Currently featured in the Stanley J. Lucas, MD Board Room is a display about Dr. John Shaw Billings, MD, which was completed in conjunction with the Henry R. Winkler Center’s 5th annual Cecil Striker Society lecture. Dr. Dale C. Smith was the guest speaker for the event and his lecture was entitled “John Shaw Billings and the Medical College of Ohio: Shaping Twentieth Century Medicine.”Dr. Billings was an 1860 graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, a precursor to the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
Soon after graduation, Billings served in the United States Medical Corps during the Civil War, operating on wounded soldiers in both the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg among others.
Following the war, Billings was appointed as the Director of the Library of the Surgeon General’s Office, which later became known as the National Library of Medicine. During his tenure as Director, Billings was responsible for the completion of the first full catalog of the library’s holdings; the first volume of the Index Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon General’s Office was completed in 1880. At the same time, Billings also began compiling a card catalog for each medical article published, eventually published comprehensively as the Index Medicus in 1879; this service would later be known as Medline, which is still in production with services available online.
Through his position with the library, Billings was also involved in the collection of data on the 1880 census, publishing pioneering works on vital and social statistics as a result. During his involvement with the census, he proposed an idea of analyzing medical and demographic data mechanically by turning it into numbers and punching them onto cardboard cards. This idea led to the development of a tabulation machine, which was later used for the 1890 census, marking the first time that data for a census was entered and tabulated by machine only.
Later in life, Dr. Billings focused his efforts on consolidating the major libraries in New York City in to one unified public library, culminating with his overseeing the design and construction of the first New York Public Library.
With such a varied range of skills and life experiences, it is no wonder that Dr. Billings’ life has been both a source of fascination and research for many distinguished UC faculty including Cecil Striker, MD, and Leon Goldman, MD.
Another member of the faculty who placed Dr. Billings in high esteem was renowned physiologist Dr. Martin Fischer. Dr. Billings’ name was the last one included on a running wall of influential physicians from Hippocrates to Galen to Lister.
So it is fitting that this display is held in our Stanley J. Lucas Board Room, which houses the Cantagalli pharmacy as well as stained glass windows that were both prominent features in Dr. Fischer’s lecture hall.
If you are interested in viewing the John Billings display or for a tour of the Winkler Center, please call 558-5120 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment.