Posts tagged: Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Opens “Inside Story” to the Public

By , June 5, 2015

BWH Newsletter Collage2If you are curious about the mise en scène at Boston’s legendary Peter Bent Brigham Hospital during the war years of the 1940s, its transplant breakthroughs of the 1950s, its merger dreams of the 1960s, its spreading out and spreading up through the 1970s, or its post-merger incarnation as the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in the 1980s and 1990s, then click the links above or these (Brigham Bulletin, Inside AHC, Inside Brigham and Women’s, Inside BWH, BWH Bulletin) and have a poke around the historic staff newsletters.

Thanks to the support of the BWH Medical Library, the third and final phase of the BWH Archives Newsletter Digitization Project is complete. The Brigham and Women’s Hospital inside story—every year from 1943 through 1999*—is now online and fully searchable.

Exclusively for employees, the newsletters, produced by the Public Relations office about the people, projects, and accomplishments of the hospital, were written in a more intimate style than its other, official publications.

Found in the newsletters—some fun facts and firsts that you probably didn’t know:

  • The original shop at the Brigham was opened by the Friends of the Brigham in 1944. They sold magazines, candy, toiletries—and tobacco.
  • In May of 1954, a Biophysics Research Laboratory opened at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, the first of its kind in a hospital setting.BrigBull_1961_Spring_cartoon
  • Volunteers wheeled carts stocked with library books and magazines around the hospital for patients to freely choose from, throughout the 1950s. In 1958, the Institute for Contemporary Art added the “Art Cart” which supplied a choice of framed art prints for patients to use for personal enjoyment during their hospital stay.
  • Dr. Victoria Maxwell Cass was the acting Director of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital from 1957-1958. She had been Associate Director since 1952.
  • In 1960, televisions and radios were added to patients’ rooms.
  • King Saud of Saudi Arabia came to the Brigham for treatment in 1961. His large entourage, including his wives, were given rooms at the hospital so they could stay close to his highness.
  • In 1967 the annual stipend for interns was raised from $3200 to $6000.
  • An architect’s early concept design for the hospital called for four short towers clustered around a core (1969) as opposed to the one tall tower that was finally built (1980).
  • The Robert B. Brigham division of the newly merged hospitals started patient registration and billing with computers in 1979.
  • Did you know that the separation of infectious waste for disposal from hospitals was a new idea in the mid-1980s? Before that all medical waste went into landfills.
  • It was 1987 when the then new technology “Magnetic Resonance Imaging” was first put into clinical practice at BWH.
  • The first lung transplant in Massachusetts was performed at BWH in 1990.
  • A 1993 story reported that all babies born around the holidays were sent home from the hospital as little “stocking stuffers”—inside handmade Christmas stockings. This had been an OB tradition since 1980.
  • Ten years ago, BWH began performing DNA-based genetic testing in-house instead of purchasing testing from external labs.
  • BWH started bilingual phone answering in 1995.
  • In 1996, BWH got its own helicopter landing pad.
  • Astronaut and US senator John Glenn, then age 77, came to BWH’s sleep lab for tests prior to his return to space aboard the shuttle Discovery, in 1998.

What interesting things can you discover in the newsletter archive?

*The BWH Bulletin has been published online since 2000. The digitized paper collection, 1943–1999, will always be available via Hollis, the Harvard Library catalog and via links on the BWH Archives page on the Countway Library site.


Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records Opened for Research

By , July 14, 2014
April 30, 1913 - Informal Dedication of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital

First staff with Sir William Osler at dedication of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, April 30, 1913.

The Center for the History of Medicine and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library are pleased to announce that the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records, 1830– (inclusive), 1911–1980 (bulk) are now formally open for research. A guide to the collection can be read via this link:

The collection of historic material related to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (PBBH), one of the parent hospitals of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, includes photographs, memorabilia, business records, and historic publications that were created before its merger with Boston Hospital for Women and Robert B. Brigham Hospital in 1975, and while it operated as a division of the Affiliated Hospitals Center (AHC) until 1980. (In 1980 the three AHC divisions were moved into the same new facility and unified under the new name, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School.)

