Welcome to the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine

We invite you to visit our library where you can experience the more than 80,000 volumes of rare books, journals and manuscripts in diverse medical and biological subject areas that span half a millennium, from 1430 to 1930.

Explore our outstanding collection of historically significant books in anatomy, medical sciences, botany, and zoology.

Our stacks hold a wealth of inspiration for students, researchers, educators, and all visitors. Artists, poets, naturalists, and playwrights have all found a home at Wangensteen.

Whatever your inspiration, we look forward to helping you find it within our collection.

Lois Hendrickson


Lois Hendrickson

Library History

Dr. Owen H. Wangensteen in surgery

The outstanding collection housed at the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine began in the late 19th century when rare and historically significant books were added to the general University Library collection as resources for the medical school and a state natural history survey.

In the 1960s, Dr. Owen H. Wangensteen (pictured, right), distinguished surgeon and Chief of Surgery at the University of Minnesota from 1930-1967, became the driving force behind the creation of the library that bears his name.

The endowments he raised led to the creation of a medical rare book library, exhibit space, and funds for future acquisitions. In 1964, pre-1899 medical works (3,000 books) from across the University were transferred to the newly created space, and in 1972 the library was formally dedicated and named for Dr. Wangensteen.

The collection’s strengths focus on the historical development of health (nursing, pharmacy, public health and medicine) and biological science disciplines (human anatomy, physiology and microbiology), their clinical and research aspects, and the development of the professions, medical concepts and practice. Another focus of the collection is on natural history, covering topics such as botany, mycology, and zoology. The library contains printed materials in many languages, as well as manuscript materials and a small collection of artifacts. Particular concentrations include surgery, obstetrics, pharmacy, gynecology, pediatrics, cardiology, infectious disease, New World exploration, cataloguing the natural world and animal identification.

The library supports the research of University faculty and students, and local and international scholars. It attracts a diverse array of disciplines including the history of science, technology and medicine, the health sciences, art history, anthropology, rhetoric, theatre, and English to name a few.

Today the Wangensteen Historical Library continues to actively collect rare books. Its holdings have grown to more than 80,000 volumes and it is an exceptional collection amongst its peers that includes some of the most important, ground-breaking publications of the medical researchers and clinicians of an earlier age.