Maude Abbott

Medicine

Pathologist. Developed a classification system for congenital heart diseases

Abbott won a scholarship to McGill University, Montreal, in her senior year of high school. She earned her BA and then decided to study medicine. McGill at that time did not allow women to enter its medical program, so Abbott attended Bishop’s College and received her medical degree in 1894. In 1897, she wrote a successful paper on heart murmurs, but a male friend had to present it for her since women were not admitted to the Montreal medical society where she was to read the paper.

In 1898 Abbott was appointed curator of McGill’s Medical Museum. Here she began cataloguing specimens and became interested in pathology, the study of disease. She focused her studies on heart disease and began work on her book, "The Atlas of Congenital Cardiac Disease", in which she described her new classification system for congenital heart diseases. In 1923 she became Chief of Pathology at a woman’s medical college in Pennsylvania. In 1926 Abbott returned to McGill in Canada, where she pioneered the use of museum exhibits as teaching aids. She also wrote a history of nursing which was later used in nursing schools across the country. In 1936 her Atlas was published and was praised as an important contributor to medical knowledge. She was also made an honorary member of the all-male Osler Society, named after Sir William Osler, a famous pathologist who had encouraged Abbott in her studies.

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