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COLLECTION Identifier: HUG 4255.xx

Papers of Richard Clarke Cabot


Richard Clarke Cabot (1868-1939) was a physician and medical educator whose interests included social work, religion and medicine, and medical ethics. The Papers of Richard Clarke Cabot document both his professional and family life.


  • 1886-1974 (inclusive), 1888-1939 (bulk)

Language of Materials


Physical Description

Extent is approximate.

Researcher access

The Papers of Richard Clarke Cabot are open for research with the following exceptions: Harvard University records are restricted for 50 years. Personnel and student records are closed for 80 years. Requires review by archivist.


60 cubic feet (255 boxes)

This collection documents both Cabot's professional life and his family life. A large subseries documents the efforts of Ada P. McCormick to produce a biography of Cabot.

Cabot's professional interests are reflected in medical records, teaching materials, writings, and speeches. These records document his practice of medicine, his interest in social medicine, medical ethics and religion, and the teaching of both clinical and social aspects of medicine.

Personal, family, and biographical material consists of both original documents, such as diaries, photographs, and correspondence, and research notes and manuscripts, such as Ada McCormick's interviews with family and friends and drafts of portions of the biography she began to write.

Biography of Richard Clarke Cabot

Richard Clarke Cabot (1868-1939) was a physician and medical educator whose interests included social work, religion and medicine, and medical ethics. He taught at Harvard University, where his courses were in the fields of clinical medicine,philosophy, and social ethics, from 1902 until 1934. He practiced at Massachusetts General Hospital from 1898 until 1921.

Cabot was born on May 21, 1868 in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was the fifth son of James Elliot and Elizabeth (Dwight) Cabot. He attended the Nobel and Greenough School after which he attended Harvard. He received his A.B. degree summa cum laude in 1889 and his M.D. in 1892. On October 26, 1894, Cabot married Ella Lyman (1866-1934).

He started his medical career at Massachusetts General Hospital and continued as a member of the consulting staff there until his death. He was also a consultant to the New England Hospital for Women and Children, the Westboro School for Boys, and the Lancaster School for Girls. He was an army doctor on the hospital ship Bay State in the Spanish-American War and at a base hospital in France during World War I.

He was a maverick in the medical field, favoring socialized medicine and founding a department of medical social work at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1905. He also created the teaching method known as the clinicopathological conference (C.P.C.).

Cabot's teaching career spanned nearly four decades. At Harvard, he was Lecturer on Philosophy (1902-1903), Instructor in Clinical Medicine (1903-1908), Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine (1908-1913), Assistant Professor of Medicine (1913-1918), Professor of Clinical Medicine (1918-1933), and Professor of Social Ethics (1920-1934). From 1935 to 1939, he was professor of natural theology at the Andover-Newton Theological School.

Cabot's earliest writings were on blood, serum, and physical diagnosis. His clinical studies resulted in a series of famous medical books including Physical Diagnosis,Case Histories in Medicine, and Differential Diagnosis. His later writings were on ethics and include What Men Live By, The Meaning of Right and Wrong, and Adventures on the Borderland of Ethics.

He belonged to many professional organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Association of American Physicians, the American Medical Association, the Massachusetts Medical Society,Sigma Xi, and the National Conference of Social Work, of which he was president in 1930. Cabot received various honors throughout his career, including the gold medal of the National Institute of Social Sciences (1931) and three honorary degrees, an LL.D. (Rochester, 1930), an L.D.H. (Syracuse, 1934) and a D.D. (Colby, 1938).

He died on May 7, 1939 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Organization of the Collection

The collection is divided into two groups, and each group is further subdivided into sections based largely on the role or activity that the material documents.

Overview of Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. Material described 1977-1978
  2. ___Papers of Richard Clarke Cabot Group I
  3. ______Biographical Material (25 containers)
  4. ______Correspondence (21 containers)
  5. ______Teaching Material (65 containers)
  6. ______General File (8 containers)
  7. ______Notes of Speeches (4 containers)
  8. Papers of Richard Clarke Cabot Group II
  9. ___Biographical Materials (25 containers) Includes Ada B. McCormick research for a biography of Cabot.
  10. ___Correspondence (22 containers)
  11. ___Writings (20 containers)
  12. ___Teaching material (3 Boxes)
  13. ___Lectures of Professor Rosenstock-Huessy (1 Box)
  14. ___Medical Case Records (62 containers)


Bequest of Ada P. McCormick, and gifts of Andrew Dodds, Richard Hocking, Arthur Linenthal, and Schlesinger Library.

Accession numbers:
  1. 7644,
  2. 7682,
  3. 7835,
  4. 9170,
  5. 9324,
  6. 9356,
  7. 9382

Related Materials

  1. Social ethics seminary [i.e. "seminar," transcript], October 11, 1926 / [speakers] James Ford, Richard C. Cabot, Sheldon Glueck, William W. Fenn, and William Thomas Ham (HUC 8926.282) and other materials by or about Richard Clarke Cabot cataloged in Harvard's online library information system, .
  1. Records of the various schools, hospitals, and departments in which Richard Clarke worked.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2022 May 16.

Processing Note

The Papers Richard Clarke Cabot were processed in two separate projects resulting in two groups of material. The first project of was in 1977-1978, and this material is in the Papers of Richard Clarke Cabot Group I. Several subsequent accessions and unprocessed material from the older accession were processed in 1997, and this material is in the Papers of Richard Clarke Cabot Group II. Researchers should be aware that a thorough perusal of both sections of this finding aid is necessary because both portions contain material of similar natures. The finding aid has a great deal of detail, but its overall organization does not provide sufficient guidance for researchers.

Cabot, Richard C. (Richard Clarke), 1868-1939. Papers of Richard Clarke Cabot : an inventory
Harvard University Archives
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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