Abraham Myerson papers available at the Countway Library

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the acquisition of the personal and professional papers of Abraham Myerson, M.D. (1881-1948). Myerson, a neurologist, psychiatrist, clinician, pathologist, and researcher, believed in the interdependence of mind and body and a physiological approach in psychiatry and neurology. He had a special interest in the heredity of psychiatric and neurologic disease.

During the first decades of the 20th century, the eugenics movement became prominent and widely supported by lay and professional groups. Myerson was an opponent of the involuntary sterilization of feeble-minded and mentally ill patients. While at Taunton State Hospital, he conducted a study and published his findings in The Inheritance of Mental Disease (1925), which showed that only ten percent of inpatients had a relative who had been confined to the hospital since its opening in 1854. Myerson believed that while there could be a heredity factor involved, social environment also played a major role.

Among his many professional roles, Myerson served as Massachusetts state forensic examiner for eight years. He interviewed Sacco and Vanzetti and later testified at their trial.

The collection contains correspondence with colleagues, peers, and the general public on many topics, including the need and possible uses for Benzedrine, notes of his conversations with Sacco, unpublished writings, and photographs. A subseries contains the inventory of state resources provided for the mentally ill and retarded in the United States compiled by Dr. Harry Best, which later resulted in a publication, and related correspondence with Best.

Born in Lithuania, the son of a schoolteacher, Myerson came to the United States at age five. In 1892, the family moved to Boston, Massachusetts where Myerson attended the Boston public schools. He later attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University and Tufts Medical School; he graduated from the latter in 1908. Myerson held several appointments in Boston-area hospitals and medical schools in neurology, neuropathology, pathology, and clinical psychiatry, including working with Harvard Medical School neuropathologist Elmer E. Southard, joining the first group of residents (with Myrtelle Canavan and Harry Solomon) at the newly opened Boston Psychopathic Hospital (1912), serving as clinical director and pathologist at Taunton State Hospital (1913-1917) and as director of research at Boston State Hospital (1927-1940). He was appointed Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School (1935-1940) and Chair of the Department of Neurology at Tufts Medical School (1921-1940). Myerson was chief of the Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, Beth Israel Hospital, from 1942 to 1945.

Myerson was active in many professional organizations: the American Psychiatric Association (representative to the National Research Council), the American Neurological Association, the Greater Boston Medical Society, the American Psychopathological Society (president, 1938-1939), the Advisory Council for Research in nervous and mental disease for the U.S. Public Health Service, and director of the Mental Hygiene Society. He published ten books, all of which can be found in HOLLIS, and numerous scholarly research articles.



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