History of Neonatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Brigham and Women’s Hospital has a very proud history, dating back to 1832. In 1832, the Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society and the Massachusetts Humane Society each contributed $5,000 toward the establishment of a hospital “for the care and relief of poor and deserving women”; the Boston Lying-In Hospital. As the demand for services grew, the Boston Lying-In Hospital was moved to various locations.

In 1922, the hospital was established at one of its current locations, 221 Longwood Avenue. Dr. Walter Channing and Dr. Enoch Hale are credited as the founders and first attending physicians of the Boston Lying-In Hospital, which later merged with the Free Hospital for Women to create the Boston Hospital for Women.

Allied with Harvard Medical School, the hospital housed and trained many leaders in obstetrics and participated in the birth of a new field, newborn medicine. Discoveries included ether for obstetric anesthesia; the Rhesus factor (Rh), responsible for blood and bilirubin problems in newborns associated with Rh incompatibility between mother and baby; and an understanding of surfactant deficiency underpinning the respiratory diseases of the premature infant.

In 1888, the Lying-In collaborated with Harvard Medical School to launch a nursing school. Nursing Superintendent Eliza Higgins was the clinical leader of the new school for its first 40 years.

In 1980, the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, the Robert Breck Brigham Hospital, and the Boston Hospital for Women merged to form Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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