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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c609

Marius Nygaard Smith-Petersen papers


Consists of biographical and research material, professional and personal correspondence, manuscripts, and some reprints. Some material is in Norwegian and untranslated.


  • Creation: 1905-1954 (inclusive)
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1929-1948


Language of Materials

Papers are in primarily in English with some materials in Norwegian.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions appear in Folder 04. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information. Access requires advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center's use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.


1 cubic foot (in 1 records center carton.)

Consists of personal and professional correspondence, manuscripts, matriculation records, passports, naturalization records, photographs, memorial tributes, and Norwegian insurance papers. Other records include student notebooks, including a high school physics notebook; laboratory notes; correspondence concerning the use of Smith-Petersen nails for hip fractures; and papers about patient treatment. Also included is a bound copy of the diagnosis textbook from Harvard Medical School which has been extensively underlined.

Papers are primarily in English with some materials in Norwegian.

Biographical Note

Marius Nygaard Smith-Petersen (1886-1953), B.S., University of Wisconsin, 1910; M.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, 1914.

Marius Nygaard Smith-Petersen was born in November 1886 in Grimstad, Norway, to Morten Smith-Petersen (1853-1888) and Kaia Jensine Rosalie Ursin (1854-). After the death of her husband in 1888, Kaia Ursin moved the family to Oslo, Norway; in 1903, Smith-Petersen and his mother emigrated to the United States, settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Smith-Petersen graduated from West Side High School in 1906 and matriculated at the University of Chicago, Illinois, where he attended classes for one year before transferring to the University of Wisconsin where he graduated with a B.S. in 1910. He began medical school at the University of Wisconsin, working as a laboratory assistant to Joseph Erlanger (1874-1965), then transferred to Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, graduating with a M.D. in 1914.

Smith-Petersen completed an internship in internal surgery at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, under Harvey Cushing (1869-1939) and accompanied the surgeon and the American Ambulance to Paris with the First Harvard Medical Unit during World War I. Smith-Petersen also studied orthopedics with E.G. Brackett (1860-1942) at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and became his assistant in practice in 1917.

Smith-Petersen went into general practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1922 and held successive positions at the Harvard Medical School as an assistant instructor (1920-1930), instructor (1930-1946), and clinical professor (1935-1946) of orthopedic surgery. He was chief of the orthopedic service at the Massachusetts General Hospital from 1929 to 1946 and served as a consultant to United States Surgeon General Thomas Parran, Jr., between 1942 and 1945.

Smith-Petersen had a particular interest in the treatment of the hip and lower back, including fractures of the femoral neck, mold (or mould) arthroplasty, and spinal osteotomy. He developed the hip-nailing technique as a way of treating fractures of the femoral head; the treatment included development of the Smith-Petersen nail as surgical hardware for the procedure. He was one of the creators of mold arthroplasty, a technique designed to stimulate cartilage regeneration on both sides of a molded joint fitted over the femoral head. Smith-Petersen tried a number of materials for the artificial joint including glass, Pyrex, and Bakelite, before following a recommendation from a dentist to try Vitallium, an alloy of cobalt, chromium, and molybdenum, with trace amounts of other substances. Vitallium is resistant to corrosion and breakage and frequently used in dentistry and artificial joint work; it proved a successful material for mold arthroplasty. Nathaniel Allison (1876-1932), Carroll Larson (1909-), and Otto Aufranc (1909-1990) worked with Smith-Petersen in perfecting both the molded joint and the associated surgical technique.

Smith-Petersen married Hilda Whitney Dickinson in 1917; the couple had three children: Porter, Morton, and Hilda. Smith-Petersen died in 1953.

Collection Arrangement

Alphabetical order by folder title.


  1. Molds, tools, and surgical nails.Warren Anatomical Museum catalog number 21406.

Processing Information

Processed by Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook, 2021-11.

Staff at the Center for the History of Medicine refoldered and reboxed material and created a finding aid to increase researcher access. Folder titles were transcribed from original folders which were then discarded; where there were no folder titles, the archivist supplied titles. Rusty paper fasteners were removed and discarded.

Smith-Petersen, Marius Nygaard. Papers, 1905-1954 (inclusive), 1929-1948 (bulk) : Finding Aid.
Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description

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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