The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital collection includes much of its early administrative data, going back as far as 1902, when the corporation to construct the hospital was formed and its close relationship with Harvard Medical School began. All of the hospital’s Annual Reports (1913–1979), Executive Committee Meeting Minutes (1912–1980), and Board of Trustees meeting records (1902–1975) tell the story of the growth of a major metropolitan hospital from its opening in 1913 through the development of modern medicine during the greater part of the 20th century. The collection also includes records of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing (1912–1985), which became one of the preeminent training programs for nurses in the United States. Other hospital publications codify hospital procedures and standards over time, and the newsletter, Brigham Bulletin, adds depth to the hospital’s biography with weekly, more personal stories about the individuals and events that made the organization unique.

PBBH campus 1913

The collection includes 1911 construction records for the original 225-bed, pavilion-style hospital built along Francis Street in Boston, as well as for later additions.

Photographs comprise the largest portion of the collection and provide thousands of images of hospital, staff, and activities from 1911–1980. The archival collection includes images of some of the individuals whose work at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital significantly advanced medical science and education, including: Dr. Francis Moore, considered the “father of modern surgery;” Dr. Harvey Cushing, first PBBH Surgeon-in-Chief, an innovator in neurosurgery; Dr. Samuel A. Levine, a key figure in modern cardiology; Nurse Carrie M. Hall, a leader in the evolution of professional nursing education; Dr. (Brigadier General) Elliott C. Cutler, second PBBH Surgeon-in-Chief and Surgeon-in-Charge of the European Theater of Operations during WWII; Dr. Carl Walter, who developed a way to collect, store, and transfuse blood; and Dr. Joseph E. Murray, the 1990 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. He, along with his team of PBBH medical pioneers achieved the first successful kidney transplant in 1954.

Francis D. Moore MD, in surgery at the Peter Bent Brigham HospitHarvey Cushing in Scrubs, circa 1930sPBBH Dr. Samuel LevinePBBH_Carrie Hall_002a

CutlerMoscow_1943a_Sharf_003BPBBH Walter BloodBag c1954PBBH Murray Nobel Prize

Many interesting hospital related artifacts are part of the collection. A menu and china from founder Peter Bent Brigham’s restaurant, a World War I service flag and many of Nurse Carrie Hall’s service medals from the same war; mid-century nurse’s uniforms, caps, and capes; scrapbooks, audio recordings, newspaper clippings, old medical instruments, student notebooks from the nursing school, and the contents of the PBBH 1963 time capsule are some of the widely various objects that can be found here.

The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records, 1830– (inclusive), 1911–1980 (bulk) is the last of the major collections of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Archives to be cataloged and opened to the public for historic research. The online finding aid to Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records joins those for the other parent hospitals of the Brigham and Women’s, including the Boston Lying-in Hospital Records, 1855–1983 (Bulk 1921–1966), Free Hospital for Women Records, 1875–1975, Robert B. Brigham Hospital Records, 1889–1984 (Bulk 1915–1980), and the Affiliated Hospitals Center (Boston, Mass.) Records, 1966–1984. To view those online collection guides as well as the guide to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Records, 1900– go to this page:

Processing of Dwight E. Harken Papers has Begun

By , May 2, 2013

Western Union Telefax from President Lyndon B. Johnson to Dwight E. Harken, President of the American College of Cardiology (ACC), 19 February 1965, thanking the officers and members of the ACC for their immeasurable contribution to the "progress and well-being of the American people," and announcing the President's recommendation of legislation to "greatly facilitate the work of the cardiologist..."

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that processing of the Dwight E. Harken papers is now underway. Harken (M.D., 1936, Harvard Medical School) was Chief of Thoracic Surgery at the Peter Bent Brigham (PBBH) and Mount Auburn Hospitals, Clinical Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, and a pioneer in cardio-thoracic surgical technique, medical instrumentation technology, and post-operative patient care.

