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Rare Books in Science and Medicine

Highlighting rare science and medicine books at UBC. The History of Science and Medicine guide is also available.

Research help

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Charlotte Beck
Woodward Library
2198 Health Sciences Mall
Vancouver, BC | Musqueam Traditional Territory
Canada V6T 1Z3
Phone: 604 822 2884

Research Help

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Chelsea Shriver
Rare Books and Special Collections
Irving K. Barber Learning Centre
1961 East Mall
Vancouver, BC
V6T 1Z1
604 822-0645


The W. C. Gibson History of Science & Medicine Collection, which contains rare books, manuscripts, medical biographies and books about medical history, is named for Dr. William C.Gibson (1913-2009) in recognition of his efforts in creating the historical book collection. Gibson’s remarks about the historical collection at the dedication ceremony September 7th, 1988 are available here.

Dr. Gibson joined the Faculty of Medicine at UBC in 1950 as a clinical researcher and associate professor. He was instrumental in the opening of the medical school after which he became Director of the Kinsman Laboratory for Neurological Research. From 1960 to 1978 he served as Professor and Head of the History of Medicine and Science Department. During that time he spearheaded the building of the Woodward Biomedical Library and was particularly involved in the purchases of antiquarian books for the Charles Woodward Memorial Room.

The motivation behind acquiring these rare books was to show students "the milestones of science - the first time any new discovery was published". The personal collections of Chauncey Leake, a US pharmacologist and medical historian, Hugh M. Sinclair, an Oxford lecturer and researcher, and Sir Robert MacIntosh, an Oxford professor of anesthesiology, were among the purchases that comprise the core of the collection. Additional collections have since been acquired from Claude Dolman and the Vancouver Medical Association, and special collections in obstetrics and gynecology from Dr. Gerald Korn, and in dermatology from Dr. McLean. 

Dr. Gibson was a student of Sir Charles Sherrington and through this connection UBC Library acquired his fonds. Other archival material in the collection include the Darwin and the Florence Nightingale letters as well as early medical British Columbia history documents. 

The rare books and manuscripts in this collection, which were housed in the purposefully built Charles Woodward Memorial Room, are now available in UBC Rare Books and Special Collections. Highlights of this collection and others are showcased elsewhere on this guide.