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December 6, 1965

Selected Papers of John Shaw Billings

JAMA. 1965;194(10):1154-1155. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090230122055

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Billings' renown as bibliographer and librarian will be augmented by this book; most of the papers reprinted are devoted to these subjects. And those who unthinkingly accept the National Library of Medicine as the most complete medical library in the world are well reminded that in 1865, when Billings began his career there, the library boasted 1,800 volumes.

Nevertheless, of particular interest were two very brief communications, neither directly related to Billings' vocation, which seem to reveal little-known facets of the man. One paper, the pseudonymously published "Microscopical Memoranda," is a pleasant little satire reporting the author's observation of a remarkable diatom, although "... no other lens can possibly show these lines, nor is it probable that this lens would with any other observer." The other passage, an excerpt from a communication on vital statistics, relates Billings' role in the development of Hollerith cards. In 1880 Billings suggested to Hollerith that

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