While serving in London with the United States Army Medical Corps during World War II, Harken established his reputation as the first surgeon to perform consistently successful operations upon the interior of the heart when he removed shell casings, bone fragments, and other foreign bodies from in and around the hearts of 134 soldiers without a single fatality. Back in Boston following the war, he worked to adapt his technique for the treatment of mitral stenosis – cardiac valvular disease characterized by the tightening of the mitral valve, which regulates the passage of blood from the left atrium to the left ventricle. The first finger fracture valvuloplasty (a technique and term coined by Harken) was performed in June of 1948; by June of 1956, one thousand mitral valvuloplasty operations had been performed by Harken and his surgical team. On March 10, 1960, Harken achieved another first when he inserted a prosthetic aortic valve directly into a human heart at the site of the biological valve; the prosthesis was the first of several designed by Harken throughout his career. He was also the first to insert an implantable demand pacemaker – a device designed to avoid interference with the heart’s own natural electrical impulses by kicking in only when the heartbeat falls outside of a predetermined range. In addition to these and innumerable other surgical accomplishments, Harken pioneered the concept of the modern intensive care unit, the first of which opened at PBBH in 1951. He was also an early critic of tobacco smoking as a cause of lung cancer and heart disease. His papers reflect the diversity of his career within the field of cardio-thoracic medicine and illuminate the first decades of success in heart surgery.

The collection consists of records generated during Harken’s appointments in the United States Army Medical Corps and at Harvard Medical School, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (a predecessor of Brigham and Women’s Hospital), and the Mount Auburn Hospital, including his surgical notebooks, correspondence, research, writings, publications, professional activities, photographs, and audio-visual materials. The collection is currently scheduled to open in early 2014.

Joseph Murray Papers Open to Research

By , March 18, 2013

Joseph E. Murray

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the Joseph E. Murray papers, 1919-2011. The papers are the product of Murray’s activities as a plastic surgeon, transplant surgeon, laboratory director, author, and Harvard Medical School alumnus, and include records from Murray’s plastic surgery and transplantation work at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston. The collection also contains his personal and professional correspondence, records from his activities as chairman of the Harvard Medical Alumni Fund, records from reunions of the Harvard Medical School class of 1943b, as well as Murray’s professional writings.

Joseph E. Murray (1919-2012), A.B., 1940, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts; M.D., 1943, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, transplant and plastic surgeon, received the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on organ transplantation. Murray served as Head of the plastic surgery departments at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston, Chief of Transplant Surgery at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, and Director of the Surgical Research Laboratory at Harvard Medical School. In 1954, Murray performed the first successful human organ transplantation, between identical twins, Ronald (donor) and Richard (recipient) Herrick, at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.

The finding aid for the collection can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

Links to previous blog posts on Joseph Murray:
In Memoriam: Joseph E. Murray, 1919-2012
Staff Finds: Joseph Murray and the Surgical Research Laboratory
Joseph Murray on the First Successful Human Organ Transplant

In Memoriam: Joseph E. Murray, 1919-2012

By , December 3, 2012

Dr. Joseph E. Murray

The Center was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Joseph E. Murray on Monday at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Murray is best known for performing the first successful organ transplantation in 1954, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1990. A graduate of Holy Cross (A.B., 1940) and Harvard Medical School (M.D.,1943), Murray served at Valley Forge General Hospital in the Army Medical Corps during World War II. It was there, observing how donor skin grafts on badly burned soldiers were rejected by their bodies, that Murray first became interested in transplantation. In 1962 he performed the first cadaveric renal transplantation, utilizing the newly developed immunosuppressant drug Azathioprine. Despite his role in organ transplantation, Murray spent the majority of his career in the field of plastic surgery, serving as the head of plastic surgery at the Brigham and at Children’s Hospital, as well as director of the Surgical Research Laboratory at Harvard Medical School (an earlier Center blog post about transplantation and Dr. Murray’s involvement with the Surgical Research Laboratory can be found here).

