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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c339

Hyman Morrison papers


The Hyman Morrison papers (1899-1970) consist of personal and professional correspondence, records of research activity, and miscellaneous records from the career of Hyman Morrison as a physician, an active member of the Boston, Massachusetts Jewish and medical communities, and a medical historian.


  • Creation: 1899-1970 (inclusive),
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1920-1963 .


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. There are no restrictions on this collection. Consult Public Services for further information.

The Papers are stored offsite. Researchers are advised to consult Public Services for further information concerning retrieval of material.

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.


3 cubic feet ((2 records center cartons, 1 half size document box, and 1 oversize flat box).)

Papers reflect Hyman Morrison’s work as a physician, researcher, and active member of the Jewish community in Boston, Massachusetts. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence related to Morrison’s activities with Zionist organizations and his interest in researching nineteenth century physicians. Morrison was involved in fundraising efforts for various Zionist and medical groups, primarily the American Jewish Physicians’ Committee and, later, the American Physicians’ Fellowship Committee of the Israel Medical Association. He was a valued contact for refugee groups trying to place Jewish doctors and medical personnel during the 1930s and 1940s, and he helped to raise funds for the Medical School of Hebrew University in Jerusalem and, as a trustee, for the Hebrew Teachers’ College in Brookline, Massachusetts. In honor of his sixtieth birthday, friends, patients, and colleagues in the Boston area raised funds to create and name a laboratory at Hebrew University in Morrison’s honor.

Series I, Personal and Professional Correspondence, includes folders of holiday and “get well” cards and a folder of letters from Louis Chase, a medical student studying in Germany between 1929 and 1934 that illustrate the life of a medical student in pre-World War II Germany. Series II, Writings and Reprints, includes drafts and galley proofs for Morrison's writings, reprints of many of his articles, and research materials he collected in the course of his work, particularly on Hodgkin and Heber Fitz. Series III, Miscellaneous Records, comprises a variety of material from Morrison's personal life, including the funeral register for his wife, Rose Morrison, photographs of Morrison, and certificates appointing Morrison to various medical positions.

The bulk of the papers are in English. There are materials in Hebrew and German in all series and additional materials in French in Series II: Writings and Reprints: Subseries C: Research Materials.

Biographical Notes

Hyman Morrison (1881-1963), A.B., 1905, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; M.D., 1908, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, was a visiting physician at Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, a clinical professor of medicine at Tufts College Medical School (now Tufts University School of Medicine) in Medford, Massachusetts, and Chief of Medicine at Boston State Hospital, Massachusetts. Morrison's main areas of research included nervous disorders in Jewish patients, including extensive work contesting the diagnosis of “Hebraic debility,” tuberculosis of the appendix, and the life and work of physicians Reginald Heber Fitz (1843-1913) and Thomas Hodgkin (1798-1866).

Hyman Morrison was born in October 1881 in Vilna, Russia to Annie (Weinstein) and Joseph Morrison. He emigrated with his family to the United States in 1893. Morrison attended English High School in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, and, after graduation, was accepted to Harvard University. He received an A.B. degree with high distinction from Harvard University in 1905; during his time at Harvard, he was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He moved immediately into the Harvard Medical School and graduated with his M.D. in 1908. He was identified as white in the 1910 U.S. Census. He was Jewish. In a 1907 paper in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, written during his time as a student, Morrison critiqued diagnoses of “Hebraic debility” made at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. This was an institution dominated by Protestant physicians who often used the term “Hebraic debility” to diagnose Jewish immigrants suffering from non-specific ailments including fatigue, muscle or joint pain, weakness, or migraine. Morrison’s work, which he continued after graduation, argued that such “debility” was only to be expected in individuals who had undergone such a drastic life-change as whole-sale immigration, often under traumatic circumstances, and that nervous disorders in Jewish patients were not caused by innate differences between the nervous systems of Jews and non-Jews (1). After graduating from Harvard Medical School, Morrison took advantage of his posts at Beth Israel Hospital and Boston State Hospital to collect data for articles on gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes mellitus, and diseases in the erythema group.

