History of Medicine

Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital: a man working in a pharmacy


The Geisel School of Medicine, founded in 1797 by Nathan Smith as the Dartmouth College “Medical Department”, is the fourth-oldest medical school in the United States. One of the benefits of being part of an institution with such deep roots is having access to the extensive archival collections that grow over that long history. Did you know, for example, that we have Nathan Smith’s personal papers documenting his practices as a physician, or that you can read the medical lecture notes of Dartmouth students from the early 1800s? The Dartmouth College Library is the only institution in New Hampshire with an entry in the National Library of Medicine’s Directory of History of Medicine Collections . All of the collections listed in this entry, as well as many more that aren’t, are available for viewing in Rauner Special Collections Library.

A woman being inserted into an MRI machine


Examining medical history helps us understand where we’re going in the context of where we’ve been. Ask in Rauner to examine the maps documenting the spread of the cholera epidemic in 1832, and you will make comparisons to the World Health Organization’s digital flu maps or the CDC’s attempts to map the rise and spread of the Ebola virus. Collections like these are the foundation upon which today’s medical landscape is built, making them a valuable supplement to the study of modern medicine. Contact us to learn more about incorporating our historical collections into a class, research project, or event!

This post was written by Amanda Scull, Head of Education and Information Services for the Biomedical Libraries.

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