Obituaries for Dr. Murray can be found at, the New York Times and the Washington Post. His autobiography, Surgery of the Soul, was published in 2001.

The Center holds the Joseph E. Murray Papers, which are currently being processed for research access. The collection is expected to be open to researchers in early 2013. Below are selected images from the collection.

More Historic Brigham Newsletters Online, 1943–1961

By , August 22, 2012

View the newly digitized issues of the Brigham Bulletin.

“Hail! A New Baby is Born!” With that announcement on its front page, the very first Brigham Bulletin was inaugurated in the summer of 1943. The newsletter was conceived as a way of keeping Brigham staff who were serving in the armed forces during WWII informed about goings on at the hospital. Publication of the Brigham Bulletin stopped with the end of the war, but it was brought back by popular demand in 1950. There has been a hospital Bulletin published in one form or another ever since. The Brigham and Women’s Hospital Archives has made another portion of our collection of 60+ years of hospital newsletters available online, the latest covering the war years and the 1950s.

Thanks to the financial support of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Physicians Council for our Newsletter Digitization Project, these earliest Brigham Bulletins from the Archives have been added to the 1969-1977 batch digitized during Phase 1 of the project.

How interesting is this collection? Even a quick skim will reveal that the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, one of the parent hospitals of the current incarnation known as the Brigham and Women’s, was a tightly-knit village. The hospital staff of the time thought of themselves as a family. Here are some fun facts gleaned from the pages of the early Brigham Bulletins:

  • Did you know that the hospital used to employ a part-time barber?
  • Or that in the 1940s the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Chief of Surgery, Colonel Elliott Carr Cutler, was promoted to Brigadier General in the US Army and appointed as the Chief Surgeon for the European Theater of Operations?
  • The long hospital corridor, known by the nickname “the Pike,” had been an outdoor path between wards since 1913. Enclosing it began in 1945, albeit with long rows of sunny windows.
  • A Christmas dance was held every year for the nurses.
  • The Brigham installed a high-tech dial telephone system in 1950.
  • In 1958, the hospital was proud to announce that 6% of their doctors were women and that no one expected them to be celibate or infertile. “We welcome them as doctors and as women.”

What other interesting facts can you find?

This completes Phase 2 of the digitization of hospital newsletters. Two hundred and fifty-five pages dating from July 1943 through the Spring of 1961 are now keyword searchable. This is a direct link to page 1 of the first Brigham Bulletin: They are also permanently available from within the online Harvard Library catalog (search Brigham Bulletin).

James Harriman Jandl Papers Open to Research

By , July 10, 2012
"Red Cells Coated with Immunoglobin G: Binding and Sphering by Mononuclear Cells in Man", by James Harriman Jandl, 1967.

"Red Cells Coated with Immunoglobin G: Binding and Sphering by Mononuclear Cells in Man", by James Harriman Jandl, 1967, H MS c383. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the James Harriman Jandl papers, 1922-1993 (inclusive), 1940-1993 (bulk).  Jandl (1925-2006; B.S., 1945, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; M.D., 1949, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts) was George Richards Minot Professor of Medicine Emeritus at Harvard Medical School, Senior Physician at Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, and Senior Consultant in Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.  Jandl’s research focused on various aspects of hematology and hematologic disorders, including red blood cell abnormalities and development, hemolytic anemia, blood platelet transfusion, liver disease, and iron transfer between blood proteins and cells.  He is credited with discovering the mechanism by which reticuloendothelial cells destroy gamma globulin antibody-coated red blood cells.

Jandl’s papers are the product of his publishing, research, and professional activities, as conducted throughout his professional appointments at the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory of the Boston City Hospital and Harvard Medical School.  The bulk of the papers consist of annotated manuscript drafts, galley proofs, and related publication correspondence for his contributions to various scientific publications related to hematology.  Writings concern multiple aspects of hematology and hematologic disorders, including acanthocytosis, hemolytic and megaloblastic anemias, hereditary elliptocytosis, hereditary spherocytosis, polycythemia, red blood cell destruction, and the reticuloendothelial system.  Papers also include patient records and charts, research notes and graphs, Harvard Medical School course curricula and teaching policies, collected reprints used for teaching purposes, audio recordings of scientific talks related to hematology, glass slides related to anemia,  and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings concerning the Boston City Hospital.

