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Institutional Records


Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Johns Hopkins University
School of Hygiene and Public Health

William H. Welch Medical Library

Institute of the History of Medicine


Welch was one of the most influential individuals in the formation of the Johns Hopkins medical institutions. For the Hospital he developed the first pathological laboratory and served as first pathologist-in-chief. For the University he served as the first professor of pathology, first dean of the medical faculty, founder and first director of the School of Hygiene and Public Health, planner for the library that bears his name, and founder and first director of the Institute of the History of Medicine.  

Significant documents that detail the founding and development of these Johns Hopkins divisions may be found within the Welch papers.

Click on images to view enlargements.



The Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine

In 1884 Welch was appointed professor of pathology, the first faculty member of the medical school. He served as a close advisor to Daniel Coit Gilman, the president of the university, and helped to select key faculty for the new medical school. He later served as first dean of the medical faculty (1893-1895).


Report of the Womens Fund For the Medical School... page 2, page 3 (of 22-page report), May 2, 1891.

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In the Welch collection is a letter from Miss Mary E. Garrett to C. Morton Stewart, president of the Johns Hopkins University board of trustees, in which she advises the board that she will continue to make the sum of one hundred thousand dollars available to the trustees for the opening of the medical school.

C. Morton Stewart's reply to Miss Garrett's offer (detail), page 1, page 2.

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The Johns Hopkins University
School of Hygiene and Public Health

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Photograph by Marjorie Winslow Kehoe

The School of Hygiene and Public Health Building on Wolfe Street, which opened in 1926.

The nation's first school of public health was ushered into being by William Welch, who served as its director from 1916-1926.

In founding the school, Welch said, "It is a well-known fact that there are no social, no industrial, no economics problems which are not related to problems of Health."

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The Advisory Board of The School of Hygiene and Public Health, 1922




William H. Welch Medical Library

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Photograph by Marjorie Winslow Kehoe

The Welch Medical Library, at Monument and Wolfe Streets, as it looks today.


William Henry Howell, the second director of the School of Hygiene and Public Health, was one of the presiding officials at the laying of the cornerstone for the Welch Medical Library.

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Welch was not present at the laying of the cornerstone of the library bearing his name.

The Evening Sun, March 12, 1928, commemorated the event with a sketch entitled, "William H. Welch, Citizen" by Harry S. Sherwood. It began with an editorial noting that the copies of that days' newspaper were being printed with special ink on rag paper in order that they might be preserved in the cornerstone of the Welch Medical Library.

Sherwood wrote,"The cornerstone of the William H. Welch Medical Library... is laid today. The event is significant to the nation as well as to Baltimore, because of the great influence Dr. Welch has exercised on American civilization." He noted that it was not uncharacteristic of Welch to be absent on such a day. His attention was fully engaged in Europe where he continued to acquire books with the same zeal which he had as a student nearly fifty years earlier when visiting those same centers of learning.


Construction of the Welch Medical Library,
May 15, 1928

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Photographer unidentified


Welch's list of foreign dignitaries whom he wished to invite to the joint dedication of the Welch Medical Library and the Institute of the History of Medicine.

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Cover of the program for the dedication of the William H. Welch Library and the Department of the History of Medicine, October 17 and 18, 1929

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Program list of speakers and events at the joint dedication.

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A Ceremonial Key to the Welch Medical Library  was presented at the dedication ceremonies by the architect of the library, Edward Lippincott Tilton.

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At the dedication ceremonies Tilton presented the key to Blanchard Randall, vice president of University trustees. In response Mr. Randall said,

"There is another key which is connected with this building; that is the master key which opens the hearts of men. It is Dr. Welch himself."




In his opening remarks at the dedication of the library, Dr. Joseph Ames president of the Johns Hopkins University thanked many people who contributed to opening of the new library. He concluded with these comments:

"In the end, however, what the University is most grateful for, over and above the building itself and its collections, is the fact that we have, upon our faculty, Dr. Welch, who will continue to show us how a library should be used...It cannot often happen that a man sees in his lifetime so many of his projects realized as in the case of Dr. Welch, and although I am sure he still has many unfulfilled desires in his fertile brain, I do wish to congratulate him most sincerely upon seeing formally opened today this striking monument to the affection and honor felt towards him by all who know him, even by all the world of men of science."



Welch selected the following quotation by Milton in Areopagitica to be inscribed on a wall of the library:

"For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was, whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve, as in a [vial], the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them."




Institute of the History of Medicine

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At the dedication ceremonies Abraham Flexner delivered the first address, and the second was  delivered in German, by Professor Karl Sudhoff, Director-Emeritus of the Institute of the History of Medicine, University of Leipzig.

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Staff of the Institute of the History of Medicine. Left to right, Welch,  Fielding H. Garrison, John Rathbone Oliver, Owsei Temkin, Henry E. Sigerist, October 1932


Owsei Temkin and William Welch

Welch met Owsei Temkin while in Leipzig in 1928. He recorded in his diary, "Tempkin seems a capable industrious worker", and reflected, "...perhaps worth thinking about him for Baltimore."

Detail from Diary.

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Full page of Diary, August 28, 1928

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Click on image to view full page.


As I knew him...


Owsei Temkin, Welch Professor Emeritus, History of Science, Medicine and Technology, Johns Hopkins University.

"When Dr. Welch, in preparation for his new job in medical history, visited the Institute of the History of Medicine at the University of Leipzig, he and I shared the same working room. My memory still retains Dr. Welch as a jovial man with a half-smoked cigar between his fingers and some of the ashes on his waistcoat. I cannot remember any of our conversations except his once button-holing me at the door and asking whether I had ever thought of coming to the United States? I felt confused but whatever my answer may have been a few years later here I was with an office next to Dr. Welch’s.

Dr Welch struck me as a man who appreciated the good things life had to offer, for instance, the dinners with their wonderful oysters on the half shell that were an almost obligatory prelude to any formal dinner like those sometimes preceding meetings of the medical history club that he and William Osler had founded at the Hospital.

Many of the pictures of a portly Dr. Welch support what I just said. Those things explain the nickname of "Popsy" that was lovingly bestowed upon him - behind his back, not to his face. Ashes on the waistcoat and oysters notwithstanding, Dr. Welch was a man of innate dignity as Sargent painted him in his picture of the four doctors. This was the man who had helped to bring scientific medicine to America. There was nothing pompous about him. When the speaker at the medical history club had finished his paper, Dr. Welch would discuss it clearly, succinctly and well informed. These were the things that mattered. Even in my little world of a young member I felt that Dr. Welch took a genuine interest in my work.

I was fortunate having known Dr. Welch and I am proud of carrying his name in my academic life."

20 March 2000