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Howard M. Spiro Papers

Call Number: Ms Coll 42

Scope and Contents

The collection contains typescripts of presentations to various audiences; typescripts of essays; correspondence primarily with his residents, but also some on Yale medical politics and from his sabbatical year in London; an incomplete set of reprints, including his medical journal columns on medical humanities for various journals, and his book reviews; reviews of Spiro's books; and photographs of Spiro with colleagues and family. Some folders of essays also include correspondence related to publications, in particular on Spiro's paper on the Nazi-era Pernkopf Atlas and on his biography of Milton Winternitz. There is also material on Spiro's sucessful attempt to end a prize given in West Germany on liver research named after Nazi doctor Hans Eppinger. Most of the talks and essays are on topics in humanities in medicine, and date from the 1960s to 2012. Highlights include speeches in New Haven during the Vietnam War, medical graduation speeches at Yale and elsewhere, and a draft autobiography. The collection also includes ten medical illustrations, some by Yale medical illustrator Armin Hemberger and dating from before Spiro's career, that Spiro collected.


  • 1918 - 2012
  • Majority of material found within 1960 - 2012


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Yale does not own copyright to most of these materials.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Boxes 1-5 from the Estate of Howard Spiro, 2012; boxes 6-7 from Howard Spiro, 2008.


Organized in seven series: 1. Dated typescript lectures and talks. 2. Typescripts and related correspondence by topic. 3. Draft autobiography and miscellaneous. 4. Reprints. 5. Medical illustrations. 6. Supplement: Correspondence and photographs. 7. Supplement: Additional publications and publications about H.M. Spiro.

Associated Materials

Records of Howard M. Spiro as Director of the Program for Humanities in Medicine, School of Medicine, Yale University (RU 313). Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, New Haven, CT.


3.5 Linear Feet (7 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Howard Spiro was head of the Gastroenterology Unit or Section of the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale from 1955 until his retirement in 1999. He was co-founder and first Director of the Program for Humanities in Medicine. The collection contains typescripts of Spiro's talks and addresses; typescripts of essays, mostly related to issues in humanities in medicine; a manuscript autobiography; correspondence related to Yale; reprints of Spiros's articles, columns, and book reviews; and ten original medical illustrations related to gastroenterology that Spiro had collected.

Biographical / Historical

Howard M. Spiro, Yale gastroenterologist and medical humanist, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 23, 1924. He graduated from Harvard College in 1944, majoring in English, and from Harvard Medical School in 1947. After internship, residency, and further study in Boston, interrupted by military service, Spiro came with his wife Marian to New Haven in 1955, recruited by Paul Beeson, chairman of Internal Medicine. He established the first full-time Gastrointestinal Unit at Yale. In 1965 Spiro established the Yale-Affiliated Gastroenterology Program, through which he and his graduate fellows worked with community hospitals in southeastern Connecticut. Spiro was known for his strong dedication to patients and to teaching, and for his research on the relationship between the mind and the gastrointestinal tract. He was sole author of the first three editions of his textbook, Clinical Gastroenterology (1st ed, 1970), and was founder and editor of Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology in 1979. In 1983 Spiro was the co-founder with Enid Peschel and first director of the Program of Humanities in Medicine which featured weekly lectures and conversations. Spiro wrote, edited, or co-edited several books under the aegis of Program, among them Doctors, Patients and Placebos (1986), When Doctors Get Sick (1987), Empathy and the Practice of Medicine (1993), Facing Death (1996), and The Power of Hope (1998). Long interested in the history of medicine and an active member of the Beaumont Medical Club, Spiro and Priscilla Waters Norton published a biography of a former medical dean, Dean Winternitz : Yale Medical School's Passionate Humanist, in 2011. Spiro retired from both his academic position and directorship of the Program in Humanities in Medicine in 1999, but remained associated with the Program until his death in Branford on March 11, 2012.

Custodial History

Boxes 1-5 papers were in Howard Spiro's office at 40 Temple Street and donated as part of his estate. Boxes 6 and 7 were donated by Howard Spiro in 2008 and added to the collection as a supplement.

Processing Information

Most of the typescripts were found unorganized, though there were some in folders for possible future use, such as "Available talks--2006." The topics in Series 2 were supplied by the archivist.

Guide to the Howard M. Spiro Papers
In Progress
Finding aid by Toby A. Appel
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Medical Historical Library, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library Repository

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