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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c166

Edward Peirson Richardson papers


The Edward Peirson Richardson, Sr. papers, 1875-1931, document Richardson's career as Chief of the Third and later West Surgical Services at Massachusetts General Hospital and as John Homans Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School.


  • Creation: 1875-1931.


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. There are restrictions on access to portions of this collection. Patient information and personal information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series III, IV, V, and VI. 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.


8.3 cubic feet (8 record cartons and 1 document box)

The Edward Peirson Richardson Sr. papers, 1875-1931, contains the records from EPR Sr.'s personal and professional activities at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Less than one cubic foot of personal and family papers accompanies the professional material, most of which dates from 1914 to 1931, corresponding with EPR Sr.’s most productive years at HMS, MGH, and in private practice. Although EPR Sr. lived until 1944, the records date only until just after his stroke in 1931. The records in this collection were created primarily from EPR Sr.'s administrative roles and research on the thyroid gland. Other topics include medical education and training at HMS and MGH. Correspondence, notes, syllabi, writings, lectures, examinations, articles, and photographs document Richardson's research activities concerning abdominal ailments and thyroid disorders.


Edward Peirson Richardson, Sr. (EPR Sr.), MD, was an abdominal surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and John Homans Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School (HMS). Son of Margaret White Peirson and Maurice Howe Richardson (MHR), he was born on 7 April 1881 in Boston, Massachusetts. Maurice Howe Richardson was a prominent physician with ties to both HMS and MGH. EPR Sr.'s maternal grandfather, Edward Brooks Peirson (1820-1874), was a physician in Salem, Massachusetts. EPR Sr. received the AB from Harvard College in 1902. After a medical education that included sixteen months as a surgical house officer at MGH, he received the MD from HMS in 1906.

Following graduation, EPR Sr. became MHR’s surgical assistant. When MHR died suddenly in 1912, EPR Sr. took over his father’s general practice, which he maintained until 1922, when personal and professional demands required its closure.

During World War I, EPR Sr. served twice. He joined the First Harvard Medical Unit at British General Hospital No. 22, near Etaples, France in 1915, as a temporary honorary major. In July 1918, he was commissioned in the United States Army as a captain. In September of that year, he was promoted to major, and arrived with his unit in France on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918. He returned to the US in 1919.

On 26 May 1917 EPR Sr. married Clara Lee Shattuck, daughter of prominent Boston physician Frederick Cheever Shattuck (1847-1929). They had three children, Edward Peirson Richardson Jr., Elliot Lee Richardson, and George Shattuck Richardson, before Clara died from complications of childbirth on 6 December 1921.

EPR Sr. practiced surgery at MGH. He became Assistant Surgeon to Outpatients in 1911, Surgeon to Outpatients in 1912, Assistant Visiting Surgeon in 1919, Chief of the Third Surgical Service in1922, and Chief of the West Surgical Service in 1925, which became the first full-time surgical teaching unit at MGH. In addition, he was on staff at a number of other local hospitals, most notably at the Robert Breck Brigham Hospital, serving as a surgeon from 1914 to 1918, and as a consulting surgeon from 1921 to 1922.

During the same years, EPR Sr. served on the HMS faculty: he was appointed Assistant Professor of Surgery in 1922, Associate Professor of Surgery in 1925, and John Homans Professor of Surgery in 1927.

EPR Sr. often wrote for professional publications, including the Annals of Surgery,Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Journal of the American Medical Association, and Surgical Gynecology and Obstetrics. Topics reflected the range his of surgical interests, including the abdominal specialties of his father, but his main curiosity lay in thyroid and parathyroid surgery. He co-authored his most extensive published work, Diseases of the Thyroid (1929), with James H. Means.

Richardson held active memberships in many professional societies, including the American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Surgical Association, Massachusetts Medical Society, and Society of Clinical Surgery. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, nature, ecology, and travel. He was active in the Harvard Club, Somerset Club, and the Brookline Country Club.

In 1931, a debilitating stroke cut short his professional activities. Although he maintained his status as an honorary member of the MGH staff and as Homans Professor, Emeritus, he never fully recovered.

EPR Sr. died on 26 January 1944, at age 63. Funeral services were held at Mount Auburn Chapel on 29 January 1944.

Seriesand Subseries Arrangement

  1. Series I. Family Papers, 1897-1930
  2. Series II. Private Practice, 1913-1931
  3. Series III. Correspondence, 1891-1930
  4. ___SubseriesA. Alphabetical Correspondence, 1891-1930
  5. ___Subseries B. Outgoing Chronological Correspondence, 1909-1922
  6. Series IV. Harvard Medical School, 1902-1931
  7. ___SubseriesA. Student Notes, 1902-1905
  8. ___Subseries B. Harvard Medical School Administrative and Teaching Records, 1921-1931
  9. Series V. Massachusetts General Hospital Administrative Records, 1914-1930
  10. Series VI. Writings and Lectures, 1914-1929
  11. ___Subseries A.Articles and Lectures, 1914-1929
  12. ___Subseries B. Diagnosis and Treatment of Diseases of the Thyroid, by EPR Sr. and James H. Means,1927-1929
  13. Series VII. Photographs,1875, n.d.


The collection is organized into six series. Six photographs are listed in Series VII, Photographs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Edward Peirson Richardson, Sr. papers were donated to the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine by Margaret E. Richardson in 1999.

Related Materials

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

  1. Richardson, Edward Peirson, 1881-1944, Faculty publications. (1.Mh.1915.R)
  2. Richardson, Edward Peirson, 1918 -. Papers, 1898-1998.
  3. Richardson, Maurice H., 1851-1912. Papers, 1869-1913.

Processing Information

Processed by: Alyson Reichgott, March 2004

Processing Note: The collection is comprised of three accessions totaling 21 cubic feet. Approximately five cubic feet of patient records were discarded, along with three cubic feet of unmarked reprints. Unmarked, unrelated newspaper clippings, newsletters, and copies of correspondence were similarly discarded.

Richardson, Edward Peirson, 1881-1944. Papers,1875-1931: A Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library ofMedicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description
The Edward Peirson Richardson, Sr. Papers were processed with support from Margaret E.Richardson.

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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