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John Martin M.D. Ph.D. Papers

Identifier: MsC0501

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Scope and Contents

The papers of John Martin consist of one linear foot of manuscripts dating from 1940 -- 1997. Arranged alphabetically by folder title the collection primarily concerns Dr. Martin's association with the University of Iowa. The establishment of the John Martin Rare Book Room with the donation of his outstanding collection of rare medical books, his sponsorship of essay contests for medical students, his participation in the History of Medicine Society, and his other generous donations to the University of Iowa Foundation are well documented. However, the papers also contain more personal materials, such as his military records, curriculum vitae, and autobiographical sketches.


  • Creation: 1926-2000


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

John Martin (1904 -- 1996) was born in Keithsburg, Illinois, the youngest of six children. Martin received his Bachelor of Science degree from the Lewis Institute of Chicago in 1930. He then attended Northwestern University Medical School earning his M.S. in 1934 and his M.D. the following year. Continuing his education, Dr. Martin went on to study neurophysiology and his Ph.D. was granted in 1941.

Dr. Martin began his professional career at his alma mater, Northwestern University Medical School. He rose through the ranks to the position of associate professor of surgery. His tenure at Northwestern was interrupted by World War II. He entered the military in 1942 and served in hospitals in North Africa and Italy. He was awarded a bronze star and retired from the armed forces as a colonel. After the war, Martin returned to Northwestern where he remained until 1952. Returning to the Army Medical Corps, Dr. Martin was instrumental in the establishment of a neurosurgical residency program at Walter Reed Hospital. He was chief of the neurosurgical service there from 1952 to 1955. After retiring from the military with a disability, Dr. Martin moved to the small Iowa town of Clarinda, where he had a limited hospital consulting practice in neurology. He was appointed clinical professor of surgery at the University of Iowa's College of Medicine in 1978. He published some fifty scientific papers and between 1935 and 1978, gave over seventy-five presentations on subjects ranging from anatomy to clinical neurology and neurosurgery.

Dr. Martin began collecting rare and valuable medical books in 1947. His first purchase was a first edition of Andreas Vesalius' De Humanis Corporis Fabrica Libra Septum, published in 1543. He continued to collect these books whenever he could afford to do so, and often when he could not, for the rest of his life. When his house in Clarinda was broken into in 1971, Dr. Martin began to be concerned about the safety of his collection. This led him to give his collection to the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City to form the John Martin Rare Book Room in the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences. The collection numbered over 3000 entries at the time of his death. He considered this collection as the work for which he would be remembered as making a difference. Dr. Martin died in Iowa City, Iowa at the age of ninety-two.


1.50 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Neurosurgeon and book collector specializing in rare medical books. These papers primarily concern Dr. Martin's association with the University of Iowa. The establishment of the John Martin Rare Book Room and the donation of his collection of rare medical books is well documented with correspondence, clippings, brochures, etc. Some autobiographical sketches are included along with records of Dr. Martin's military service.

Method of Acquisition

Dr. Martin began giving his papers to the Special Collections Department of the University of Iowa Libraries in 1994.

Related Materials

See Martin's faculty vertical file Dupuytren, Guillaume, 1777-1835.Oral lessons from the surgical clinic given at the Hôtel-Dieu of Paris. Hardin Library For Health Sci Rare Book RD30 .D9613 1987 a Mascagni, Paolo, 1755-1815.Prodrome of a work on the system of lymphatic vessels containing 24 plates, in folio. Hardin Library For Health Sci Rare Book QM197 .M3713 1986a

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)