Morrison had a strong interest in medical history, researching and writing a biography of Harvard Medical School professor Reginald Heber Fitz (1843-1913). Fitz was a professor of Morrison’s during his time at Harvard Medical School and was responsible for influential articles on the diagnosis and treatment of appendicitis and other abdominal disorders. Morrison also did work on the life of English doctor Thomas Hodgkin. Hodgkin was responsible for the original diagnosis of the disease now known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma; he was also part of the movement to popularize the use of the stethoscope.

During his lifetime, Morrison used his research on Hodgkin to publish “Doctors Afield” in 1954 and his research on Fitz for several articles, including “The Chapter on Appendicitis in a Biography of Reginald Heber Fitz” (1946) and “Reginald Heber Fitz” (1941). His other major publications included: “Tuberculosis Located in the Vermiform Appendix” (1952); “A Study of the Incidence of Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis at the Massachusetts General Hospital” (1927); “A Study of the Fatal Cases of Diabetes Mellitus in Boston from 1895 to 1913, with Special Reference to Its Occurrence Among Jews” (1916); and “A Biologic Interpretation of Jewish Survival” (circa 1937). Morrison also published a translation of Paul Langerhans’ work on the survey of the pancreas, “Contribution to the Microscopic Anatomy of the Pancreas” (1937).

Morrison was a member of the Boston Medical History Club and served as Vice-President in 1932; he presented several papers before its membership, including draft versions of what were then revised into published articles. He was also a member of the Greater Boston Medical Society and the Massachusetts Medical Society.

Morrison married Rose Lena Hurwitz (died 1960). They had three daughters: Flora Mildred, Judith, and Miriam. Morrison died in 1963 in Belmont, Massachusetts, of carcinoma of the stomach.

1. Crenner, Christopher. Private Practice: In the Twentieth-Century Medical Office of Dr. Richard Cabot (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), 165-167.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. I. Personal and Professional Correspondence, 1907-1961
  2. ___ A. Personal Correspondence, 1907-1961
  3. ___ B. Professional Correspondence, 1908-1961
  4. II. Writings and Reprints, 1901-1956
  5. ___ A. Manuscripts and Typescripts, 1925-1955
  6. ___ B. Reprints, 1919-1954
  7. ___ C. Research Materials, 1901-1956
  8. III. Miscellaneous Records, 1899-1970

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Hyman Morrison Papers were gifted to the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine by Ruth Smullin and Joseph Spivack in one accession, 2011-005.

Resources about Hyman Morrison.

  • Crenner, Christopher. Private Practice in the Early Twentieth-Century Medical Office of Dr. Richard Cabot. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.
  • Linenthal, Arthur J. First a Dream: The History of Boston's Jewish Hospitals, 1896-1928. Boston, MA: Beth Israel Hospital Association with the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, 1990.

Processing Information

Processed by Hanna Clutterbuck, September 2010.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine refoldered, arranged, and described material and created a finding aid to improve access. The material was received in the Center in no discernible order. As no original order was evident, the material was grouped, rehoused, and, where necessary, photocopied for preservation purposes. Duplicates of reprints authored by Morrison were discarded, along with envelopes and pre-existing folders with no useful markings or annotations. Approximately a half-cubic foot of tax materials were removed from the collection.

Charlotte Lellman revised the Biographical Note of this finding aid in November 2020 to bring it into compliance with the Center for the History of Medicine’s Guidelines for Inclusive and Conscientious Description (2020). In particular, Lellman provided additional context for the term "hebraic debility." The previous version of the finding aid is being maintained for transparency around the descriptive process.

Morrison, H. (Hyman), b. 1881. Papers, 1899-1970 (inclusive), 1920-1963 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description
Processing of the H. (Hyman) Morrison papers was funded by Peter V. Tishler, M.D.

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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