Hospital Boston traces its origins to 1868, when four men met at the
home of Dr. Francis Henry Brown to discuss how to
improve health care for Boston’s children.
Children’s Huntington Avenue location,
Surgical team performs an operation c. 1920.
Outpatients in the 1940's.
The Wellesley Convalescent Home, 1913
Circus Day, c.1930
1950’s polio patients
Their proposal for a new hospital
emphasized three things:
- The medical and surgical treatment of the diseases of children
- The attainment and diffusion of knowledge regarding these diseases
- The training of young women in the duties of nursing for children.
Their dream was realized in 1869, when The Children’s Hospital
opened as a 20-bed facility on Rutland Street in Boston’s
South End. Children’s moved to Huntington Avenue (next to
present-day Symphony Hall) in 1882, before building the Hunnewell
building on Longwood Avenue in 1914.
A few of Children’s notable contributions to the field of
1920 Dr. William Ladd develops procedures for
correcting various congenital defects, launching the specialty of
1938 Dr. Robert Gross performs the first successful
surgery to correct a congenital cardiovascular defect.
1947 Dr. Sidney Farber achieves the first successful
remission of pediatric leukemia.
1971 Dr. Judah Folkman publishes his hypothesis
that tumors grow by recruiting blood vessels, ushering in the field
of angiogenesis and a new approach to the treatment of cancer and
1984 Children’s surgeons perform the first
pediatric liver transplantation in an infant.
2004 The Karp Family Research Laboratories opens,
where Children’s researchers are continuing our tradition
of innovation and discovery.
The polio epidemics
Beginning in 1916, a series of polio epidemics brought thousands
of patients to Children’s. In its most serious form, this
mysterious virus caused respiratory paralysis.
Diagnosis and treatment by Children’s experts was in great
demand, since few clinicians in Massachusetts were familiar with
the disease. In 1932, a room-sized “iron lung” was installed
and was in “practically continuous operation from the first
of June to the first of January,” during the epidemic of 1935,
according to Children’s then physician-in-chief Kenneth
In 1949, Children’s John Enders, PhD, and
his colleagues successfully cultured the polio virus, which led
to a vaccine and the eradication of the disease in the Western hemisphere.
They were awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery in 1954.
To learn more, see the exhibit on Dr. Enders and his discoveries
currently on display in the lobby of the John F. Enders Pediatric