About the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine
Visit the Wangensteen Historical Library and experience more than 73,000 volumes of rare books, journals and manuscripts in diverse health, medicine and biological subject areas that span over 500 years, from 1430 to 1945.
Explore handwritten documents written by doctors and medical students hundreds of years ago, a large collection of surgical and anatomical atlases and texts, and historically significant books from the various disciplines in health sciences and biology and natural history.
Research the origin of medical questions and findings as they relate to current questions. Gain insight into the context of health sciences as a social and cultural experience, and better understand your role as a provider. The stacks hold inspiration for students, researchers, educators, and all visitors. Artists, poets, naturalists, and playwrights have all found a home at Wangensteen.Lois Hendrickson
The collection at the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine began in the late 19th century. Rare and historically significant books were acquired for the general University Library collection as resources for the medical and health sciences disciplines and for the state natural history survey.
In the 1960s, Dr. Owen H. Wangensteen, distinguished surgeon and Chief of Surgery at the University of Minnesota from 1930-1967, became the driving force behind efforts to create a library devoted to the history of biology and medicine.
His fundraising efforts and the subsequent endowments, 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 collection of 8,000 late 19th and early 20th c. artifacts. Particular concentrations include:
- East Asian pre-modern medicine,
- infectious disease,
- New World exploration,
- cataloguing the natural world,
- and animal identification.
Today the Wangensteen Historical Library continues to acquire rare books and materials. Its holdings have grown to more than 73,000 volumes. It is an exceptional collection amongst its peers, and includes some of the most important, ground-breaking publications of the medical researchers and clinicians of an earlier age.