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William H. Welch was born in Norfolk, Connecticut. He received his A.B. in 1870 from Yale University and his M.D. in 1875 from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. After interning at Bellevue Hospital in New York, Welch studied at the universities of Strasbourg, Leipzig, Breslau, and Berlin from 1876 until 1878. Returning to Bellevue Hospital Medical College, Welch held an appointment as professor of pathological anatomy and general pathology. While there, he established the first pathological laboratory and discovered the organism named Bacillus welchi that causes gas gangrene. In 1884, he agreed to take a position at the hospital and medical school that were being organized in Baltimore through the bequest of Mr. Johns Hopkins. In 1889, when the hospital was opened, Welch was named pathologist-in-chief. When the school of medicine opened in 1893, Welch was the first dean. He then helped organize the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health and became its first director. He also founded and served as the first director of the Institute of the History of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University. Welch took an active role in national and international medical affairs, serving as president of several organizations and associations.

Scope and Content

The William H. Welch Collection spans his entire career. It consists of professional and personal correspondence, administrative records, notebooks, repints by Welch and his contemporaries, reprints about Welch, scrapbooks, photographs, biographical materials, bibliographical materials, diaries (1915-1931), financial records, calendars and appointment books, programs (1906-1933), invitations, and press clippings. The correspondence files are organized into series: correcpondence with colleagues, correspondence with institutions, and correspondence with family. Articles and lectures are organized chronologically and according to subject. Topics covered in articles, lectures, and notebooks include pneumonia, pneumococcus, gas bacillus, British Public Health, antivivisection legislation in the United States, and contemporary research in the history of medicine. Materials related to the Welch Medical Library include bills from booksellers, lists of books that Welch purchased for the library while traveling through Europe and Asia, and ephemera from the dedication of the library. Photographs include portraits of Welch, portraits of colleagues and contemporaries of Welch, and photographs of Welch’s extensive travel. Biographical materials include memorabilia from birthday celebrations for Welch and commemorations of Welch upon his death. A collection of notes, correspondence, and other material collected and organized by Simon Flexner while writing a biography of Welch is also included. The Welch Papers are a resource for studying the development of the Johns Hopkins University Schools of Medicine and Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the growth of modern medicine, medical education, and medical history in the United States. Additional correspondence with Welch can be found in the following collections: Abel, Barker, Blalock, Halsted, Kelly, MacCallum, Mall, Meyer and Osler.

Catalog Record

Additional Links

Finding Aid for the Records of the Deanship of William Welch Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (1893-1898)

Finding Aid for the Records of the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Director/Dean’s Office, William H. Welch and William H. Howell Correspondence (1916-1927)


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