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History of medicine - Databases, catalogues, and website indexes

Liaison librarian

  • Christopher [dot] Lyons [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email) 514-398-4475 x09847
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  • Catalogue record

Core databases for secondary sources

Some useful databases for the history of medicine are listed below. 

  • Web of Knowledge General academic database. Science citations go back to 1900, making this a source for finding historical, primary material.
  • History of Science, Technology and Medicine (HSTM) Journal articles, conference proceedings, books, book reviews, and dissertations in the history of science, technology, and medicine and allied historical fields.
  • Historical Abstracts Covers world history from 1450 (excluding the U.S. and Canada).
  • America: History and Life Covers American and Canadian history.
  • MEDLINE Premier bibliographic index of journal articles in medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and the pre-clinical sciences. Possible to limit results to only "History of Medicine" by clicking on "More Limits". (Note: The National Library of Medicine's free article index PubMed contains all the citations in MEDLINE plus other material. See What's the difference between MEDLINE and PubMed for more information.)

Thematic or specialized databases


Archival databases


Books and reference works

See our list of reference sources in history of medicine.


Library catalogues

McGill library catalogues - Classic and WorldCat

    • Global Health Archive Contains citations of articles, books, reports and conference proceedings on topics such as public health, tropical and communicable diseases, nutrition, helminthology, entomology and mycology in several languages from 1912 to 1983. (Note: The "Find It at McGill" button occasionally fails to recognize journals that McGill has - always check the catalogue.)
        • Global Project on the History of Leprosy Includes a database of archival holdings and articles, lists of oral history projects with some excepts, and some scanned photos and maps.
        • Google Patent Search Full-text search of patents issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office from the 1790s to the current day. Records include patent description and images.
        • IndexCat (Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office) Both a catalogue and an index, with records for journal articles, books, pamphlets, reports, dissertations and portraits. A great source for locating primary resources. References are multilingual and cover medicine and allied areas. Coverage is through 1950. (Note: for a comparison of coverage between IndexCat and Index Medicus, see the NLM explanatory page.)
        • Osler Library Reprints Collection Collection of over 2,000 articles and book chapters on medical history, personages, institutions and some now historic general medicine. Many of these articles/chapters are also found in books and journals held by the Osler Library but some are not. This material is not listed in the Library Catalogue and can often be hard to locate using other indexes. A particularly good source on McGill and Montreal medicine.
        • Recent Dissertations in the Medical Humanities An index to recent dissertations in medical history and medical humanities, updated monthly by the University of Pittsburgh. Full text not available through the website -- to get the full text (when available), use the database ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.
        • Archives in the Osler Library - searchable database The Osler Library Archives has nearly 200 collections of papers by or about doctors, medical students and organisations, including significant collections on Sir William Osler, Wilder Penfield, Maude Abbott and the Canadian Health Libraries Association.
        • History of Medicine Finding Aids Consortium  Search descriptions of archival material in history of medicine in institutions across the U.S. and Canada.
        • ArchiveGrid Searchable database of archives held in thousands of collections around the world.
        • McGill University's Classic Catalogue lists almost all of the printed holdings in the various branches of the McGill Library, as well as electronic, microform and audio-visual material.

          Other library catalogues

          Here are some other major collections in the history of the health sciences with searchable online catalogues:


          General guides to history of medicine information on the web

          Several comprehensive indexes provide excellent starting points to history of medicine resources available on the Web.

          • An easy way to narrow down books to only history of medicine (i.e. eliminate contemporary medical literature from your search results) is by searching in the Osler Library subcatalogue:
            • Click the "Sub-catalogues" tab, then click "Osler Library of the History of Medicine" under the Libraries and Collections category
            • Run your search!
            • McGill's second catalogue (WorldCat) has a more up-to-date listing of electronic resources.
              • WorldCat A union catalogue, or large collective catalogue with resources from more than 70,000 worldwide libraries. Go to the McGill WorldCat link here and select "Libraries Worldwide" to search. 
              • British Library
              • Bibliothèque Nationale de France
              • LocatorPlus Online catalogue of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, one of the most important collections of historical material and writings about the history of medicine. Contains records of books and some book chapters and articles.
              • Wellcome Library online catalogue Contains records for books, journals, reports, pamphlets, theses, patents and images. Important UK collection in history of medicine.
              • Académie nationale de Médecine (Paris) Holds 400,000 volumes including 800 manuscripts and 113 incunables, as well as the archives of historical medical associations in France.
              • Library and Archives Canada - Database of Canadian e-resources A directory of Canadian websites on a variety of subjects, including medicine and health.
              • MedHist A free database from the Wellcome Trust with links to sites of online journals, biographies, and information on medicine in geographic areas. (Note: no new resources added after 2010)
              • CiSMeF Histoire de médecine Catalogue et index des sites médicaux de langue Française, from the University of Rouen, lists databases, libraries, associations, and other resources in French.


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