Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c170

Elliott Carr Cutler papers


The Elliott Carr Cutler Papers, 1911-1948, document the administrative, teaching, research, and professional activities of Elliott Cutler, Moseley Professor Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Surgeon-in Chief of Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.


  • 1911-1948.


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. There are restrictions on access to portions of this collection. Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series II, III, IV, VI, and VIII. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information.

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.


10.2 cubic feet (9 record cartons, 2 document boxes, 1 half document box, and 1 legal document box)

The Elliott Carr Cutler Papers, 1911-1948, are the result of Cutler's administrative, teaching, research and professional activities at Harvard Medical School and Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. The bulk of the records document ECC’s work in the development of cardiac surgery and his administrative and teaching positions at HMS and PBBH between 1924-1947. HMS and PBBH records include faculty appointments, the development of internships, curriculum, medical instruction, and activities in the Laboratory of Surgical Research; PBBH records are primarily administrative and pertain to the management of interns, residents and staff at the hospital, the development of PBBH rules and precedents.


Elliott Carr Cutler (ECC), Moseley Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Surgeon-in-Chief at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital from 1932-1947, conducted research in cardiac surgery. He was born on 30 July 1888 in Bangor, Maine; ECC attended Harvard College, graduating with an AB in 1909, the same year he was captain of the Harvard crew team. He received his MD cum laude in 1913 from Harvard Medical School (HMS), graduating first in his class. He was subsequently awarded the John Harvard Fellowship and elected permanent class president.

ECC studied pathology with Frank Mallory at the Boston City Hospital during his fourth year at HMS. Following graduation, he spent five months in Europe, mostly in London and at the University of Heidelberg where he studied pathology with Professor Krehl. Upon his return to Boston, he began his surgical internship and assistant residency in November 1913 at the new Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (PBBH); ECC left in March 1915 to go with the Harvard Medical School Unit to the American Ambulance Hospital in Paris where he was resident surgeon for three months.

From 1915 to 1916, ECC was resident surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital; in 1916 he became a Volunteer Assistant at the Rockefeller Institute in New York, studying immunology with Dr. Simon Flexner until 1917. He returned to France in May 1917 as a lieutenant with the Harvard Unit at Base Hospital Number 5, part of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I; eventually he became the Director of Surgical Service at the Evacuation Hospital #3 at Crezancy in August, 1918 and attained the rank of Major. He was discharged from his military duties on April 29, 1919, and once again returned to Boston.

In 1919, ECC was appointed Resident Surgeon by Dr. Harvey Cushing at the PBBH and Instructor in Surgery at Harvard Medical School where he spent the greater part of the next three years in the Laboratory for Surgical Research. In 1921 he became Associate Surgeon at PBBH and Director of the Harvard Laboratory for Surgical Research. In 1924 he accepted the post of Professor of Surgery at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and became the first Chief of Surgery at the University Hospitals of Cleveland, and Chief Surgeon at Lakeside Hospital.

In August 1932, ECC returned to Boston to assume Dr. Harvey Cushing’s post as Moseley Professor of Surgery at HMS and Surgeon-in-Chief at PBBH, positions he held until his death in 1947.

In 1940, ECC revived the Harvard Unit of Base Hospital #5 to assist the European Allied Forces. ECC was soon ordered to active duty and, promoted to the rank of Colonel, left Washington, D.C. on 5 August 1942, to join the British forces in London where he assumed the post of Chief Consultant in Surgery, European Theater of Operations. He later became the Chief of the Professional Services Division and was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. In 1945 he was appointed consultant to the Veterans Administration.

ECC was one of the first surgeons to perform surgery on the human heart. On 23 May 1923, he inserted an instrument into the left ventricle to divide the stenosed mitral valve, a procedure which later became commonplace for the treatment of rheumatic heart disease. ECC and Dr. Claude Beck performed the first mitral valvulotomy at Lakeside Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. He was also the first doctor in North American to successfully undertake resection of the pericardium for constructive pericarditis. He relieved heart failure by performing a total thyroidectomy.

ECC published extensively throughout his career about thyroidectomy, thoracotomy, cardiotomy, mitral valvulotomy and his experiences as a surgeon in both World Wars. He also co-wrote The Atlas of Surgery with Dr. Robert M. Zollinger in 1939 which remained a standard surgery textbook throughout the 20th century.

