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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c53

Stanley Cobb Papers, 1898-1982 (inclusive), 1901-1968 (bulk)

The Stanley Cobb Papers, 1898-1982, are the product of Cobb's research and teaching activities at Harvard Medical School, Boston City Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital. The collection consists of Cobb's corespondence, reports, writings, photographs and drawings resulting from his career as a neurologist at Boston City Hospital and later as Chief of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. Cobb's publication files, containing his reprints, manuscripts, and publciations correspondence record his research on cerebral circulation and psychiatry. Cobb's personal correspondence and records resulting from his membership in professional societies and associations are also included in the collection.


  • 1898-1982 (inclusive),
  • Majority of material found within 1901-1968

Conditions Governing Access

Access requires advance notice. Consult the Public Services Librarian for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all the materials in the collection. Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to the Public Services Librarian. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Public Services Librarian are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright. Reference Services and Access Information.


48 boxes


Stanley Cobb, a seminal figure in several areas of neurology and psychiatry, has an especially solid reputation as a neuroanatomist and neuropathologist. Most important, he served as a catalyst for integrating the practice of neurology with psychiatry and for brining psychiatry into the modern hospital environment. In so doing, he not only introduced psychoanalysis into the medical school curriculum, he was also a pioneer in psychosomatic medicine.

A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School (M.D., 1914), Cobb, save for postgraduate study at Johns Hopkins, service in World War I, and European tour as a Rockefeller fellow, spent his entire career at Harvard and in Boston, Mass. Rising from various junior posts to Bullard Professor of Neuropathology in 1926, he also was Chief of the Neurology Service at Boston City Hospital from 1925 to 1934 and Chief of the Psychiatry Service at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) from 1934 to his retirement in 1954. The years at the City Hospital were productive ones, highlighted by Cobb's collaboration with William Lennox on the study of epilepsy and with Henry Forbes (his brother-in-law) on experiments in the cerebral circulation. His psychiatric service at MGH was one of the first in the country to be integrated with the medical and surgical services of a general hospital. There he attracted a top flight staff of men and women whose research he directed and careers he influenced. His prodigious contributions to scientific and clinical aspects of neurology and psychiatry were summarized in his monographs, The Borderlands of Psychiatry and The Foundations of Neuropsychiatry.

Throughout his life, from early boyhood on, Dr. Cobb was a keen observer of the natural world of birds and wildlife. Some of his articles on ecological change became classic--especially his 1962 note on "Death of a Salt Pond." A member of the Harvard Medical Faculty from 1919, he was honored by the establishment of the Stanley Cobb Chair at the Medical School in 1960. Other honors included the award of the Kober Medal in 1956 and a Distinguished Service Award from the New York Academy of Medicine in 1967. Crippled by arthritis during the latter part of his life, he maintained his intellectual vigor until his death in 1968 at he age of 80.

Stanley Cobb's manuscript papers were a major resource for Benjamin V. White's full-length biography of his father-in-law, Stanley Cobb: A Builder of the Modern Neurosciences Boston: Countway Library of Medicine, 1984). White found the early period of Cobb's life up to 1934 well documented by the correspondence, manuscripts and related materials that were long ago deposited in the Harvard Medical School Archives. The nucleus was supplemented by family letters gathered together over the years by Cobb's sister Hildegarde Forbes, and by letters and papers that had accumulated during Cobb's retirement years from 1954 to 1968. Almost all of these supplementary materials have since been added to the Cobb Papers in the Countway Library, thanks to Dr. White. Thanks are also due to Ben White and his wife Helen for filling a large gap that existed in the documentation of Cobb's life. Upon finding that there had been a disastrous loss of files covering Cobb's entire tenure at MGH, the Whites in 1977 undertook a series of taped interviews of persons able to provide essential information for that period. These interviews are now part of the Cobb Papers, as well as White's manuscript and working materials for the biography.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. I. Personal and Professional Correspondence, 1906-1966, undated
  2. ___ A. Letters to Stanley Cobb, 1906-1914
  3. ___ B. 1920s Correspondence, 1921-1928, undated
  4. ___ C. Bound Volume of Stanley Cobb Letters, 1923-1925
  5. ___ D. 1950s and 1960s Correspondence, 1957-1967, undated
  6. II. Manuscripts and Publications Records, 1898-1951, undated
  7. ___ A. Article Publication Records, 1900-1964, undated
  8. ___ B. Books and Contributions to Books Publication Records, 1935-1949
  9. ___ C. One Hundred Years of Progress in Psychiatry, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, Correspondence, Manuscripts, and Related Publication Records, 1946-1949
  10. ___ D. Non-Stanley Cobb Authored Manuscripts and Publication Records, 1989-1951, undated
  11. III. Subject Files, 1918-1966
  12. IV. Personal and Biographical Records, 1918-1976, undated
  13. ___ A. Personal Papers, 1918-1969
  14. ___ B. H.S. Forbes Files, 1945-1976
  15. ___ C. Bird Research Records, 1955-1960, undated
  16. ___ D. Teaching Records, 1941
  17. V. Photographs and Memorabilia, undated
  18. ___ A. Personal and Professional Photographs, undated
  19. ___ B. Stanley Cobb Portrait and Group Photographs, undated
  20. ___ C. Awards and Citations, undated
  21. VI. Stanley Cobb Biography Collected Research Records, 1977-1982, undated
  22. ___ A. Correspondence, undated
  23. ___B. Audio Tapes and Interviews, 1977-1982, undated
  24. ______ 1. Interviews, 1977-1982
  25. ______ 2. Topical Interviews, 1979-1982
  26. ___ C. Ben White's Manuscripts and Working Records, undated

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Stanley Cobb Papers were donated to the Harvard Medical Archives in the 1950s.
  1. Accession number 2008-021. Donated to the Harvard Medical Library by Raymond Coppinger, September 24, 2007.
  2. Accession number 2008-062. Donated to the Harvard Medical Library by Nathan Cobb, April 30, 2008.

Related Records at Other Institutions

The Wilder Penfield Fonds, ca. 1920-1976, can be found at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.

Processing Information

Processed in 1992.
Link to catalog
Cobb, Stanley, 1887-1968. Papers, 1898-1982 (inclusive), 1901-1968 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.

Repository Details

Part of the Countway Library of Medicine Repository

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Boston MA 02115
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