This guide enumerates the types of printed and online resources for medical biography, listing major examples and indicating methods for finding more.  Where available, links to online versions and WorldCat records are given. For more information about obtaining the resources named in this guide, see Locating the Materials

Much medical biography can be found in general sources: in general biographical sources (largely by subscription in libraries) and in digital libraries (full text largely pre-1924).  These general sources are listed in General Biographical Sources. The various kinds of specifically medical biographical sources are covered in the rest of this guide with lists of major examples and instructions for finding more.

Search Tips:

If you're researching a major figure there may be book-length biographies or an entry in the American National Biography.

If not, try the general biographical sources, both the subscription databases and the free digital libraries which include or index general works which include physicians together with digitized medical biographical sources.

Further search in the specialized medical resources listed below will be guided by the prominence, era and often ethnicity, location, and gender of your subject.  Basic biographical data can often be found in the American Medical Association's Deceased Physician Masterfile.

Additional sources include:

  • Biographical dictionaries offer short biographical articles.  They are typically selective and retrospective, although they may contain some important living persons.
  • Who's whos offer brief biographical data on persons living at the time of publication. Together with obituaries in the professional literature, a "Who's Who" can the best source for persons of a more transitory prominence. The succession of various who’s whos offers valuable time slices of the past.
  • Directories (or registers, membership lists) are intended to list everyone in the profession or a professional organization at a certain time, usually with specialty and contact information.  City directories will list medical personnel in a particular city.
  • Medical and historical Periodical Articles and Obituaries.  Significant figures are often the subject of obituaries or historical articles in the medical or history of science literature.
  • Newspaper Obituaries and Genealogical Sources offer information on less well-known figures.
  • State Licensure gives information on directories issued by state licensing boards and by state medical societies.
  • Publications of or about medical schools often offer biographical information. These include school histories, biographical dictionaries of alumni/ae, biographical dictionaries, directories, periodicals and catalogs
  • Archival finding aids (collection inventories) and catalog records typically include a biographical note on the creator of the collection.
  • Physicians' Writings include personal accounts (diaries, autobiographies, etc.) together with non-medical literary and other works