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Henry E. Sigerist

Correspondences with Welch, Cushing, Garrison, and Ackerknecht

Edited By Marcel H. Bickel

Henry E. Sigerist (1891-1957) is known as the most influential medical historian in the first half of the 20 th century. More than that he was a scholar of an unusually broad spectrum of activities. 50 years after his death he is still the subject of publications. During his active life in Zurich, Leipzig, Baltimore, and again in Switzerland he exchanged letters with some 300 correspondents of all walks of cultural life. The letters to Sigerist as well as the copies of his own letters are preserved in near completeness, a fact that allowed an unabridged and annotated edition. This volume contains Sigerist’s correspondences with the architect of American medicine, William H. Welch, the pioneer brain surgeon, Harvey Cushing, the medical bibliographer, Fielding H. Garrison, and the medical historian, Erwin H. Ackerknecht. The letters allow insight into the correspondents’ biographies and activities, their private lives, and relationships between persons, topics, and books. They also reflect the eventful time of the mid-20 th century. To each of the four correspondences is added an introduction and indices of literary works and of persons mentioned.


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Preface 7


7Preface Henry E. Sigerist (1891–1957) is recognized as the foremost historian of medicine of his time. He was, in addition, an activist in the fight for a reform of the American health system and, last but not least, a scholar with an exceptional breadth of interests and with engaging hu- man qualities. Sigerist was born in 1891 in Paris, the son of Swiss parents. After schooling in Paris and Zurich he started out with studies of Oriental languages in Zurich and London, then studied medicine in Zurich and Munich. After obtaining his MD in 1917 he entered the field of the history of medicine as an independent scholar in Zurich and became so productive and successful that in 1925 he was called to fill the first chair of medical history in Leipzig as the successor of the famous Karl Sudhoff. After successful years at his new department he was offered the Chair of the first American institute of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. Glad to leave Germany before a Nazi takeover he moved to Baltimore in 1932. His Institute soon became the center of medico-historical activities in America, and the his- tory of medicine became professionalized. Sigerist became the outstand- ing scholar in the field, creating a wealth of publications; he also proved a successful organizer as well as an engaged propagator of new forms of health care systems, based on his conviction that health care was a right rather than a privilege. After 15 fruitful...

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