The Hall

Maude Abbott 1869-1940

In my day, doctors believed that the human heart could not be treated surgically. Now, cardiology is so advanced that a surgeon can repair the damaged heart of a child while it is still in its mother's womb. My work laid the foundation for modern heart surgery by giving doctors a detailed understanding of the anatomy of heart disease.

Although McGill refused to accept me as a medical student – women were not considered suitable candidates for a medical education – I was hired to work in McGill's pathology department after obtaining my medical degree from Bishop's University and studying abroad. Eventually, I became the curator of McGill's medical museum, and through this I was able to collect and study the hearts of people who had died of cardiac problems.

I also searched the historical records for accounts of people with circulatory and heart disease, and piecing this together with my knowledge of anatomy and pathology I was able to compile and write The Atlas of Congenital Heart Disease. This book brought me international renown and became an invaluable tool to surgeons in the late 1930's who pioneered the techniques of cardiac surgery.

Despite my international reputation, McGill never saw fit to promote me beyond the lowly rank of assistant professor, although they did eventually grant me an honorary medical degree.

Back to top