Richardson, Maurice Howe, 1851-1912.

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Maurice Howe Richardson (1851-1912), AB, 1873, Harvard College; MD, 1877, Harvard Medical School, was Moseley Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Surgeon-in-Chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he specialized in abdominal surgery. Richardson was named a surgeon to outpatients at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1882 and eventually became Surgeon in Chief in 1911. Richardson was named Assistant Professor of Anatomy at Harvard Medical School in 1887, and was appointed Chair of Clinical Surgery in 1903 and Moseley Professor of Surgery in 1907. He performed the first gastrotomy for the removal of a foreign body through the stomach in 1886; contributed to early diagnosis and surgical prevention of appendicitis; and developed the Richardson abdominal retractor. Richardson published articles on topics including diseases, breast, uterus, and ovarian cancers; and cranial nerve surgery.

From the description of Papers, 1869-1913. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 80621331

Maurice Howe Richardson (MHR), MD, was Surgeon-in-Chief at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and Moseley Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School (HMS). The son of Martha Ann Barber and Nathan Henry Richardson, he was born 31 December 1851 in Athol, Massachusetts. He received the AB from Harvard in 1873, and taught for a year in Salem High School. There he met Dr. Edward Brooks Peirson (1820-1874), a highly-regarded local physician. MHR studied medicine under Peirson’s guidance, and entered Harvard Medical School as a second-year student in 1874. During his last year as a student, he served for three months as surgical house officer at MGH. He resigned before completing his service to become a private assistant to the demonstrator in anatomy at HMS. He received the MD from HMS in 1877.

Following graduation, MHR immediately began a private practice. At the same time, he remained an assistant in HMS’s Anatomy Department where he became acquainted with Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809-1894), Parkman Professor of Anatomy, and began preparing specimens for Holmes' lectures. During this time, MHR began the extensive anatomical training that contributed to his surgical education and later practice.

MHR’s professional life bridged the period between pre-antiseptic and antiseptic surgery. Initially, he practiced throughout New England, performing surgery in private homes and hospitals. In 1882, MHR renewed his life-long affiliation with the MGH, becoming a surgeon to outpatients, and a visiting surgeon in 1886. In 1888, he gave up private general practice in favor of surgery, the first physician in New England to do so. He was a consultant to many Boston and New England hospitals, including Boston City Hospital, Carney Hospital, Corey Hill Hospital, and the Free Hospital for Women in Brookline, Massachusetts. The Richardson abdominal retractor, which bears his name, underscores his contributions to operative technique. Richardson’s surgical career culminated in his appointment as MGH Surgeon-in-Chief in 1911.

Between 1882 and 1912 MHR held several faculty positions at HMS. He became Demonstrator of Anatomy in 1882, Assistant Professor of Anatomy in 1887, Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery in 1892, Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery in 1902, and Chair of Clinical Surgery in 1903. In 1907, MHR succeeded John Collins Warren (1842-1928) as Moseley Professor of Surgery, and held this position until his death in 1912.

MHR frequently contributed to professional publications, including the Harvard Medical Journal, Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Annals of Surgery, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. His early writings covered a wide range of surgical topics, including an 1886 paper describing the first gastrotomy for the removal of a foreign body through the stomach. In addition, MHR produced articles on many subjects pertaining to abdominal surgery, and became involved in early appendix research conducted by his colleague, Reginald Heber Fitz (1843-1913). Richardson’s research and writings contributed to the early diagnosis and surgical prevention of appendicitis.

MHR’s other research interests included diseases of the gallbladder, kidneys, and pancreas; male and female genito-urinary diseases; breast, uterus, and ovarian cancers; and cranial nerve surgery. He began a full-length volume on surgery of the abdomen that was partially written, but never completed. His most extensive published works were Surgery of the Abdomen and Hernia, in Roswell Park’s Surgery by American Authors (1895), and Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, in Frederic S. Dennis’s System of Surgery (1896).

MHR maintained active memberships in many professional societies. Besides participation in the Boston Medical Library Association, Boston Society for Medical Science, and the Obstetrical Society of Boston, he was an honorary member of Harvard’s Aesculapian Club, fellow of the Massachusetts Medical Society, charter member of the International Surgical Society, president of the American Surgical Association (1902), and chairman of the surgical section of the American Medical Association (1904).

