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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c230

C. Miller Fisher papers


Records in this collection were created by Charles Miller Fisher during his practice as a neurologist in Montreal, Canada, and Boston, Massachusetts. The collection includes patient notes and records, research notes, manuscript drafts, X-rays, slides, photographs, and memorabilia. Topics in the collection include dementia, transient ischemic attack, normal pressure hydrocephalus, transient monocular blindness, stroke, hemiplegia, headache, vasospasm, and arterial dissection.


  • Creation: 1827-2011 (inclusive),
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1950s-1990s .


Language of Materials

Papers are primarily in English with some materials in Spanish, German, French, and Japanese.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for resaerch. Access requires advance notice. Records including patient information are restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. The end of the restriction period is noted with each folder where it appears in Series I and Series II. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. 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.


56 cubic feet ( (53 record cartons, 1 letter size manuscript box, and 2 flat document boxes))

The C. Miller Fisher papers primarily reflect Fisher’s work as a neurologist in Montreal and Boston hospitals. The collection is divided into four series: I. Patient Notes and Diagnostic Case Files, 1886-2003 (inclusive), 1950s-1980s (bulk); II. Writing and Research Records, 1923-2003; III. Personal Papers and Memorabilia, 1930-2004; and IV. Assorted Professional Records, 1972-1992. The bulk of the collection is made up of observation notes on patients and research materials on various neurological topics, including dementia, visual hallucination, Alzheimer’s disease, coma, migraine, arterial dissection, and embolism. Fisher collected extensive research files; these and some partial book and article drafts are found in Series II. Also included are a small amount of personal papers, including some personal correspondence and materials pertaining to awards and honors given to Fisher. The collection includes realia, including certificates, silver commemorative dishes, and VHS tapes of special occasions, including Fisher's induction ceremony into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

The Papers are primarily in English with some materials in Spanish, German, French, and Japanese.

Biographical Notes

Charles Miller Fisher (1913-2012) B.A., 1935, Victoria University, M.D., 1938, University of Toronto Medical School, moved to Boston from Montreal in 1954 at the invitation of Professor Raymond D. Adams to take up positions at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital. Fisher specialized in neurological disorders, including stroke, hemiplegia, and headache, beginning his studies with Dr. Wilder Penfield at the Montreal Neurological Institute in 1945. Fisher retired from Harvard Medical School in 1983, but continued his work at the Massachusetts General Hospital through the early 2000s. Fisher died in 2012.

Fisher was born in Waterloo, Ontario, in December, 1913. He attended local secondary schools, leaving with the fifth year Upper School degree, and moved to Toronto for his undergraduate education at Victoria University. There were two options for students wanting to study medicine: Straight Medicine and Biology and Medicine. The former had a six year course, the latter, a seven year, including special instruction in science and the arts. Fisher entered the Biology and Medicine track with 25 other male students. He received his bachelor’s degree with science honors in 1935 and entered the University of Toronto Medical School, graduating with an M.D. in 1938. He completed an internship at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and was working as an assistant resident in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal when he was called into service in the Royal Canadian Navy in 1940.

Fisher’s active naval service ended in 1941 when his ship was torpedoed and he was captured by German naval forces along with the rest of the crew. He spent the rest of his service in a prisoner of war camp in Germany, returning to Canada in 1945 as part of a prisoner exchange. He re-started his medical work in Montreal in 1946 at the Montreal Neurological Institute with Wilder Penfield, spent 1949 in Boston at Harvard Medical School as a Fellow in neurology working with Raymond Adams and Derek Denny-Brown, and returned to Montreal at the end of his Fellowship. In 1954, he accepted an invitation from Adams to come to Harvard Medical School as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Neurology. At the same time, he held a position as neurologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He formally retired from Harvard Medical School in 1983 as a full professor, but continued to work at the Massachusetts General Hospital until the early 2000s.

Fisher focused on neurological and neuropathological conditions, keeping extensive files on a variety of ailments. Fisher emphasized the importance of careful patient observation, often collecting material on patients for years. Based on these detailed files, he was able to elaborate disease syndromes and he extended this observation to post-mortem details. He did original work on several conditions, including stroke, arterial dissection, and discovered a strain of Gullain-Barre syndrome which is now named for him. One of his first projects in 1949 was sectioning brains; based on his close pathological observations, he was able to theorize the association of cerebral hemorrhagic infarct with embolism.

Fisher held memberships in the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, the American Society for the Study of Arteriosclerosis, the American Neuropathological Association, the American Neurological Association, and the American Academy of Neurology. He received an honorary LL.D. from Waterloo Lutheran University in 1972 and the Jacoby Award of the American Neurological Association in 1982. He was the Honored Guest of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons in 1983 and received an honorary D.Sc. from McGill University in 1984. He was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1998. The New England Branch of the American Heart and Stroke Association has a named C. Miller Fisher Award. In recognition of his long service at Massachusetts General Hospital, the hospital established a named chair, created an annual lecture, and renamed the vascular neurology service all in his honor.

Fisher married his wife, Doris, in 1940. The couple had three children: Hugh, Peter, and Elizabeth, and four grandchildren. Doris Fisher died in 2008; Fisher died in 2012 in Albany, New York.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. I. Patient Notes and Diagnostic Case Files, 1886-2003 (inclusive), 1950s-1980s (bulk)
  2. II. Research Records and Writing, 1923-2003
  3. ___ A. Research Records, 1923-2003
  4. ___ B. Writing, 1948-2003
  5. III. Personal Papers and Memorabilia, 1930-2004
  6. ___ A. Personal Papers, 1957-2004
  7. ___ B. Memorabilia, 1930-2000
  8. IV. Assorted Professional Records, 1972-1992

Custodial History

The collection was donated to the Center for the History of Medicine by C. Miller Fisher in May 2004.

Related Papers in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Center for the History of Medicine

  1. Papers of Derek Denny-Brown. H MS c75.

Associated Collections at the Warren Anatomical Museum

  1. Collection of Charles Miller Fisher. Acc. 2014-008.

Resources about C. Miller Fisher

  • Fisher, Charles Miller. Memoirs of a Neurologist. Vermont: Academy Books, 1992.

Processing Information

Processed by Hanna Clutterbuck, 2013 November.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the material, and created a finding aid to enhance researcher access. Folder titles were transcribed from the originals. Five realia items deemed unconnected to the material were discarded. Fragile items were photocopied or enclosed in acid-free paper. Slides were enclosed in individual acid-free sleeves. Oversized items were flattened and stored in flat boxes. Dirty material was cleaned during processing. Patient names were redacted from folder titles during encoding of this finding aid. Physical specimens and bedside neurological testing equipment were transferred to the Warren Anatomical Museum. A duplicate copy of Fisher's Memoirs was transferred to the rare books collection.

Fisher, Charles Miller, 1913-2012. Papers, 1827-2011 (inclusive), 1950s-1990s (bulk): Finding Aid
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description

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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