Wickersheimer, Ernest

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(b. Bar-le-Duc, France, 12 July 1880; d. Strasbourg, France, 6 August 1965),

history of medicine,

Wickersheimer’s father, of Alsatian origin. was a military physician who had studied at the Strasbourg Faculty of Medicine and at the École du Service de Santé Militarire. Wickersheimer himself studied medicine at Paris, becoming externe des hôpitaux in 1899. Quickly drawn to the history of medicine, he defended a doctoral dissertation in this field, La médecine et les médecins en France à l’épogue de la Renaissance(1905), which established his reputation. (It was cited as early as 1915 in the second edition of J. L.Pagel’s Einführung in die Geschichte der medizin.) This early work contained the outline of the research that occupied more than sixty years of a highly productive life in science.

Wickersheimer’s dissertation oriented him toward both aspects of his career, for he became a librarian as well as a historian. In 1906 he began his training at the library of the Paris Faculty of Medicine, and the following year he spent six months at the University of Jena. At about the same time he studied under Karl Sudhoff at Leipzig. Wickersheimer furthered his training by working as a librarian at the Sorbonne in 1909. and in 1910 he was named librarian of the Académie de Médecine. Also in 1910 he made his first trip to the United States, where he established contacts with American libraries and formed close relationships with American colleagues. During World was I he served as a military physician.

From 1920 to 1950 Wickershimer was administrator of the Bibliothéque Universitaire et Régionale de Strasbourg, which became the Bibiliothéque Nationale et Universitaire in 1926. He reorganized it in 1919, upon the return of Alsace to France, and in 1945, after World War II. In the latter year the medical division of the library was in a particularly poor state, having been almost totally destroyed in a fire.

Despite his very heavy responsibilities, in 1920 Wickersheimer again took up his historical research. In 1936 he published Dictionnaire biographique des médecins en France au Moyen-Ãge, an authoritative book on which he continued to work throughout his life. An impressive bibliography of 230 items (which is incomplete, since it stops in 1961), published on the occasion of his scientific jubilee, shows the abundance and variety of the subjects Wickersheimer treated; medicine in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, notably at the school of Salerno; medicine in society; medical schools; the teaching of surgery; medical doctrines; hospitals; hospitals; and therapy–in brief, almost all aspects of the profession. He also made an inventory of the Latin books of the High Middle Ages in French libraries. A distinguished local historian as well, he studied various details relating to the hospitals of Strasbourg.

Wickersheimer received many honors. Elected an officer of the Legion of Honor in 1948, he had earlier received the Croix de Guerre 1914–1918 and was also an officer of public instruction and commander of the Order of Carlos Finlay (Republic of Cuba. 1928). He was awarded the silver medal of the Paris Faculty of Medicine for his dissertation in 1905 and was granted an honorary M.D. by the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University at Frankfurt am Main on 12 July 1960. Posthumously he was awarded a prize by the Académie de Médecine for the body of his work on the history of medicine (see Bulletin de l’Académie de médecine,149 [1965], 784).

A secretary or member of numerous French and foreign learned societies, Wickersheimer served as perpetual secretary of the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences and honorary president of the Acadámie Internationale d’ Histoire de la Médecine and of the Société Française d’Histoire de la Médecine.


I. Original Works. Very extensive, but not complete, bibliographies of Wickersheimer’s writings are in “Jubilé, scientifique du Dr. Wickersheimer,” in Histoire de la médecine, spec. no. 1960 (1961), 102–109; and in M. T. d’Alverny, “Travaux du Dr. E. Wickersheimer,” in E. Wickersheimer, Lea manuscrits latins de médecine du haut Moyen-Ãge dans les bibliothéques de France (Paris, 1966), 236–248.

II. Secondary Literature. See M. T. d’ Alverny, “L’oeuvre scientifique du Dr. E. Wickersheimer,” in Humanisme actif, mélanges d’art et de littérature offerts à Julien Cain, II (Paris, 1968), 299–307; “Jubilé scientifique du Dr. Wickersheimer” (see above), 89–109; and M. klein, “Le Dr. E. Wickersheimer,” in Clio medica, 1 (1966), 351–356.

Many French and foreign journals published obituaries of Wickersheimer. The Bibliothéque Nationale et Universitaire of strasbourg has, in its Alsatian division, numerous documents written by or pertaining to Wickersheimer.

Marc Klein