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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c167

Maurice Howe Richardson papers,1869-1913.

The Maurice HoweRichardson Papers, 1869-1913, document Richardson's career as Surgeon-in-Chief at Massachusetts General Hospital and as the Moseley Professor ofSurgery at Harvard Medical School.


  • 1869-1913.

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Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library doesnot hold copyright on all of the materials in the collections. Requests forpermission to publish material from the collection should be directed to thePublic Services Librarian. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from thePublic Services Librarian are responsible for identifying and contacting the personsor organizations that hold copyright. Reference Services and Access Information.


73.5 cubic feet (73 record cartons, 1 flat document box)

TheMaurice Howe Richardson Papers, 1869-1913, primarily contain records of Richardson's professional work as a pioneering abdominal surgeon and a Harvard Medical School faculty member. Correspondence, notes, syllabi, writings, lectures, examinations, articles, certificates, glass slides, and photographs document Richardson's abdominal surgery and appendicitis research and teaching activities. Richardson’s professional records also contain information on the changes and developments in surgical practice during the span of his career, particularly the process through which surgery evolved from a service performed at home by general practitioners and surgeons, to the standardized surgical practices of the present, performed in hospitals by highly skilled, specializedsurgeons, often with significant academic credentials.

The bulk of the records date from 1890 to 1912, and documentMHR’s medical and clinical training, both at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. In addition, the collection contains records from his private practice, research and publications, particularly concerning abdominalmaladies, and academic and clinical work assigned to HMS medical studentswhile he was a faculty member at MGH from the mid 1870s through the early 1910s. The collection also contains some personal records interfiled with the professional records and correspondence.


Maurice Howe Richardson (MHR), MD, was Surgeon-in-Chief at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and Moseley Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School (HMS). The son of Martha AnnBarber and Nathan Henry Richardson, he was born 31 December 1851 in Athol,Massachusetts. He received the AB from Harvard in 1873, and taught for a yearin Salem High School. There he met Dr. Edward Brooks Peirson (1820-1874), ahighly-regarded local physician. MHR studied medicine under Peirson’sguidance, and entered Harvard Medical School as a second-year student in 1874.During his last year as a student, he served for three months as surgical houseofficer at MGH. He resigned before completinghis service to become a private assistant to the demonstrator in anatomy atHMS. He received the MD from HMS in 1877.

Following graduation, MHRimmediately began a private practice. At the same time, he remainedan assistant in HMS’s Anatomy Department where he became acquaintedwith Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809-1894), Parkman Professor of Anatomy, and beganpreparing specimens for Holmes' lectures. During this time, MHR began the extensiveanatomical training that contributed to his surgical education and later practice.

MHR’sprofessional life bridged the period between pre-antiseptic and antisepticsurgery. Initially, he practiced throughout New England,performing surgery in private homes and hospitals. In 1882, MHR renewedhis life-long affiliation with the MGH, becoming a surgeonto outpatients, and a visiting surgeon in 1886. In 1888, he gave upprivate general practice in favor of surgery, the first physician in NewEngland to do so. He was a consultant to many Boston and New England hospitals,including Boston City Hospital, Carney Hospital, Corey Hill Hospital, and theFree Hospital for Women in Brookline, Massachusetts. The Richardson abdominalretractor, which bears his name, underscores his contributions to operativetechnique. Richardson’s surgical career culminated in his appointment asMGH Surgeon-in-Chief in 1911.

Between 1882 and 1912 MHR held several faculty positions at HMS. He becameDemonstrator of Anatomy in 1882, Assistant Professor of Anatomy in 1887,Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery in 1892, Associate Professor ofClinical Surgery in 1902, and Chair of Clinical Surgery in 1903. In 1907, MHRsucceeded John Collins Warren (1842-1928) as Moseley Professor of Surgery, and held this position until his death in 1912.

MHR frequently contributedto professional publications, including the Harvard Medical Journal, BostonMedical and Surgical Journal, Annals of Surgery, and the Journal of theAmerican Medical Association. His early writings covered a wide range of surgicaltopics, including an 1886 paper describing the first gastrotomy for the removal of aforeign body through the stomach. In addition, MHR produced articles on manysubjects pertaining to abdominal surgery, and became involved inearly appendix research conducted by his colleague, Reginald Heber Fitz(1843-1913). Richardson’s research and writings contributed to the early diagnosis and surgical prevention ofappendicitis.

