About Boston

Boston is the capital of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is the largest city in the New England region. Situated on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, it is the only U.S. capital city with an oceanic coastline. Also known as the Bay State, Boston has a number of large bays (e.g., the Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay) that shape its coast. The city is surrounded by 21 distinguished and vibrant neighborhoods, earning Boston the moniker 'The City of Neighborhoods’. Some of these neighborhoods include:  the North End, Hyde Park, Roxbury, the South End, Back Bay, Jamaica Plain, and Allston/Brighton.

Early History

The city of Boston was founded in 1630 by Puritan colonists from England, and is now one of America’s oldest cities and has become the heart of the New England region.

Boston is deemed the birthplace of the American Revolution. The colonist rebellion against heavy taxation levied by the British Parliament provoked several historical events in the city of Boston, including the Boston Tea Party. The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere from Boston’s Old North Church to Lexington and Concord was one of the Revolutionary War’s first events and many early Revolutionary War battles were fought in or around Boston. Some of these historical events include: the Battle at Bunker Hill, and the Battles at Lexington and Concord.

In the early 1820s, post Revolutionary War, many families from Ireland and Italy immigrated to the city of Boston, dramatically changing the city’s ethnic makeup. Boston’s rich history and diverse culture have contributed to its diverse, educated, sophisticated, and stylish community of more than 617,000 people in Boston proper and more than 4.7 million in the greater metropolitan region.

Healthcare and Biomedical Science in Boston

The city of Boston is home to world-renowned universities, hospitals, and Fortune 500 companies.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Brigham and Women’s Hospital was founded by the 1984 merger of three Harvard-affiliated Boston hospitals:  Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (established in 1913), the Robert Breck Brigham Hospital (established in 1914), and the Boston Hospital for Women (established in 1966 as a merger of Boston Lying-In Hospital (established in 1834) and the Free Hospital for Women (established in 1875). 

The Boston Lying-In Hospital, the first obstetrical hospital in New England, was established as a charity hospital intended to provide care necessary to save the many destitute women who died in childbirth as a consequence of their lack of warm shelter and medical assistance.  As it grew, the institution went far beyond charity medical care. It was at the Lying-In that ether was first used to treat the pain of childbirth, antiseptics were first introduced to North America, and the Rh factor in blood was identified. Further, following the merger with the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital to form the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the service was run by Mary Ellen Avery, MD of the Avery and Mead team who discovered surfactant was the missing element responsible for lung immaturity in preterm infants. Brigham and Women’s Hospital also participated in the first American trial treating lung immaturity for infants born prematurely with surfactant for what was then called hyaline membrane disease and is now called surfactant deficiency.

Boston is Acknowledged as a Premier Medical and Scientific Community

Boston and Cambridge together are acknowledged as one of the world’s premier centers of healthcare and biomedical sciences, possessing a wealth of medical and scientific resources.  Our local expertise is fueled by institutions of higher education and research, including Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, and Tufts University; a number of vibrant academic medical centers, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and a highly innovative and productive biotechnology community, with hubs in Cambridge and the Route 128 corridor surrounding Boston.

Boston is well represented among the history of medical ‘firsts’, including the nation’s first hospital (Massachusetts General Hospital), first hospital for children (Boston Children’s Hospital), first administration of anesthesia (at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1846), as well as for the establishment of the first medical school to train women physicians, and the first female and Native American graduates of an American medical school.

Boston medical discoveries pertaining to newborn care include:

  • Surfactant treatment for lung immaturity (what was then called hyaline membrane disease)
  • Treatment of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn with inhaled nitric oxide
  • The first cardiac surgery in a child (PDA ligation). 

Five of Harvard’s affiliated institutions (Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Boston Children’s Hospital) consistently rank among the top five independent teaching hospitals nationally in level of biomedical research funding from the National Institutes of Health.

