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SUB-GROUP Identifier: RG M-DE01

Robert Higgins Ebert records, 1911-1982 (inclusive), 1965-1977 (bulk), 1911-1982 (inclusive), bulk: 1965-1977 (bulk)

Scope and Content

The records of the Office of the Dean are a product of the administrative activities of the Dean of Harvard Medical School (HMS), primarily in the years 1963-1978, under the tenure of Dean Robert Higgins Ebert (1914-1996). Record types consist of correspondence, meeting minutes and agenda, memoranda, reports, proposals, committee records, and a smaller number of handwritten notes, receipts, article reprints, press releases, photographs, flyers, programs, newspaper clippings and other printed material.

Administrators and faculty at Harvard Medical School who were particularly involved in Dean Ebert's administration and whose work is well-documented in these records include F. Sargent Cheever, David D. Potter, former Dean George Packer Berry, Henry Coe Meadow, Jack R. Ewalt, Harold Amos, Don W. Fawcett, Harvard University President Derek C. Bok, Harvard University President Nathan M. Pusey, and Leon Eisenberg.

These materials do not contain extensive records pertaining to the development of the M.D.-Ph.D. program at HMS. With the exception of fund-raising activities to support the Health Science Technology (HST) Program, the records do not contain information on the creation and development of the joint Harvard-MIT program.

The Office of the Dean records consist of four Series; Series I contains five subseries: General Files, Harvard Medical School Files, Departments Files, Correspondence Files, and Harvard University-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Files. Series II contains the Intra-Institutional Relations Records. Series III contains the Harvard Hospital Files. Series IV contains two subseries: the Harvard Medical School Committee Files and the Ad Hoc Committee Files.


  • 1911-1982 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1965-1977

Language of Materials

Records are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Subgroup is open for research; access requires advance notice. Access to unpublished archival records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation of the record(s). Access to student and personnel records is restricted for 80 years. Folders restricted for 80 years are noted in the container list with the folder title. Please contact the Public Services Librarian for details.


50 cubic feet (43 record cartons, 10 document boxes, 4 half document boxes, 2 half legal document boxes, and 1 oversized flat box)

Biographical note: Robert Higgens Ebert

Robert Higgins Ebert (1914-1996) was Dean of Harvard Medical School from 1965 to 1977. During his tenure, Dean Ebert led the Medical School in dealing with issues of changing patterns of medical education, affirmative action and in the delivery of medical care.

Robert H. Ebert was born in Minnesota on September 10, 1914. He earned a B.S. from the University of Chicago in 1936, a Ph.D. from Oxford University in 1939 as a Rhodes scholar, and an M.D. from the University of Chicago Medical School in 1942. He interned at Boston City Hospital from 1942-1944, and served in the U.S. Navy from 1944-1946, later serving in Nagasaki after the detonation of the atomic bomb.

Ebert's first academic appointment was in 1946 at the University of Chicago Medical School. In 1956, he moved to Western Reserve University, where he was also the head of the Department of Medicine at the University Hospitals. Ebert came to Harvard in 1964 to hold the Jackson Chair in Clinical Medicine, which is based at Massachusetts General Hospital. Ebert's clinical research interests focused on respiratory diseases, particularly tuberculosis. He was appointed Dean of Harvard Medical School in 1965, succeeding George Packer Berry, and served as Dean until 1977. After he left the Medical School, Ebert became President of the Milbank Fund. Dean Ebert died on January 29, 1996.

Ebert became Dean of the Medical School at a time of great changes in medical education and medical care, mirroring the social changes in the country overall. Major issues facing the US at this time included shortage of doctors, disparity of care between geographic regions and urban/suburban/rural areas, and significant variations in the type and quality of medical education across the country. In addition, the Medical School faced financial challenges, including decreased National Institute of Health (NIH) funding beginning in 1968, and periods of relatively high economic inflation. Several major political changes in the country had a significant effect on the Medical School as well, including increased diversity in the student population and the establishment of Affirmative Action programs in schools and the workplace.

Major events at Harvard Medical School under Dean Ebert included the establishment of the M.D./Ph.D. program, and the Harvard-M.I.T. program in Health Science Technology. Ebert worked to redefine the role of the teaching hospitals, and promoted cooperation among, and consolidation of the affiliated hospitals that combined to form Brigham and Women's Hospital in 1975. As part of his effort to improve the involvement of the Medical School in the process of training doctors, he developed a new faculty appointment category, "Clinical Full-Time." As a result of this initiative, Harvard implemented a major revision in the pre-clinical curriculum, focusing less on memorization and more on early introduction to medical training and working with patients. Ebert worked to enhance the school's non-government financial resources for medical research, including enlisting corporate support. Under his guidance, the Department of Neurobiology was created, and the physical plant of the Medical School was enlarged with the addition of the Laboratory for Human Reproduction and Reproductive Biology (LHRRB) and Seeley Mudd buildings. Additionally, under his leadership, the Medical School significantly increased the recruitment and enrollment of women and of minorities.

Dean Ebert was profoundly concerned with the issue of providing high-quality medical care broadly, and believed that medical schools must be involved in medical care planning. This led him to take the leading role in the establishment of the Harvard Community Health Plan (HCHP) in 1968, the nation's first academic health maintenance organization (HMO). HCHP played a major role of model for the development of health maintenance organizations and the future delivery of health care in the U.S.

Series Listing

  1. Series 00154 Executive Administrative Files, 1911-1982 (bulk 1965-1977)
  2. ___ A. General Files, 1955-1982 (bulk 1965-1977)
  3. ___ B. Harvard Medical School Files, 1911-1977 (bulk 1965-1977)
  4. ___ C. Departments Files, 1958-1977 (bulk 1965-1977)
  5. ___ D. Correspondence Files, 1955-1982 (bulk 1965-1977)
  6. ___ E. Harvard University-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Files, 1967-1976
  7. Series 00156 Intra-Institutional Relations Records, 1957, 1963-1978
  8. Series 00184 Harvard Hospital Files, 1950-1980.
  9. Series 00155 Committee Records, 1963-1980
  10. ___ A. Harvard Medical School Committee Files, 1965-1977
  11. ___ B. Ad Hoc Committee Files, 1963-1980

Acquisition Information

Accession number 2004-038 transferred from the Harvard Medical School Office of the Dean in 1977, and accessioned in 2003.

Related Materials

  1. Papers of Robert H. Ebert, 1950-1965.
  2. Harvard Medical School. Office of the Associate Dean for Medical Care Planning. Records, 1961-1974.
  3. Harvard Center for Community Health and Medical Care. Records, 1966-1980.

See also publications by and about the Office of the Dean and Robert H. Ebert that are catalogued in Harvard's HOLLIS online catalog.

Processing Information

Under the guidance of Virginia Hunt and Jennifer Pelose, the records of the Office of the Dean were processed and described in increments by Fran Rosen and Elizabeth Uzelac in April, 2004, Tamara Durbin in December, 2004, Todd Strauss in April, 2005, Bryan Sutherland in November, 2006, and Kim Reynolds in February, 2008.

Processing staff in the Harvard Medical School Archives analyzed the records, took detailed notes, and created a finding aid to improve access to the contents. The records remain in their original order, as created and organized by the Office of the Dean. Where required, processing staff photocopied documents on acid-free paper to enhance preservation. Processing staff discarded duplicate records and records that did not meet the collection policy of the Harvard Medical School Archives as expressed in the General Records Schedule.


Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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