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Collections: Oral Histories

General History of Medicine Oral Histories

In the 1960s, the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine began an oral history initiative to interview people whose work related to medicine (including alternative medicine), health, and biomedical science, or who were involved in key events. The project, which went forward into the 1990s, also acquired interviews via donation, some going as far back as the early 1890s.

The 65 interviews range widely, documenting key contributions, events, childhood reminiscences, and everyday work experiences. Some of the interviewees are notable figures, such as Burrill Bernard Crohn who talks about his pioneering work on "Crohn's Disease," Roosevelt administration advisor Rexford G. Tugwell, surgeon Michael DeBakey, and FDA administrators (there is also a copy and transcript of a brief recording of Florence Nightingale, made in 1890). Other interviewees are much less well known: men who flew crop-dusting planes in the early days of DDT usage, working surgeons, a Department of Agriculture food inspector, homeopathic practitioners, and many more.