ECC’s lifelong involvement with Harvard University extended to alumni activities both at Harvard College and HMS. ECC was President of the Associated Harvard Clubs from 1936-1937, the year of Harvard’s Tercentenary celebration, and President of the Harvard Alumni Association from 1939-1940. He was also a member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers, 1927-1932. Outside of Harvard, ECC was a member or officer of numerous medical and scientific organizations, including the American Surgical Association (president 1947), the American College of Surgeons (fellow), the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and the Society for Clinical Surgery (president 1941-1946). He was a member of the editorial boards including the American Heart Journal, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Surgery, the American Journal of Surgery, and the British Journal of Surgery. ECC was a founder of the American Board of Surgery and the Society for Consultants to the Surgeons General of the Armed Forces of the United States; he was an elected a member of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Rome and an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Great Britain. Locally, in 1939 ECC was appointed by the governor of Massachusetts to be a trustee of the Tewksbury State Hospital and Infirmary where he served as Chairman of the Board for one year. During this same period ECC was named Head of the Medical Aid Division of the Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety.

ECC’s professional, academic and military activities were recognized during his lifetime. For his military service in World War I, ECC was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in April 1922. For his distinguished service in World War II, ECC received the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit from the United States War Department, the Order of the Empire by King George VI of Great Britain, the Croix de Guerre by the French government, the Companion of the Order of Bath, and Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. ECC was awarded the prestigious Henry Jacob Bigelow Medal of the Boston Surgical Society in June 1947 for his accomplishments in surgery.

ECC died of prostate cancer in 1947 in his Brookline, Massachusetts home.

Series and Subseries Arrangement

  1. Series I. Personal and Biographical Papers, 1911-1948
  2. ___Subseries A. Personal and Family Papers, 1911-1948
  3. ___Subseries B. Social and Civic Activities, 1925-1942
  4. Series II. Western Reserve University and Lakeside Hospital Administrative Records, 1925-1932
  5. Series III. Harvard Medical School Records, 1919-1940
  6. ___Subseries A. Administrative Records, 1919-1939
  7. ___Subseries B. Laboratory of Surgical Research, 1923-1940
  8. ___Subseries C. Research Records, 1923-1934
  9. Series IV. Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Administrative and Teaching Records, 1931-1946
  10. Series V. Harvey Cushing Festschrift, 1927-1930
  11. ___Subseries A. Administrative Correspondence, 1927-1930
  12. ___Subseries B. Student Correspondence and Essays, 1929
  13. Series VI. Harvard University and Medical School Alumni Activities Records, 1916-1942
  14. ___Subseries A. Harvard Medical School Alumni Activities Records, 1916-1940
  15. ___Subseries B. Harvard University Alumni Activities Records, 1925-1942
  16. ___Subseries C. Harvard Tercentenary, 1935-1939
  17. Series VII. Military Service, 1932-1947
  18. Series VIII. Professional Activities Records, 1920-1947
  19. Series IX. Speeches and Publications, 1913-1947
  20. ___Subseries A. Speeches, 1913-1946
  21. ___Subseries B. Publications, 1935-1947
  22. ___Subseries C. Correspondence and Notes, Re: Speeches and Publications, 1916-1946
  23. Series X. Photographs, 1945-1947


Photographs are listed in Series III and VII where they appear, and again in Series X. Oversized papers are housed in box 4.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Elliott Carr Cutler Papers were donated to the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine by the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in 1960, Dr. and Mrs. Lawrence K. Pickett in 1998, and the Society of Medical Consultants to the Armed Forces in 1998.

Related Materials

Related collections in the Center for the History of Medicine include:

  1. Elliott Carr Cutler's faculty publications (1.Mh.1913.C)
  2. Bradford Cannon Papers
  3. Harvey Williams Cushing Papers
  4. Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records

For more information on related materials, consult the Public Services Librarian.

Processing Information

Processed by Maria Plonski, May 2002

Processing Note: HMS c170, the Elliott Cutler Papers, 1911-1948, was formerly GA 15.10. The collection is comprised of 10.2 cubic feet of material. Original order was retained when possible, and the collection was arranged into ten series. Patient records, grades and personnel records have been removed from the collection. Water-damaged correspondence was photocopied and the originals discarded.

Cutler, Elliott Carr, 1888-1947. Papers, 1911-1948: A Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
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.

10 Shattuck Street
Boston MA 02115
(617) 432-2170