In his private life, Richardson enjoyed music and outdoor pursuits. He played the piano, flute, cello, and bassoon, and enjoyed fishing, hiking, and hunting. Noted for physical strength and endurance, he walked nearly sixty miles, from Fitchburg, Massachusetts to the top of Monadnock Mountain in Jaffrey, New Hampshire and back, in one day. He served for one year on a committee for the regulation of Harvard athletics. MHR was married to Margaret White Peirson (July 1879) and they had six children.

On 31 July 1912, after a full day of surgery, Richardson died in his sleep. Funeral services were held at King’s Chapel, Boston, on 2 August 1912.

From the guide to the Papers, 1869-1913., (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Harvard Medical School Clubs and Associations Photographs, ca. 1855-1977. Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library
creatorOf Papers, 1869-1913. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
creatorOf Richardson, Maurice Howe, 1851-1912. Papers, 1869-1913. Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library
referencedIn Harvard Medical School Clubs and Associations Photographs, 1855-1977. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
creatorOf Richardson, Edward Peirson, 1881-1944. Papers, 1875-1931. Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
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associatedWith Bradford, Edward H. (Edward Hickling), 1848-1926. person
associatedWith Burrell, Herbert Leslie, 1856-1910. person
associatedWith Burrell, Herbert L. (Herbert Leslie), 1856-1910 person
associatedWith Cabot, Arthur T. (Arthur Tracy), 1852-1912 person
associatedWith Cabot, Arthur Tracy, 1852-1912. person
associatedWith Cabot, Richard C. (Richard Clarke), 1868-1939. person
associatedWith Cheever, David W. (David Williams), 1831-1915. person
associatedWith Codman, E. A. (Ernest Amory), 1869-1940. person
associatedWith Councilman, W. T. (William Thomas), 1854-1933. person
associatedWith Cushing, Harvey, 1869-1939. person
associatedWith Dennis, Frederick S. (Frederic Shepard), 1850-1934 person
associatedWith Dennis, Frederick Shepard, 1850-1934. person
associatedWith Dodd, Walter James, 1869-1913. person
associatedWith Dwight, Thomas, 1843-1911. person
associatedWith Eliot, Charles W. (Charles William), 1834-1926. person
associatedWith Ernst, Harold C. (Harold Clarence), 1856-1922. person
associatedWith Fitz, Reginald Heber, 1843-1913. person
associatedWith Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine. corporateBody
associatedWith Goldthwait, Joel Ernest, 1866- person
associatedWith Green, Charles M. (Charles Montraville), 1850-1928. person
associatedWith Harvard Medical School. Dept. of Anatomy. corporateBody
associatedWith Harvard Medical School. Dept. of Anatomy. corporateBody
associatedWith Harvard Medical School. Dept. of Surgery. corporateBody
associatedWith Harvard Medical School. Dept. of Surgery. corporateBody
associatedWith Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1809-1894. person
associatedWith Joslin, Elliott Proctor, 1869-1962. person
associatedWith Lodge, Henry Cabot, 1850-1924. person
associatedWith Lowell, A. Lawrence (Abbott Lawrence), 1856-1943. person
associatedWith Massachusetts General Hospital. corporateBody
associatedWith Mumford, James Gregory, 1863-1914. person
associatedWith Osgood, Robert B. (Robert Bayley), b. 1873. person
associatedWith Osler, William, Sir, 1849-1919. person
associatedWith Park, Roswell, 1852-1914. person
associatedWith Porter, William Townsend, 1862-1949. person
associatedWith Prince, Morton, 1854-1929. person
associatedWith Putnam, James Jackson, 1846-1918. person
associatedWith Richardson, Edward P. (Edward Peirson), 1881-1944 person
associatedWith Richardson, Edward Peirson, 1881-1944. person
associatedWith Richardson, W. L. (William Lambert), 1842-1932. person
associatedWith Scudder, Charles Locke, 1860- person
associatedWith Shattuck, Frederick Cheever, 1847-1929. person
associatedWith Warren, John Collins, 1842-1927. person
associatedWith Welch, William Henry, 1850-1934. person
associatedWith White, James C. (James Clarke), 1833-1916. person
associatedWith Wright, James Homer, 1869-1928. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Appendix (Anatomy)
Breast Neoplasms
Nerves, Cranial
Nerves, Cranial
Medical education
Medical education
Medical ethics
Genitourinary organs
Harvard Medical School
Ovarian Neoplasms
Pancreatic diseases
Surgical Procedures, Operative
Urogenital Diseases
Uterine Neoplasms


Birth 1851

Death 1912

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SNAC ID: 21633307