While a teenager growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, W. BRUCE FYE ’72 (fellow, cardiology, 1975–1977) developed what he later described as an “advanced case of bibliomania.” His passion for book collecting took a medical turn a few years later when he was a premedical student at Johns Hopkins University.
Over the ensuing decades, after earning a master’s in the history of medicine at Johns Hopkins (’78), Fye pursued a dual career in cardiology and the history of medicine, amassing an impressive collection of important books even as he rose to prominence in both fields: He is past president of the American College of Cardiology, the American Osler Society and the American Association for the History of Medicine.
Last spring, Fye donated 45 boxes of personal papers to the Alan Mason Chesney Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. “I was a collector, so I saved everything,” he says, chuckling. “I’m optimistic that these papers will prove valuable to historians and others interested in the development of the specialty of cardiology, the evolution of the field of medical history, and trends in medical book collecting over the past half century.”
Fye retired from the Mayo Clinic in 2014, where he was a cardiologist, professor of medicine and the history of medicine, and medical director of the institution’s Center for the History of Medicine, which was subsequently named for him.
His papers, which date back to the late 1960s, document his career as a cardiologist and medical historian, his leadership roles, and his research, which led to the publication of three books: The Development of American Physiology: Scientific Medicine in the Nineteenth Century; American Cardiology: The History of a Specialty and Its College (which won the Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine); and Caring for the Heart: Mayo Clinic and the Rise of Specialization.
Over the past decade, Fye has begun dispersing books from his collection. He has donated more than 15,000 medical books to the Mayo Clinic, and the international auction house Bonhams has held three auctions of medical and scientific books from his collection.
Fye says he takes his inspiration from William Osler. “Osler was a humanistic physician who had a passion for medical history and book collecting,” he says. “He has long served as my role model.”