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Reviewed by:
  • McGill Medicine
  • Delia Gavrus
Joseph Hanaway, Richard Cruess, and James Darragh. McGill Medicine. Volume 1885–1936 McGill-Queen's University Press. xix, 315. $60.00

Professor of neurology Joseph Hanaway, former McGill University dean of medicine Richard Cruess, and former associate dean James Darragh have written a sweeping history of one the most prestigious medical schools in Canada. The second volume covers the period 1885–1936, an eventful and uneven time in the history of the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University (the first volume was written by Hanaway and Cruess, and it dealt with the school's first half century, 1829–1885).

The second volume first chronicles a period of expansion (1885–1901), in which increased student enrolment led to an increase in laboratory space and a doubling in the size of the Medical Building, followed by a period of evaluation and change that saw the rise of experimental medicine (1901–14). The authors argue persuasively that the 1910 Flexner Report on the state of medical education in the United States and Canada was not the primary stimulus for the changes that occurred at McGill. Rather, the work of Dean Francis Shepherd and his staff, as well as the financial help of several important benefactors, was the essential catalyst for this change. The Flexner Report with its stress on pre-clinical science education did, however, enable McGill to carry on a lack of emphasis on clinical training, a slight that continued until the interwar period.

Help from the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1920s and 1930s, as well as the leadership of Dean Charles Martin, whom the authors describe as a decision maker and a good leader, resulted in many new developments, [End Page 291] such as the establishment of the Montreal Neurological Institute and the inauguration of the Osler Library. The latter part of the volume continues to chart the growth of various medical subjects (e.g., anatomy, pharmacology, neurosurgery, public health), but the treatment of some of these specialties feels rushed and incomplete. The volume concludes with a brief chapter on the governance of the medical faculty between 1885 and 1936.

This book is an excellent source of information for those interested in the history of medical education in Canada. It is most useful as a reference book; the authors' good use of subheadings makes looking up specific information very easy. The helpful appendices include biographical sketches of the main individuals introduced in the book, as well as lists of officers of the McGill Faculty of Medicine and the Holmes and Wood gold medalists. The book does have, however, several weaknesses that leave more room for future work on this topic. Secondary sources are mined only for factual details, and the professional history of medicine literature is used very little, if at all. The main focus of this volume is on administration, on the contributions of individuals associated with the medical school (deans, physicians, university principals), and on the changing curriculum. There is little analysis, framework, or historical argument, and as such this book contributes little to historiography. Furthermore, the book sometimes feels burdened with unnecessary details (e.g., the list of when and whom Dean Francis Shepherd's children married). Despite these shortcomings, the three authors have produced a well-researched, informative, and much-needed history of a great Canadian medical school.

Delia Gavrus
Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto


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