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Northwestern Alum Donates Rare Books to Galter Health Sciences Library

Northwestern alumnus Meryl Haber, MD ’59, GME ’64, recently presented the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Galter Health Sciences Library with a gift of seven rare and valuable books.

“Books continue to play an important role in teaching, even in an Internet-driven world,” says Haber, who used the illustrated texts throughout his more than 40 years in the classroom. “As opposed to seeing a picture on a slide projector or screen, books that students can read and handle allow them to make their own discoveries. As they say, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.'”

The books, which focused on anatomy, pathology, kidney disease, and urinalysis, were published between 1506 and 1860. The most recent title is a second edition of “On the Origin of Species,” by Charles Darwin, printed only six weeks after the first edition in 1860. The library currently owns a first edition of the Darwin work.

In addition to the gift of rare volumes, Haber provided funds for use in conservation and restoration of books and materials held by the library’s special collections. Having studied at the conservation library of Chicago’s Newberry Library, Haber holds a long-time interest in book binding and restoration.

“The titles included in the Haber donation are all seminal works in their respective fields,” says James Shedlock, AMLS, AHIP-DM, FMLA, director of Galter Library. “The 1555 edition of “Vesalius,’ for instance, is considered the first book of modern anatomy – marking the beginning of a revolutionary moment in anatomy and surgery, surpassed by no other scientific treatise in its importance.”

A world-renowned pathologist, Dr. Haber authored several textbooks on pathology, including “Differential Diagnoses in Surgical Pathology,” which recently published a new edition. Still, he says he has always had an interest in collecting rare titles that feature illustrations, insisting that these texts allowed his students to best understand medicine and its history.

“Students go through medical school too quickly,” says Haber. “It’s key that they review the history and acquire the background knowledge of diseases; these diagnostic aspects are essential.”

Haber was the Borland Professor and chair of the Department of Pathology at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center until 2000, and currently serves as a Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Pathology at Rush Medical College. During his career, Haber also held academic appointments at Northwestern University, the University of Hawaii School of Medicine, and the University of Nevada School of Medical Sciences.

Over the years, Haber has held key positions in various professional organizations, including the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, College of American Pathologists, and the Society for Academic Continuing Medical Education. His articles have appeared in more than 50 publications and he has written or co-authored more than a dozen textbooks or chapters on a variety of medical-related topics.

“I hope that my collection benefits the library and the students and faculty it serves for generations,” says Haber.