Elihu Yale himself donated Yale College's first two medical volumes. A century later, in 1813, the Medical Institution of Yale College was opened with the help of Yale president Timothy Dwight and the Connecticut State Medical Society. A separate medical library was begun in 1814. By 1865, when a catalog was made of the collection, it numbered 1,200 volumes. In that year, however, the volumes were integrated with the College Library. It was not until 1917 that another separate medical library was begun by the professors of the Medical School.
The current medical library building, completed in 1940 and dedicated in 1941, connects to the Sterling Hall of Medicine, which was built in 1925. The Yale Medical Library was designed in the shape of a Y with two wings, one for the Historical Library reading room and one for the current periodical room, and stacks below for books and journals. The central rotunda honors Harvey Cushing (1869-1939), the father of neurosurgery, who graduated from Yale College in 1891 and returned to Yale in 1933.
The library's fine historical library was conceived in 1935 when three physicians, Harvey Cushing, John F. Fulton, and Arnold C. Klebs, agreed to donate their major collections of early texts in the history of science and medicine to Yale. These collections, including the incunabula, Robert Boyle, William Harvey, Andreas Vesalius, Hippocrates, and Galen Collections as well as the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Century Collections are shelved in a closed sub-stack area. The Historical Library's holdings also include an excellent print collection and a world-famous collection of weights and measures.
In June 1990, a gift from Mrs. John Hay Whitney, daughter of Harvey Cushing, made possible the completion of a major renovation and expansion project, resulting in the addition of the modern sky-lit Information Room and increased study and stack space. The Library was renamed the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, honoring Cushing and John Hay Whitney (1904-1982), Yale graduate, editor of the Herald Tribune, and patron of the arts.
The Cushing/Whitney Medical Library serves the biomedical and health care information needs of the Yale-New Haven Medical Center and the University, as well as providing service to area physicians and medical libraries. The collections cover clinical medicine and its specialties, the pre-clinical sciences, public health, nursing, and related fields. They also include the Historical Library's distinguished holdings. The library now contains more than 416,000 volumes.