The History of Surgery - HIST 458b 640

Liaison librarian

  • mary.yearl [at] (Email) 514-398-4475 x09847

Reference sources

Medical biographies

Dictionary of Medical Biography  Biographies of over 1,000 doctors and practitioners.

Biographical Books  40,000 biographies and autobiographies arranged alphabetically by name. See the vocation index to locate physicians.

Medical/disease terminology

Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary  Source for information about medical terminology.

Oxford Reference Online  Searches multiple reference books. Useful for definitions and brief information about terms and people in medical history. You can narrow down a search by specific subject area.

Cambridge Historical Dictionary of Disease  Detailed entries for 161 diseases, describing both their histories and characteristics.

General history of medicine

Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine

A Dictionary of the History of Medicine

The Cambridge World History of Human Disease

Article indexes and databases

Specific to history of medicine

History of Science, Technology and Medicine (HSTM) Journal articles, conference proceedings, books, book reviews, and dissertations in the history of medicine and allied fields, science and technology. NOTE: most of the historical medical entries date from 1991 to 2004, so be sure to use additional databases in conjunction to find additional older and more recent sources.

Subject Catalogue of the History of Medicine and Related Subjects Published by the Wellcome Library, includes items published between 1900-1978. Good to find earlier articles that may not be in HSTM.

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.

General history and social sciences

America: History and Life  Journal articles, book reviews, and some dissertations on Canadian and US history. Broad subject coverage includes medical topics.

Historical Abstracts  Journal articles, book reviews and some dissertations on world history from 1450 (particularly the West). Note: Excludes Canada and the United States.

Academic Search Complete  Multidisiplinary database of scholarly articles, includes a broad range of topics on history and sociology, including medical sociology.


McGill'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, such as e-books and e-journals. For first hand accounts and case records, try using search terms like: personal narratives; narratives; diaries; correspondence; interviews; biographies; case studies.

  • An easy way to narrow down printed books to only history of medicine (i.e. eliminate contemporary medical literature from your search results) is by searching in the Osler Library subcatalogue of the Classic Catalogue:
  • Click the "Sub-catalogues" tab, then click "Osler Library of the History of Medicine" under the Libraries and Collections category
  • Run your search!
  • Use McGill's WorldCat Catalogue when searching for e-journals, e-books and databases.


Primary resources

Article indexes - medicine

EMBASE  Major database of biomedical research with a lot of international, particularly European, content. Some overlap with MEDLINE. Contains articles dating to 1947. Lots of European material makes it a good complement to MEDLINE.

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.)

MEDLINE  Major bibliographic index of journal articles in medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and the pre-clinical sciences dating back to before 1950.   One can also limit results to only "History of Medicine" by clicking on "More Limits".

Other article databases

Web of Knowledge  General academic database. Science citations go back to 1900, making this a source for finding historical, primary material.  This database also has a cited reference search which is extremely useful.

Newspapers and magazines

Newspapers Subject Guide  List of online historical and contemporary newspapers and newspaper/magazine databases available at McGill.

Readers' Guide Retrospective  Online version of The Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, an index to U.S. popular periodicals. Contains material from 1890 to 1982.

Digitized archives of medical journals

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 1883-present. Major North American medical journal.

The Lancet, 1823-present. Major British medical journal.

PubMed Central  Contains a number of nineteenth and twentieth century medical journals  including British Medical Journal and Journal of the Royal Medical Society. Full text.

Digitized book and primary source collections

Early Canadiana Online   Full text digital collection of book, pamphlet and serial primary sources, published up to the early 20th century, relating to Canadian literature, history, etc. Includes subcollection on history of medicine.

Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de Santé, Paris   Links to a number of history of medicine and dentistry resources. There is also a listing of digitized historical works arranged by subject.

Gallica   Digitized books, dictionaries and periodicals spanning many centuries, including medical and related works. This site is maintained by the National Library of France, so almost all works are in French.

Internet Archive   Freely available digitized out-of-copyright books, journals and other material. This is a good resource for locating historical books (primary material).  This site cannot perform full-text searches across all material.  You have to open a specific book or other item and then do a full-text search only on that item.

Medical Heritage Library   This is a subset of the Internet Archive of selected historical medical material. The difference between this site and the Internet Archive is that the MHL lets you do full text searching across all the digitized content. This is a good resource for locating historical medical information embedded into more general primary historical works.  Searching is still in beta form, so read the help file to refine your search (e.g. add a date limit).

Archival indexes

ArchiveGrid   Searchable database of archives held in thousands of collections around the world.

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   This is a discovery tool providing keyword search services of descriptions of primary source (archival) materials found in special collections and archives in the U.S. and Canadian (such as the Osler Library).

Government information

Government information from Canada, Quebec, other provincial governments, the UK, the US, the European, and some intergovernmental organizations dating back centuries available at McGill. Much is available online.


Other Useful Information

Citation styles

Citation guides by style

Citation guides by subject

Annotated bibliographies

How to write annotated bibliographies  From Memorial University Libraries.

Writing an annotated bibliography  From Guelph University. See esp. the useful tips on evaluating sources while reading.

How to prepare an annotated bibliography  Cornell University Library guide.

Is it scholarly? Tips for critically evaluating your information resources  From the University of Illinois library.

Library information

Library branch information

Interlibrary Loans

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