"The Great Influenza" III: The National Library of MedicineThe National Library of Medicine is one of the notable developments in US medical research capabilities that John M. Barry highlights in The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.
[John Shaw] Billings lay behind America’s first great contribution to scientific medicine: a library. This library grew out of the detailed medical history of the Civil War ordered by the army surgeon general. The army also created a medical “museum,” which was actually a library of specimens.
Both the museum and the history were remarkable. In 1998 scientists at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, a direct descendant of this museum, used specimens preserved in 1918 to determine the genetic makeup of the 1918 influenza virus. And the medical history was extraordinarily precise and useful. …
Billings did not write that history, but it did inspire him to create a medical library of comparable quality. He built what one medical historian judged “probably the greatest and most useful medical library in the world.” By 1876 it already held eighty thousand volumes; ultimately it grew into today’s National Library of Medicine. [p. 45]