An excerpt from the Harvard Medical School student manual describes many other specific contributions of Harvard faculty: “Since the introduction of smallpox vaccination to America in 1799 by Professor Waterhouse, Harvard Medical School faculty have established a vibrant tradition of discovery and innovation, including the first use of anesthesia for pain control during surgery; the introduction of insulin to the U.S. to treat diabetes; understanding of the role of vitamin B12 in treating anemia; identification of coenzyme A and understanding of proteins; developing tissue culture methods for the polio virus, which paved the way for vaccines against polio; mapping the visual system of the brain; development of the first successful chemotherapy for childhood leukemia; development of the first implantable cardiac pacemaker; discovering the inheritance of immunity to infection; development of artificial skin for burn victims; the first successful heart valve surgery; the first successful human kidney transplant; the first reattachment of a severed human limb; discovery of the genes that cause Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Huntington’s Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and Alzheimer’s disease, among many others; establishing the importance of tumor vascular supply (angiogenesis) and seeding the field of vascular biology; and discovery of the cause of preeclampsia in pregnant women.”

Harvard also is known as the birthplace of evidence-based medicine and leadership of large-scale clinical studies such as the Framingham Heart Study and the Women’s Health Study.

Harvard (predominantly) as well as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University are the homes of a number of recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, including:

  • William P. Murphy and George Minot (1934) for research on liver treatment of the anemias
  • Fritz A. Lipmann (1953) for identification of “coenzyme A” and discovery of basic principles in the understanding of proteins
  • Thomas H. Weller, J.F. Enders, and F.C. Robbins (1954) for application of tissue-culture methods to the study of viral diseases
  • Georg von Bekesy (1961) for demonstrating the physical principles involved in the mechanism of hearing
  • James D. Watson (1962) for discovery of the structure of DNA
  • Konrad E. Bloch (1964) for contributions to understanding the pattern of reactions involved in the biosynthesis of cholesterol and fatty acids
  • George Wald (1967) for research on the biochemistry of vision
  • Har Gobind Khorana (1968) (with Marshall W. Nirenberg and Robert W. Holley) for research that showed how the order of nucleotides in nucleic acids, which carry the genetic code of the cell, control the cell’s synthesis of proteins
  • Salvador Edward Luria (1969) (with Max Delbrück and Alfred Hershey) for discoveries on the replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses
  • David Baltimore (1975) for key contributions to immunology, virology, cancer research, biotechnology, and recombinant DNA research
  • Allan MacLeod Cormack (1979) for his work on X-ray computed tomography (CT).
  • Baruj Benacerraf (1980) for his discovery that disease-fighting ability is passed on genetically, although the immune-response gene varies from person to person
  • Torsten Wiesel and David Hubel (1981) for research on information-processing in the visual system
  • Susumu Tonegawa (1987) for his discovery of the genetic mechanism that produces antibody diversity
  • Joseph E. Murray (1990) (with E. Donnall Thomas) for the development of new procedures for organ transplants
  • Phillip Allen Sharp (1993) for the discovery that genes in eukaryotes are not contiguous strings but contain introns, and that the splicing of messenger RNA to delete those introns can occur in different ways, yielding different proteins from the same DNA sequence
  • Howard Robert Horvitz (2002) for his research on the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans that is used in medical research
  • Linda B. Buck (2004) for discoveries of “odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system"
  • James Edward Rothman (2013) (with Randy Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof) for his work on vesicle trafficking
Higher Education

There are more than 100 colleges and universities in the greater Boston area, with 250,000+ students enrolled in Cambridge and Boston alone.  Boston is home to several highly-ranked higher education institutes including the world renowned Harvard University, located across the Charles River in Cambridge, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Other local universities include:

Local Teaching Hospitals

The Longwood Medical Area is home to many prominent medical facilities including Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

Other major facilities in Boston include:  Boston Medical CenterMassachusetts General Hospital (MGH)Mass Eye & Ear InfirmaryTufts Medical CenterBoston Children’s HospitalDana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Many of the above hospitals are affiliated with local universities.

LEARN MORE ABOUT BRIGHAM AND WOMEN’S HOSPITAL


For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

About BWH