MHR’s other research interests included diseases ofthe gallbladder, kidneys, and pancreas; male and female genito-urinarydiseases; breast, uterus, and ovarian cancers; and cranial nerve surgery. Hebegan a full-length volume on surgery of the abdomen that was partially written, but nevercompleted. His most extensive published works were Surgery of theAbdomen and Hernia, in Roswell Park’s Surgery by American Authors(1895), and Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, in Frederic S.Dennis’s System of Surgery (1896).

MHR maintained activememberships in many professional societies. Besides participation in the BostonMedical Library Association, Boston Society for Medical Science, and theObstetrical Society of Boston, he was an honorary member of Harvard’sAesculapian Club, fellow of the Massachusetts Medical Society, charter memberof the International Surgical Society, president of the American SurgicalAssociation (1902), and chairman of the surgical section of theAmerican Medical Association (1904).

In his private life, Richardson enjoyed musicand outdoor pursuits. He played the piano, flute, cello, and bassoon, andenjoyed fishing, hiking, and hunting. Noted for physical strength andendurance, he walked nearly sixty miles, from Fitchburg, Massachusetts to thetop of Monadnock Mountain in Jaffrey, New Hampshire and back, in one day. Heserved for one year on a committee for the regulation of Harvard athletics. MHR was married to Margaret White Peirson (July 1879) and they had six children.

On 31 July 1912, after a full day of surgery, Richardson died in hissleep. Funeral services were held at King’s Chapel, Boston, on 2 August1912.

Series and SubseriesArrangement

  1. Series I. Family and Financial Records, 1885-1912
  2. ___ Subseries A. Family Correspondence, 1886-1910
  3. ___ Subseries B. Financial Ledgers, 1885-1912
  4. Series II. Personal and Professional Correspondence, 1881-1912
  5. ___ Subseries A. AlphabeticalCorrespondence, Incoming, 1881-1912
  6. ___ Subseries B.Chronological Correspondence, Outgoing with Index, 1886-1912
  7. Series III. Harvard Medical School Student and Teaching Records, 1874-1912
  8. ___ Subseries A. Student Notes, 1874-1880
  9. ___ Subseries B. Harvard Medical School Class Schedules and Syllabi, 1902-1910
  10. ___ Subseries C. Examinations, 1907-1910
  11. ___ Subseries D.Lectures, 1895-1912
  12. Series IV.Writings and Speeches, 1869, 1886-1912
  13. ___ Subseries A. Articlesand Lectures, 1869, 1886-1912
  14. ___ Subseries B. Notes forFrederic S. Dennis’s System of Surgery and Roswell Park’s Surgeryby American Authors, n.d.
  15. ___ Subseries C. Unpublished Draft [Surgeryof the Abdomen], 1903-1908
  16. Series V. PatientRecords, 1886-1912
  17. Series VI. Photographs and Ephemera, 1889-1912
  18. ___ Subseries A.Certificates, 1902-1907
  19. ___ Subseries B. Glass Slides, 1911
  20. ___ Subseries C. Photographs, 1889-1912,n.d.
Arrangement Patient records are located in Series V, althoughpatient information is found throughout the collection. Photographs are listedwhere they belong in the collection, then again as Series VI, Visual Materials, inthe order in which they appear. Boxes 33-34 and 74 contain oversize materials.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The MauriceHowe Richardson Papers were donated to the Harvard Medical Library in theFrancis A. Countway Library of Medicine by Margaret E. Richardson in twoaccessions in 1999.

Related Materials

Related collections in the Center for the History of Medicine include:
  1. Maurice Howe Richardson's faculty publications (1.Mh.1888.R)
  2. EdwardPeirson Richardson, Sr., 1881-1944. Papers, 1875-1931.
  3. EdwardPeirson Richardson, Jr., 1918- . Papers, 1898-1998.
  4. Harvard Medical School. Department of Surgery Records.
Consult the Public Services Librarian for further information.

Processing Information

Processed by: Alyson Reichgott, March2001

Processing Note: Seventy-three cubic feet ofmaterial from two accessions were integrated to form the six series of the collection. Eleven cubicfeet of Edward Peirson Richardson, Sr. Papers, and two cubic feet of Ernest AmoryCodman Papers, were removed and placed with their respective collections inthe Center for the History of Medicine.
Link to catalog
Richardson, Maurice Howe, 1851-1912. Papers, 1869-1913: AFinding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
The Maurice Howe Richardson Papers were processed with support from Maragaret E. Richardson.

Repository Details

Part of the Countway Library of Medicine Repository

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