Abraham Myerson papers and family research records
The Abraham Myerson papers and family research records, 1908-2013 (inclusive), 1921-1974 (bulk), are primarily the product of Abraham Myerson’s professional, research, and publishing activities over the course of his career as a neurologist, practicing psychiatrist, and author in Boston, Massachusetts. The papers are arranged in two series: I. Abraham Myerson Papers, 1908-2013, undated; and II. Family Research Records, 1925-2013.
- 1908-2013 (inclusive),
- Majority of material found within 1921-1974 .
- Myerson, Abraham, 1881-1948. (Person)
Language of Materials
Papers are in English.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Consult Public Services for further information.
Access to electronic records in the collection (as found in Series II) is premised on the availability of a computer station, requisite software, and/or the ability of Public Services staff to review and/or print out records of interest in advance of an on-site visit. Please 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.
Extent03.25 cubic feet (3 records center cartons and 1 flat oversize box)
The Abraham Myerson papers and family research records, 1908-2013 (inclusive), 1921-1974 (bulk), are primarily the product of Abraham Myerson’s professional, research, and publishing activities over the course of his career as a neurologist, practicing psychiatrist, and author in Boston, Massachusetts. Papers and records are entirely in English.
Abraham Myerson (1881-1948), M.D., 1908, Tufts Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, was Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, Chair of the Department of Neurology at Tufts Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, Director of Research at the Boston State Hospital, Massachusetts, Clinical Director and Pathologist at Taunton State Hospital, Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts State Forensic Examiner. He supported the use of electro-shock therapy as a psychiatric treatment and was involved in the early trials of Benzedrine.
Abraham Myerson was born in Lithuania on November 23, 1881 to Morris J. Myerson (born 1851) and Sophie Myerson (born 1851). The Myerson family moved to the United States in 1887, spending a brief time in Connecticut before moving to Boston, Massachusetts. Myerson graduated from high school in 1898. He completed two years at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York, New York, before transferring to Tufts Medical School to complete his medical degree. While at Tufts, Myerson worked with Morton Prince (1854-1929), one of the first generation of American psychiatric specialists.
After graduating with his M.D. in 1908, Myerson opened a medical office in Boston and served as Assistant Physician in Neurology at the Boston City Hospital, Massachusetts, for two years. During this time, he also worked six months in the laboratory of Elmer Ernest Southard (1876-1920) at Harvard Medical School. Myerson then moved to Missouri for a residency at the Alexian Brothers Hospital, St. Louis. At the same time, he also served as Instructor in Neurology at St. Louis University. Returning to Boston in 1912, Myerson joined the first group of residents at the new Psychopathic Department of the Boston State Hospital, along with fellow residents Myrtelle Canavan (1879-1953) and Harry Solomon (1889-1982). Myerson served as Clinical Director and Pathologist at Taunton State Hospital from 1913 to 1917 and Director of Research at the Boston State Hospital from 1927 to 1940. He held the Chairmanship of the Department of Neurology at Tufts Medical School from 1921 through 1940; likewise, in 1935, he was appointed Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and held the position through 1940. Myerson was also the Massachusetts State Forensic Examiner for eight years. During that time, he testified at several infamous trials: the Sacco and Vanzetti trial (1921) and the Millen-Faber trial (1934).
Myerson wrote and published widely in both professional journals and lay publications, seeking to simplify and spread scientific concepts to a popular audience. He supported the use of electro-shock therapy as a psychiatric treatment, and was involved in the early trials of Benzedrine, an amphetamine which he supported for use in treating mild depression (1). He spoke out against prevailing ideas about compulsory sterilization and criticized the lack of validty behind diagnoses of “feeblemindedness” (intellectual disabilities). However, he did support sterilization for some people with heritable "mental disease[s] or defect[s]” (psychiatric conditions and intellectual disabilities) (2).
He was a member of several professional organizations, including: the American Psychiatric Association; the American Neurological Association (Committee for the Investigation of Sterilization, Chair); the Greater Boston Medical Society; the American Psychopathological Society; the Advisory Council for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease for the United States Public Health Service; and the Mental Hygiene Society. He authored ten books, including The Nervous Housewife (1920), The Foundations of Personality (1921), The Inheritance of Mental Disease (1925), and Speaking of Man (1950). Myerson married Dorothy Marion Loman (born 1890) in 1913; the couple had three children, Paul (born 1914), David, and Anne. In 1937, Myerson was diagnosed with a progressive form of arteriosclerotic cardiac disease, which he documented in his article, "As the Heart Slows Down." He died on September 3, 1948, survived by his wife and all three children.
(1) Rasmussen, Nicolas,“Chapter Two - Amphetamine-Type Stimulants: The Early History of Their Medical and Non-Medical Uses,” The Neuropsychiatric Complications of Stimulant Abuse, International Review of Neurobiology: 120 (2015): 9-25.
(2) Largent. Mark. Breeding Contempt: The History of Coerced Sterilization in the United States (Rutgers University Press, 2008), Chapter 4.
Series and Subseries in the Collection
- I. Abraham Myerson Papers, 1908-2013, undated
- ___ A. Writings and Publications, 1908-1976, undated
- ___ B. Professional Records, 1908-2013
- II. Family Research Records, 1925-2013
The papers are arranged in two series: I. Abraham Myerson Papers, 1908-2013, undated; and II. Family Research Records, 1925-2013.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Accession number 2014-050.
Processed by Hanna Clutterbuck and Max Goldberg, 2014 June.
Processing staff at the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the papers, and created a finding aid to increase researcher access. Items were rehoused and, where necessary, photocopied to acid-free paper. Folder titles were transcribed from the originals when available. Photographs have been removed from their frames and stored flat. All books and bound volumes were retained with the collection. The collection includes an extremely fragile rolled photograph; the photograph could not be flattened for foldering and was left as found in Box 4. A CD containing Myerson family history has been imaged and retained as an electronic duplicate; the original CD remains with the collection in Box 3.
Charlotte Lellman revised the Biographical Note in this finding aid in December 2020 to bring it into compliance with the Center for the History of Medicine’s Guidelines for Inclusive and Conscientious Description (2020). In particular, she focused on adding information about Myerson's views on compulsory sterilization and provided additional context for his work with Benzedrine. The previous version of the finding aid is being maintained for transparency around the descriptive process.
- Black-and-white photographs.
- Boston City Hospital.
- Boston State Hospital. Psychopathic Department.
- Clinical Trial
- Compact discs.
- Drugs -- Testing.
- Evidence, Expert.
- Hospitals, State
- Myerson, Abraham, 1881-1948.
- Myerson, Abraham, 1881-1948.
- Sacco, Nicola, 1891-1927.
- Sacco, Nicola, 1891-1927.
- Sacco-Vanzetti Trial, Dedham, Mass., 1921.
- State hospitals -- Massachusetts.
- Vanzetti, Bartolomeo, 1888-1927.
- Myerson, Abraham, 1881-1948. Papers and family research records, 1908-2013 (inclusive), 1921-1974 (bulk): Finding Aid.
- Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
- Language of description
- Processing of the Abraham Myerson papers and family research records was funded by the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine's Karl Gustav Jung Fund for the History of Psychiatry.
- EAD ID
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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