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History of Pediatrics: Nineteenth Century

This guide is an overview of the Rubenstein Library's collections documenting the rich history of pediatrics.

Searching the catalog

Pediatrics became its own separate, widely recognized and accepted field of study in the 19th century (though there is evidence of early “pediatrists” before then). These links are sample searches in the Duke Libraries catalog based on library subject headings related to the history of pediatrics. Pediatrics was also more closely tied to obstetrics and gynecology, so searching the catalog for these subjects can yield results as well. You can limit by location to "Rubenstein Library" to focus on historical sources. 

Print Material

This medical textbook for physicians, has been through multiple editions and evolved into Rudolph’s Pediatrics, earning it a spot as the longest pediatric textbook in continuous print.

Eli Ives in 1813 introduced the first formal American academic course in pediatrics at the Yale College of Medicine, and taught for 40 years. Several complete sets of notes from his students survived, allowing a glimpse into Ives’s extensive knowledge, including his thoughts on physicians’ neglect in treating infant patients.

Credited as the first comprehensive text on pediatrics in the United States, this book, originally published in 1810, quotes physicians but also says that a child’s best physician is their mother.

Considered to be the first comprehensive and authoritative American pediatric work, Dewee’s text was popular and practical for physicians wading into pediatric care.

Manuscript Collections

Assembled by the staff of the Duke University Medical Library, the History of Medicine Picture File holds thousands of small and large images organized into series for individuals, places, and subjects related to the history of medicine and medical practice. The picture file is organized by People, Places, and Subject. The subject categories cover many topics, with the largest groups including advertising, anatomy, caricatures, cartoons, pediatrics, physicians, and surgery. Some materials of interest might include:

"Der kleine Patient" [sick child and doctor], Rohmburg, black-and-white engraving, early 19th century?

"Doctor's life," series, distributed by Armour Laboratories, 12 color prints of scenes depicting events in the lives of physicians, circa 1930s

"Soll sich der Arzt dir hülfreich zeigen" [sick child and doctor], black-and-white engraving, 1863

The sixty-three manuscript volumes in this collection range from 10 to 154 pages, and were created in Japan from about 1810 to 1849, chiefly by medical students. The notebooks usually take one of two forms: transcriptions of lectures and demonstrations, and bodies of knowledge written up as manuals by well-known Japanese physicians of the time, especially Hanaoka Seishū and Takenaka Bunpō. Topics covered include herbal medicines and other prescriptions; treatments for diseases of the eyes and other parts of the head; surgery, particularly for cancers, tumors, and fistulas; breast cancer; smallpox; scurvy; osteopathy; treatment of wounds; suturing; hematology; gynecology and obstetrics; and pediatric medicine. Some notebooks contain black-and-white and color hand-drawn illustrations - many full-page - of surgeries, close-ups of suturing, bandages and wrappings, osteopathic manipulations, and medicinal plants. In most cases, the author or copyist recorded details such the place and time of the lecture and the name of the medical school. There are references in the notes to at least a dozen other contemporary or earlier physicians, and to earlier dates for the work being copied - these range from 1677 to 1796.

Account book of an unidentified physician. Visits were recorded chronologically, and each entry includes the name of the patient, medications dispensed, and the charge for the visit. Entries are usually very brief, often lacking both the cause for the visit and specific details of treatment. In some cases, though, this physician did note when the patient was a child, or when the servants of an estate owner were treated en masse. Obstetric visits have also been noted.

William Clarence Hollopeter was born in Muncy, Pennsylvania, and worked as a physician in Philadelphia from 1877-1917. He specialized in pediatrics and hay fever. Collection includes correspondence, clippings, photographs, printed materials, financial materials, and other materials relating to Hollopeter's work as a doctor.

Digitized Content

West’s lectures were translated into Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Arabic. He was described as being “priest-like” in how serious he was about his profession, while also having a drawer full of toys for his young patients.

National Surgical Institute & Sanitarium

A page from a 14 page document from the National Surgical Institute and Sanitarium showing instances of ulcers, tumors, harelips, and other things the National Institute lists as "deformities".