Treasures of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library

Students examine early anatomical texts in the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library.

Some of the most historically significant of the early illustrated anatomical works -- by artist-anatomists such as Vesalius (1514-1564), Albinus (1697-1770), Paolo Mascagni (1755-1815), William Hunter (1718-1783) and John Hunter (1728-1793) – can be found in the collection of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library.

The P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library began as the private collection of San Antonio physician Pat Ireland Nixon.  Born in Guadalupe County in 1883, Dr. Nixon studied at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he developed an interest in the history of medicine, as well as a love of rare medical texts, which he collected.  When Dr. Nixon moved to San Antonio in 1912 to open his practice, he sought out other physicians and organized a journal club, which eventually evolved into the Bexar County Medical Library Association (BCMLA).  Over the years the collection of the association grew to contain more than 15,000 volumes.

In 1970, the Bexar County Medical Society donated the rare books from the collection of the BCMLA to the new medical school in San Antonio — then called The University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio, but later becoming part of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.  In 1983 the collection was officially named the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library.   At that time it was moved to its present location, on the fifth floor of the Briscoe Library.

Today, as one of the sites of an annual art and anatomy workshop, as well as of a course in the history of anatomy, the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library supports the teaching mission of both The University of Texas at San Antonio and the The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.  The library reading room is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.  In addition to many historically significant volumes in the fields of anatomy, surgery, psychiatry and ophthalmology, the collection of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library also includes works of local importance, including Dr. Rudolph Menger’s Texas Nature Observations and Reminiscences (1913).  A Century of Medicine in San Antonio (1936) and The Medical Story of Early Texas (1946), both by Pat Ireland Nixon, are held in the library’s collection.

Membership in the Friends of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library is open to anyone who is interested in the history of the health sciences.    Dues are $10/year for students, $25 for individual members, and $50 for patrons. Membership in the Friends and gifts to the library  help to assure that we will be able to maintain, build and promote the use of the collection, both on the campus of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and in the academic communities of the surrounding area.

For more information about membership in the Friends of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, or about any of its programs, please contact Susan Hunnicutt, Special Projects Librarian, at (210) 567-2406, or email Hunnicutt@uthscsa.edu. Information about membership can also be found on the library’s website.

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