University of Calgary

Neuroscience collection

September 23, 2010

Rare book collection unites neuroscience history and future

By Jordanna Heller

The Mackie Family History of Neuroscience Collection provides a unique resource at the University of Calgary that will be available to everyone including students, faculty and the public. The collection broadens the neuroscience educational experience; digitizing the collection enables people around the world to share in the resource.

"This collection will be an invaluable resource for neuroscience research and education at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and related disciplines in the Faculties of Medicine, Science and Arts," says U of C President, Dr. Elizabeth Cannon. "It heightens the status of the University of Calgary as an international centre for neuroscience research and is an excellent addition to our library collection."

The collection includes an original copy of the 1953 Nature paper where Nobel winners James D. Watson and Francis Crick first described the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. It also includes the rare first neurological text written in the 1600s by Thomas Willis, the man who coined the term neurology and is known as the 'father of neurology'. The collection is valued at approximately $600,000.

Retired neurologist Dr. Robert Gordon, with one of 2,400 books from his neuroscience collection. Photo credit: Grady SemmensRetired neurologist Dr. Robert Gordon, with one of 2,400 books from his neuroscience collection. Photo credit: Grady SemmensStudents in the new Bachelor of Neuroscience program will immediately benefit from the collection. Vikram Karnik, a third-year student, is very excited about the collection. "For students like me with a passion for neuroscience, having these books on campus is like having a local version of the Louvre or the Met. They are that fascinating."

Dr. Robert Gordon is a retired neurologist who started the collection 40 years ago after acquiring a medical library from a distinguished physician. Gordon says he cannot think of a better place for the collection to be housed than the U of C, "with everything I know there is a very strong interest in the history of neurology, a very strong neurosciences department, there is the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. This is as wonderful a place to have a rare neurology book collection as anyplace in the world."

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