Medicine in the Ancient World - HIST 449

Liaison librarian

  • mary.yearl [at] (Email) 514-398-4475 x09847
  • McGill users only
  • Open access resource
  • Free resource
  • In-library-use only
  • Catalogue record

Reference Sources (Encyclopedias/Dictionaries)


  • Dictionary of Medical Biography This work has over 1,000 entries of practioners, primarily in the western medical tradition, but also including those in alternative and traditional Chinese, Indian and Islamic medicine.
  • Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary This is a good source for information about medical terminology. If you can't find a term in it, or need more information, try Oxford Reference Online or Xreferplus.
  • Cambridge Historical Dictionary of Disease This reference work has detailed entries for 161 diseases, describing both their histories and characteristics.
  • Oxford Reference Online This source searches multiple reference books, providing definitions and brief information in medicine, history and classical studies, drawing upon works such as the Oxford Companion to the Body, the Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization, and the Oxford Classical Dictionary. This resource can be searched in total or by specific subject areas or individual works.
  • Antiquus Morbus A glossary of archaic medical terms, diseases and causes of death.


  • The Cambridge World History of Human Disease. Osler Ref folio QZ 11.1 C178 1993. Introductory essays on medical history plus essays on various medical topics (e.g. public health, specific diseases) which include the classical period. Entries have bibliographies.
  • A Dictionary of the History of Medicine. Osler Ref folio WZ 13 S443d 1999. Short entries on individuals, diseases, movements and medical terminology for all historical periods written for the layperson.
  • Encyclopedia of Plague and Pestilence: from Ancient Times to the Present. Osler Ref folio WA 13 E565 2001.
    Epidemics listed alphabetically, but also indexed by area and chronologically, (see Ancient History in Appendix Two).

Article Indexes and Databases

History of Medicine

  • History of Science, Technology and Medicine HSTM provides access to journal articles, conference proceedings, books, book reviews, and dissertations in the history of medicine and allied fields, science and technology.

    NOTE: Most of the medical entries date from 1991 to 2004, so to locate earlier works on the history of medicine it is best to consult the Subject Catalogue of the History of Medicine and Related Subjects (Osler Ref folio ZW 1 W447s 1980 - 18 volumes), published by the Wellcome Library, for the period 1900-1978. Material from 1979-1991, and a great deal more, can be found in the The Wellcome Library online catalogue, which contains records for books, book chapters, journal articles, reports, pamphlets, theses, patents and images.

  • MEDLINE Produced by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), MEDLINE is a major bibliographic index of journal articles covering the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and the pre-clinical sciences going back to at least 1950, including some historical articles. One can limit a search to material specifically about the history of medicine.

General History

  • Humanities Full Text (Wilson) (part of OmniFile FT Mega) The Humanities Subject area of the OmniFile FT Mega indexes a wide range of historical material, including classical history. Older material (published before 1984) can be found by selecting Humanities and Social Sci Retro in the database selection area.


  • McGill University's WorldCat 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.
  • LocatorPlus This is the catalogue of the National Library of Medicine in the United States, containing records of books, book chapters (individual essays) and audiovisual material.


  • Medicina Antiqua This is hosted by the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL. It is devoted to the study of medicine in the Graeco-Roman world. It is intended to be a useful scholarly introduction and resource. It does this primarily either by including existing resources or linking to other web resources. The site currently hosts a number of essays and translations, which it is hoped will be expanded in the future.

Other Useful Information

Guide to Turabian Citation Style


Library Information


Questions? Ask us!  Chat • Email • Text • Call            Send feedback    Report a problem