1914 Rare Book Donation Tied to Influential Doc

Historiae animalium by Gesner (Front Endsheet)
Historiae animalium by Gesner (Front Endsheet)

William Osler (1849-1919) is one of the most influential figures in North American medicine. After earning his MD from McGill University in 1872, he spent two years studying abroad in London, Berlin and Vienna before returning to McGill to teach. He remained at McGill until 1884, when he accepted the chair of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; in 1889 he moved to Baltimore in order to serve as physician in chief of the new Johns Hopkins University Hospital and professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins Medical School, which would open in 1893. He was one of the driving forces behind the Hopkins system of medical education, which included the first formal medical residency program in the United States, and also emphasized teaching at the bedside for third- and fourth-year medical students.

During his time at the University of Pennsylvania, Osler made the acquaintance of a young doctor by the name of George Dock. Dock earned his MD from Pennsylvania in 1884 and after graduation served as an assistant pathologist to Osler. In addition to their interest in medicine, both men shared a passion for the history of medicine. Osler was an avid collector of rare medical texts, and the so-called Bibliotheca Osleriana now resides in the Osler Library at McGill University. Dock also had the collecting bug, and it is through his love of historical texts that we can find a link between Osler and the Becker Library.

Dock came to Washington University in St. Louis in 1910 and remained at the school until 1922. In addition to serving as dean and professor of medicine, he was deeply invested in the fledgling medical library. Dock was a part of the library committee that first established the library's historical collections through the purchase of Julius Pagel's collection, and he also enriched the collections by donating a number of his own books. One of the most spectacular items that Dock donated is a copy of Conrad Gesner's "Historiae animalium," a spectacular zoological encyclopedia published in the mid-16th century by the Swiss printing firm of Christoph Froschauer.

But this book is special for more than its content. The front flyleaf contains the inscription "George Dock from his friend Wm Osler Oxford July 1st 1909" followed by a brief biography of Gesner written in Osler's hand. On the very bottom, Dock wrote his own inscription, which says, "To Washington University Medical School, on moving into the new buildings, 1914. George Dock." A little piece of the monumental Johns Hopkins physician resides right here at Becker Library!