Cobb, Stanley, 1887-1968

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1887-12-10
Death 1968-02-25

Biographical notes:

Stanley Cobb, 1887-1968, MD, 1914, Harvard Medical School, was Bullard Professor of Neuropathology at Harvard Medical School; Cobb taught neurology at Harvard Medical School from 1919 to 1954. Cobb served as Chief of the Neurology Service at Boston City Hospital from 1925 until 1934 when he was appointed Chief of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, a position he held until his retirement in 1954. During a trip to Europe, 1924-1925, as a Rockefeller Fellow, he made a wide range of professional contacts and visited clinics and laboratories in Oxford, Paris, and Berlin. Cobb established a Neurological Unit at the Boston City Hospital in the late 1920s, where electroencephalography and the drug Dilantin for the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy were developed. At Massachusetts General, he established the first psychiatric service with beds in a large general hospital. He was also a pioneer in developing psychosomatic medicine and in treating the patient as a whole.

From the description of Papers, 1898-1982 (inclusive), 1901-1968 (bulk) (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 281427999

Stanley Cobb, a seminal figure in several areas of neurology and psychiatry, has an especially solid reputation as a neuroanatomist and neuropathologist. Most important, he served as a catalyst for integrating the practice of neurology with psychiatry and for brining psychiatry into the modern hospital environment. In so doing, he not only introduced psychoanalysis into the medical school curriculum, he was also a pioneer in psychosomatic medicine.

A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School (M.D., 1914), Cobb, save for postgraduate study at Johns Hopkins, service in World War I, and European tour as a Rockefeller fellow, spent his entire career at Harvard and in Boston, Mass. Rising from various junior posts to Bullard Professor of Neuropathology in 1926, he also was Chief of the Neurology Service at Boston City Hospital from 1925 to 1934 and Chief of the Psychiatry Service at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) from 1934 to his retirement in 1954. The years at the City Hospital were productive ones, highlighted by Cobb's collaboration with William Lennox on the study of epilepsy and with Henry Forbes (his brother-in-law) on experiments in the cerebral circulation. His psychiatric service at MGH was one of the first in the country to be integrated with the medical and surgical services of a general hospital. There he attracted a top flight staff of men and women whose research he directed and careers he influenced. His prodigious contributions to scientific and clinical aspects of neurology and psychiatry were summarized in his monographs, The Borderlands of Psychiatry and The Foundations of Neuropsychiatry.

Throughout his life, from early boyhood on, Dr. Cobb was a keen observer of the natural world of birds and wildlife. Some of his articles on ecological change became classic--especially his 1962 note on "Death of a Salt Pond." A member of the Harvard Medical Faculty from 1919, he was honored by the establishment of the Stanley Cobb Chair at the Medical School in 1960. Other honors included the award of the Kober Medal in 1956 and a Distinguished Service Award from the New York Academy of Medicine in 1967. Crippled by arthritis during the latter part of his life, he maintained his intellectual vigor until his death in 1968 at he age of 80.

Stanley Cobb's manuscript papers were a major resource for Benjamin V. White's full-length biography of his father-in-law, Stanley Cobb: A Builder of the Modern Neurosciences Boston: Countway Library of Medicine, 1984). White found the early period of Cobb's life up to 1934 well documented by the correspondence, manuscripts and related materials that were long ago deposited in the Harvard Medical School Archives. The nucleus was supplemented by family letters gathered together over the years by Cobb's sister Hildegarde Forbes, and by letters and papers that had accumulated during Cobb's retirement years from 1954 to 1968. Almost all of these supplementary materials have since been added to the Cobb Papers in the Countway Library, thanks to Dr. White. Thanks are also due to Ben White and his wife Helen for filling a large gap that existed in the documentation of Cobb's life. Upon finding that there had been a disastrous loss of files covering Cobb's entire tenure at MGH, the Whites in 1977 undertook a series of taped interviews of persons able to provide essential information for that period. These interviews are now part of the Cobb Papers, as well as White's manuscript and working materials for the biography.

From the guide to the Papers, (inclusive), 1898-1982, 1901-1968 (bulk), (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.)

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Subjects:

  • Brain--Blood-vessels
  • Drug abuse
  • Brain--Research
  • Epilepsy
  • Psychiatry--Research

Occupations:

  • Neuropathologists

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