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John Shaw Billings was born in Allensville, Indiana. He received his A.B. in 1857 from Miami University of Ohio and his M.D. in 1860 from the Medical College of Ohio. He was a career army medical officer who served on active duty during the Civil War. Billings was later assigned to the Office of the Surgeon General, where he began to develop the library which ultimately became the National Library of Medicine. He designed and oversaw the construction of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and advised academic planning for the medical school. Billings was a lecturer in the history of medicine at Johns Hopkins University and was a faculty member in hygiene. After his work at Johns Hopkins he became a professor of hygiene at the University of Pennsylvania, and he served as founding director of the New York Public Library from 1896 until his death in 1913.

Scope and Content

The John Shaw Billings Collection consists mostly of historical articles and correspondence about Billings and his role in developing the Johns Hopkins Hospital and School of Medicine. There is also some information concerning the portrait of Billings. Material by Billings includes one folder of correspondence (1871-1902) and some of Billings’ articles on hospital construction and medical education. The majority of Billings’ personal papers are at the New York Public Library. The Medical Archives holds a microfilm copy of a part of the Billings collection from the New York Public Library – specifically, those papers relating to the Johns Hopkins Hospital. There is also correspondence from Billings in the Daniel Coit Gilman papers, located in the Special Collections of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library of the Johns Hopkins University.

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