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History of Medicine Instruction in Surgery. Five physicians and their colleagues in the surgical amphitheatre of the Massachusetts General Hospital watch as the anesthetist administers ether to a patient who is about to have surgery. This illustration appeared in an 1889 issue of Harper's Weekly . The National Library of Medicine was originally established 150 years ago, in 1836, as the Library of the Army Surgeon General's Office. Perhaps the key event in the library's history occurred in 1865, when Dr. John Shaw Billings became director. For the next 30 years he worked tirelessly to expand the library's holdings and open it as a source of biomedical information for all physicians. The wealth of new medical information issuing from research centers around the world cannot be used to improve our health and cure disease unless it is made available rapidly to the entire health science community. The astonishingly varied services of the National Library of Medicine are indispensible in this task. Modern computer and communications technologies today routinely assist in providing vitally needed medical information. Systems now being developed by the Library will expand such information dissemination capabilities dramatically in the years to come. I believe that the National Library of Medicine -- with its past accomplishments, present services, and future promise -- is an institution in which we all can take pride. Donald A. B. Lindberg, M.D. Director National Library of Medicine 12 September 2011
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