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MGH History

Bulfinch Building in 1941. Source

Finding More on the History of MGH and its People

Many articles have been written about the history of MGH, its physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, scientists, and administrators from the 19th century through the present. When searching for historical information, keep in mind that words and phrases used today often differ from those in past eras. Including or excluding an individual’s middle name, middle initial, or married name, may improve retrieval. For example, William T. G. Morton is also called W. T. G. Morton, and William Thomas Green Morton. When searching databases for “firsts,” keep in mind that the use of such words as new, novel, pioneering, groundbreaking, pathbreaking, may help to retrieve articles, as may the use of words like timelines (or time lines) or milestones. It may be difficult to prove a “first” when other institutions also have valid claims. 

Medical Databases

The Anesthesia History Association Newsletter (1982-1995) and the Bulletin of Anesthesia History (1995-2013) are available from the Anesthesia History Association. Scroll down to Past Issues. They are continued by the Journal of Anesthesia History (2015-).

Dental Cosmos, a Monthly Record of Dental Science (published 1859-1936) contains many articles about early use of ether, with links to full text.

IndexCat provides free access to the digitized version of the printed Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office. It does not provide links to articles. For articles about MGH, type: "massachusetts general hospital" into the search box.

MGH OneSearch, from EBSCO Information Services.

For articles about MGH, published in a wide variety of scholarly journals and non-scholarly serials, copy and paste the following strategy into the “MGH OneSearch” box:

(TI "massachusetts general " OR AB "massachusetts general ") AND SU history). 

​Ovid Medline, from Ovid Technologies, Inc.

For articles about MGH, copy and paste the following strategy into the Ovid search box:

(exp history, 19th century/ or exp history, 20th century/ or exp history, 21st century/ or "history of medicine"/ or hi.fs. or Historical and massachusetts general.ti,ab.

​PubMed@MGH, from the National Library of Medicine

For articles about MGH, copy and paste the following strategy into the PubMed search box:

(("History, 21st Century"[Mesh] OR "History, 20th Century"[Mesh] OR "History, 19th Century"[Mesh] OR "history" [Subheading] or "historical article"[Publication Type]) AND "massachusetts general"[Title/Abstract])

MGH Nursing

Many of the materials relating to the MGH School of Nursing (previously called the Training School for Nurses) have been digitized and are freely available in  You can search directly via Google using the following as an example, keeping punctuation as shown:

("Anna C. Maxwell" OR "Anna Caroline Maxwell" OR "Anna Maxwell") mgh nursing

Non-Medical Databases

There are many other sources of information other than medical databases. Newspaper and periodical databases are rich repositories. Several relevant databases are made available through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, including:

Boston Globe (1980-current)

Academic OneFile

New York Times (1995-current)

Harvard University has extensive newspaper and periodical databases that can can be searched with a HarvardKey. They include, but are not limited to:

Gale Cengage 19th Century U.S. Newspapers

JSTOR (PDFs of back issues of core scholarly journals from the earliest issues to the past few years. Browse by journal title or discipline, or search full text.)


Readex: America’s Historical Newspapers

Boston Public Library (BPL)’s databases can be searched by anyone with a BPL card. Some databases are only accessible within BPL. Relevant newspaper and periodical databases include:

  • 19th Century US Newspapers
  • Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals
  • Boston Globe (1872-1984)
  • Boston Globe, 1980-
  • Jewish Advocate (1905-1990)
  • JSTOR (PDFs of back issues of core scholarly journals from the earliest issues to the past few years. Browse by journal title or discipline, or search full text.)
  • New York Times (1851-2012)
  • New York Times (1985 - Present)
  • Newspaper Archive (includes Boston Globe (1872-1922) and Boston Post (1831-1922))
  • Readers' Guide Retrospective

Chronicling America, from the Library of Congress, is a freely available collection of millions of American newspapers covering 1789-1963. It can be searched in a variety of ways.

Online Catalogs 

HOLLIS, Harvard’s online catalog

HOLLIS for Archival Discovery Formerly called OASIS, this site provides access to finding aids for archival and manuscript collections at Harvard.

HOLLIS Images includes content from archives, museums, libraries, and other collections throughout Harvard.. 

LocatorPlus, the National Library of Medicine’s online catalog

WorldCat, online catalog of books and journals held at libraries worldwide: Click the title of a book. In the “Enter your location” box, type your zip code to find a library near you.

Online Repositories Carry out your search using the search box in the middle of the screen.  From the drop-down that will appear when you begin to type your search, click “Search text contents.”

Google Books.  Carry out your search, and then from the “Any Books” drop-down, click “Limit to Free Google eBooks.” Click “Advanced Full Text Search”