librarian.
For more information Ask a Reference Librarian.
Note that Historical Collections Copyright Information applies to all photographic reproduction requests.
Images from the Prints and Photographs Collection can be accessed online through Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) in NLM’s Digital Collections, a free online resource of biomedical books and still and moving images. Also see Prints and Photographs.
To purchase copies of films and videos, see Films and Videos.
Some books and manuscripts in NLM historical collections have been microfilmed and are available for purchase. The item's LocatorPlus record indicates if that item has been microfilmed. For information about purchasing microfilm, see the Microfilm Sales Program Fact Sheet or Ask a Reference Librarian Fact Sheet.