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Early medical research

Copy of a letter from Dr. Osler to Dr. Maude Abbott dated January 23, 1908, black ink on sepia paper. The doctor congratulates her on the quality of an article she wrote.

Letter from doctor William Osler to Maude Abbott


Maude Abbott was fascinated by pathological specimens. After discovering the “Holmes heart” in the McGill University Medical Museum collection, she decided to publish an original report on it in the Montreal Medical Journal in 1901.

I republished the 1823 article with a description of the heart, and a little biographical sketch of Dr. Andrew Holmes. This was a remarkable cardiac anomaly, an adult heart with no ventricular septum, but a small supplementary cavity at its right upper angle, giving off the pulmonary artery.

The other very important outcome of my early article on the Holmes heart was that in 1905 Dr. Osler invited me to write the section on Congenital cardiac disease in his new System of Modern Medicine.

Photograph of page 33 of the Atlas of Congenital Cardiac Disease by Maude Abbott, black and white. The page is titles “Plate XIII. Patent Ductus Arteriosus” and contains 11 figures illustrating cardiac arteries.

Illustration from Maude Abbott’s Atlas of Congenital Cardiac Disease


Osler encouraged Maude to publish the results of her research. Having always had faith in her abilities, Osler wrote in 1908:

I knew you would write a good article but I did not expect one of such extraordinary merit. It is by far and away the very best thing ever written on the subject in English… possibly in any language.

She catalogued and analyzed 412 cases. “I had a large mass of facts and figures from which to draw conclusions.”

Page 203 of a book by Maude Abbott on the impact of bacterial inflammation on cardiovascular processes. The top of the page reads “Inflammatory Processes in Cardio-Vascular Defects”. Two columns of text explain the various processes. A black and white photograph in the centre of the page shows an interior view of the left ventricle of a heart.

Heart specimen in an scientific publication by Maude Abbott