Processing of the collection was supported by the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine’s Charles S. Minot Fund for Hematology.  The finding aid is available online.

William Parry Murphy Papers Open to Research

William Parry Murphy

William Parry Murphy, undated, H MS c284. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the William Parry Murphy papers, 1906-1987 (inclusive), 1919-1987 (bulk).  Murphy (1892-1987; A.B., 1914, University of Oregon, Eugene; M.D., 1922, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts) was Senior Associate in Medicine at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, and Lecturer in Medicine Emeritus at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.  Murphy’s research concerned various hematological diseases, notably pernicious anemia, leukemia, and diabetes mellitus.  With George Richards Minot (1885-1950) and George Hoyt Whipple (1878-1976), he is credited with developing a treatment for pernicious anemia using a diet of uncooked liver, for which all three were awarded the 1934 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.  Murphy later worked throughout his career to refine the liver extract developed by Edwin Joseph Cohn (1892-1953) and George Richards Minot for the treatment of pernicious anemia.

Murphy’s papers are the product of his hematology research on pernicious anemia, leukemia, and diabetes mellitus, and his personal and professional activities throughout the period of his service at the Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, Harvard Medical School, and the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.  The bulk of the papers consist of correspondence regarding his professional appointments, his involvement in professional associations, patient cases, and medical advice to patients and colleagues.  Papers also include: research notes on blood disorders, primarily pernicious anemia and liver extract treatment; publications and newspaper clippings collected by Murphy for use in his research and medical practice; personal correspondence with family and friends; a bound copy of his book Anemia in Practice: Pernicious Anemia (1939); manuscript drafts for over forty of Murphy’s scientific papers; and a large number of unlabeled photographs of his family and domestic life, and of Murphy and his colleagues.

Processing of the collection was supported by the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine’s Charles S. Minot Fund for Hematology.  The finding aid is available online.

Historic Medical Diary Now Available Online

By , October 4, 2011

1912 Travels of the Medical Staff, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.

In 1912, as the columns were being raised for the façade of the new Peter Bent Brigham Hospital on Francis Street in Boston, and before the final brick was laid or the plaster dust settled, the first Brigham Physician-in-Chief, Henry A. Christian, worked out a plan for his new staff to take a trip together to investigate the latest medical innovations in European clinics before beginning their official hospital duties.

This team, assembled by Dr. Christian, included Francis Weld Peabody, M.D., First Resident Physician; Channing Frothingham, Jr., M.D., Physician;  I. Chandler Walker, M.D. Acting Resident Physician; and Reginald Fitz, M.D., Assistant Resident Physician.

Throughout the summer of 1912, Drs. Christian, Frothingham, and Fitz toured various facilities across the continent. Dr. Peabody also traveled the continent, but spent five weeks in Copenhagen studying with physiologist, August Krogh (1874-1949). Dr. Walker spent nearly all his time with internist and physiologist, Paul Oskar Morawitz (1879-1936) in Freiburg, Germany.

They chronicled their travels and discoveries in diaries that were typed and assembled into an unpublished volume, a few copies of which were given away to their colleagues. Thanks to a generous donation from Brigham and Women’s Hospital donor, Frederic A. Sharf, the BWH Archives copy of 1912 Travels of the Medical Staff of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital was recently digitized and made available to the public via the Harvard Hollis catalog.

Look here ( for an interesting snapshot of the state of European medicine in the early 20th century. The volume includes description of visits to notable hospitals and physicians in Germany, Ireland (with notes about Christian’s attendance at the the Bicentenary Celebration of Trinity College), Scotland, France, Italy, Russia, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and England (including a visit with Sir William Osler at Oxford.)

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