William H. Welch

8 April 1850-30 April 1934

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 welchii 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.

Collection Information

Scope and content:
The William H. Welch Collection spans his entire career. It consists of professional and personal correspondence, administrative records, notebooks, reprints 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. 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.
Organization and Arrangement:
William H. Welch was a meticulous, if famously untidy, collector of data on his own life and career. According to his biographers, among the financial records on his later European trips "no detail is too small to be faithfully recorded." (Flexner S., Flexner J.T., William Henry Welch and the Heroic Age of American Medicine. New York, Viking Press, 1941). Welch was fortunate that Simon Flexner was both his official biographer and a valued friend and scientific colleague, who treasured all records of Welch's life.

The collection includes professional and personal correspondence, administrative records, notebooks, repints by Welch and his contemporaries, reprints about Welch, scrapbooks, photographs, biographical materials, bibliographical materials, diaries, financial records, calendars and appointment books, programs, invitations, and press clippings. Correspondence files are organized into several series: correspondence with colleagues, correspondence with institutions, and correspondence with family. Correspondence series are arranged alphabetically, and the guide lists the earliest and latest years covered; enclosures are briefly noted. Travel memorabilia are arranged by area of travel and by chronology. Addresses and reprints are listed chronologically; the listings include references to Walter C. Burket's 1920 bibliography, Papers and Addresses by William Henry Welch. Boxes #163 - #192 contain biographical material accumulated by Flexner, including both his own personal notes and correspondence from colleagues and associates containing recollections of Welch.

Thus, the collection encompasses records kept by Welch himself on his career, family and friends, and an additional "collection within a collection" by Flexner, providing additional posthumous material on a great life.
Policy on access:
This collection may contain some restricted records. Materials pertaining to patients, students, employees, and human research subjects, as well as unprocessed collections and recent administrative records, carry restrictions on access. For more information about the policies and procedures for access, see Policy on Access and Use