Interpretative scholarly traditions and Chinese medical classics in the Tyler Collection

Chinese medicine is hermenutical in nature, comprised of a tradition of building upon and interpreting older works; most knowledge and texts concerning Chinese medicine can trace their roots to four classic texts. You can follow the development of knowledge and medical beliefs in Chinese medicine via various reprints and commentaries published throughout history, including a few in Becker Library’s Tyler Collection, which were donated by the influential neurologist.

H. Richard Tyler, MD, (1927-2016) attended Washington University School of Medicine in 1951 and later trained with Derek Denny-Brown at Harvard Medical School’s Neurological Unit at the Boston City Hospital. He continued his work as a neurologist in several different institutions and eventually was appointed Professor of Neurology at Harvard.

tyler collection
重校內經知要 Zhong Xiao Nei Jing Zhi Yao

In addition to his practice and research in clinical neurology, Tyler was highly passionate about the history of neurology as well — going as far as to help found the American Academy of Neurology’s history section. A family story recounts how he deliberated which expenditure was a higher priority: purchasing an early copy of the first edition of Andreas Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543), or paying Harvard College tuition (luckily, there were enough funds for both). He later donated this collection to the Bernard Becker Medical Library at Washington University in St. Louis.

The H. Richard Tyler Collection of the American Academy of Neurology Library includes approximately 7,000 works, including major texts in neuroscience and neurology; the works date from between the 15th and 19th centuries. As neurology and neuroscience are rooted in earlier fields, the collection also includes anatomical atlases and works that describe and depict the nervous system, brain and spinal cord.

Those interested in perusing the collection to learn more about the development of neurology can find the collection in the Becker Library. The books are available to view in person in the Archives and Rare Books reading room with a scheduled appointment. Highlights of the collection are viewable online here.