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Medical Library

History of Medicine Collection

The History of Medicine Collection is located on the third floor of the Ruth Lilly Medical Library, Room 307. After a generous gift in 2015, the newly remodeled room was named for Leo J. McCarthy, MD, professor emeritus of pathology and laboratory medicine and former director of fransfusion medicine at IU School of Medicine.

The History of Medicine Collection is open by appointment only, Monday through Friday, 10 am until 4 pm (excepting holidays when the library is closed). Research appointments and classes can be scheduled by emailing Please contact us at least one business day in advance of your proposed visit and inform us of your research topic and/or which materials you would like to view.

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The Collection

The Ruth Lilly Medical Library History of Medicine Special Collection, though modest in its approximately 3,500 items, includes several books of significant historical value: American Revolutionary War, early American surgery, editions of Renaissance medicine and European science, anatomical and medical plates of quality, colored botanicals, uncommon signatures by leading practitioners and, correspondence related to the unfortunate outcomes of mid-19th century tuberculosis. Items in this collection considered important assets to scholarship and furthering an understanding of the history of medicine, as printed, practiced and experienced, including books published as early as 1542. The collection contains bindings in a variety of materials and styles, a full range of sizes and quality, printed in Latin, English, German, and French.

The opportunities for study and research are diverse; the material is well suited for deeper mapping, can act as an enhancement to the scientific element of medical practice. To handle a first edition of America’s first systematic text on surgery or, to examine the highest quality reproductions of Vesalius prints no longer available increases one’s appreciation, can be said to induce shivers of awe and inspiration. In an ever-increasing age of technological development, steeping oneself in an object from a previous century, signed by an important figure, can be a touchstone to our cultural heritage.

History of Medicine 3D Exhibit Gallery

History of Medicine Resources