This film profiles the work of John Shaw Billings in the development of foremost medical library in the world. Born in Indiana in 1838, Billings attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, at age fourteen, graduating in 1857. He then attended the Medical College of Ohio, graduating in 1860. He joined the army at the start of the Civil War in 1861 and was assigned to the medical corps. He served in various capacities, most notably, as a surgeon at the Battle of Gettysburg. The letters to his wife present a graphic picture of soldiers' injuries during that battle. After the war, Billings served in the Office of the Surgeon General and was placed in charge of the library. It was his goal to make the library as complete as possible. In the course of his work, he created the Index Catalog, the Index Medicus, and a nascent interlibrary loan system. In 1885, he lobbied Congress for a larger library that served until 1962, when the National Library of Medicine moved to Bethesda, Maryland. In 1895, Billings retired from the army and the Library but went on to design and develop other libraries and hospitals. John Shaw Billings died in 1913.
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