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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c53

Stanley Cobb papers

Overview

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.

Dates

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

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. 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.

Extent

48 boxes
The Stanley Cobb papers, 1898-1982, are the product of Cobb's research and teaching activities at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; Boston City Hospital, Massachusetts; and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. The collection consists of Cobb's correspondence, 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 publications correspondence, pertain to his research on cerebral circulation and psychiatry. Cobb's personal correspondence and records resulting from his membership in professional societies and associations, as well as a series of records from research that Benjamin Vroom White, Cobb’s son-in-law, conducted while writing a biography of Cobb are also included in the papers.

The collection consists primarily of correspondence and other records from Cobb’s life up to 1934. Additional family letters collected by Cobb’s sister, Hildegarde Forbes, and letters and other papers from Cobb’s retirement (1954-1958) were added to the original Cobb papers with support from White, who researched and wrote a biography of Cobb in 1984: Stanley Cobb: A Builder of the Modern Neurosciences. Benjamin and his wife, Helen (Cobb) White also supplemented the record of Cobb’s tenure at Massachusetts General Hospital by conducting oral histories. These tapes, along with White’s manuscript and biographical research records, are now part of the Cobb collection.

Biographical / Historical

Stanley Cobb (1887-1968), A.B., 1910, Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts; M.D.,1914, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, was a psychiatrist, neurologist, neuropathologist, and neuroanatomist whose work integrated psychiatry and neurology with a focus on psychosomatic medicine (somatic symptom disorders). Cobb served as Chief of the Neurology Service at Boston City Hospital, Massachusetts, from 1925 until 1934, when he was appointed Chief of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, a position he held until his retirement in 1954; he held the title of Bullard Professor of Neuropathology at Harvard Medical School from 1926 to 1954. Cobb served as President of the American Neurological Association (1949) and the American Psychosomatic Society (1955-1956).

Stanley Cobb, identified as white in the 1940 United States Census, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on December 10, 1887. When he was five years old, his family moved to Milton, Massachusetts. Cobb developed a stammer as a young child, which affected him throughout his life. Because of his stammer, his mother kept him out of school until he was eight, then withdrew him from school for another two years after he was teased. As a child, he grew interested in birds and nature, a hobby that stayed with him throughout his life (1). Cobb graduated from Harvard College in 1910 and from Harvard Medical School in 1914. He served in World War I, then went to Baltimore, Maryland for postgraduate training at Johns Hopkins University. In 1919, he returned to Boston where he joined the staff at Massachusetts General Hospital while also seeing private clients. He also worked with Alexander Forbes (1882-1965) and Walter B. Cannon (1871-1945) in their physiology laboratory at Harvard Medical School. In 1923, Cobb left Boston to spend time in Europe with his family. He spent 1924 to 1925 studying with physicians in Berlin, Germany; Paris, France; and Oxford, England, as a Rockefeller Fellow. After returning, he established the Neurological Unit at Boston City Hospital, Massachusetts with a Rockefeller Foundation grant and served as the Unit’s Chief from 1925 to 1934. While at Boston City Hospital, he collaborated with William Lennox (1884-1960) on the study of epilepsy and with Henry Forbes (Cobb’s brother-in-law) on experiments in cerebral circulation. In 1934, Cobb founded the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, again with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation; it was one of the first psychiatric services in the country to be integrated with the medical and surgical services of a general hospital (2). From 1934 until his retirement in 1954, Cobb was Chief of the Department of Psychiatry. At Massachusetts General Hospital, Cobb mentored many staff members. He specialized in epilepsy and speech disorders. He also had an interest in psychoanalysis and the work of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society; in 1936, when Harvard granted an honorary degree to psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961), Cobb was honored to be Jung’s host during Jung’s visit to Cambridge, Massachusetts (3).

Over the course of his career, Cobb served as President of the American Neurological Association, the American Association of Neuropathologists, and the American Psychosomatic Society. Among Cobb’s publications were The Borderlands of Psychiatry and The Foundations of Neuropsychiatry. Cobb also published an annual update on his field--“Review of Neuropsychiatry” in the Archives of Internal Medicine, between 1935 and 1957. Though Cobb published extensively in his field, his most widely read article was a piece he wrote for Audobon Magazine during his retirement (4). “Death of a Salt Pond” was about the deleterious effects of dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT). His other retirement activities included studying bird neurology, helping build the avian collection at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and working part-time as a psychiatrist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. Cobb received many honors for his work. In 1956, he was granted the American Association of Physicians’ George M. Kober Medal and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, New York, Albert Einstein Award, and in 1960, the Stanley Cobb Chair at Harvard Medical School was established. In 1967, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Thomas W. Salmon Committee on Psychiatry and Mental Hygiene of the New York Academy of Medicine.

Cobb married Elizabeth Mason Almy in 1915. They had three children: Helen, Sidney, and John. Outside of his professional pursuits, Cobb was interested in ornithology and enjoyed sailing. He and his wife were Unitarians. Cobb had rheumatoid arthritis for much of his life. In 1962, he lost most of his eyesight. He died on February 8, 1968.

1. White, Benjamin V. Cobb, Stanley (1887-1968). Harvard Square Library: A Digital Library of Unitarian Universalist Biographies, History, Books, and Media. N.d., https://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/stanley-cobb/. Accessed 10 August 2020.

Note: Abridged from Stanley Cobb, A Builder of the Modern Neurosciences by Benjamin V. White with the assistance of Richard J. Wolfe and Eugene Taylor (Boston: Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine 1984).

2. Snodgrass, S. Robert, “Stanley Cobb, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the evolution of American psychiatry,” History of Psychiatry 29, no. 4 (2018): 438-455.

3. White, Cobb, Stanley (1887-1968).

4. Snodgrass, “Stanley Cobb, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the evolution of American psychiatry.”

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.

Charlotte Lellman rewrote the finding aid's Introduction in September 2020 to create a Scope and Content Note and a Biographical Note in compliance with the Center for the History of Medicine’s Guidelines for Inclusive and Conscientious Description (2020). In addition to reworking the Introduction into two separate notes, Lellman removed subjective laudatory language describing Cobb's career. The previous version of the finding aid is being maintained for transparency around the descriptive process.
Link to catalog
Title
Cobb, Stanley, 1887-1968. Papers, 1898-1982 (inclusive), 1901-1968 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Author
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
EAD ID
med00071

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

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