Maude Abbott

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Maude Abbott
Maude Abbott.jpg
Born Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbott
(1869-03-18)March 18, 1869
St. Andrews East, Quebec
Died September 2, 1940(1940-09-02) (aged 71)
Montreal, Quebec
Occupation Physician
Known for Expert on congenital heart disease

Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbott (March 18, 1869 – September 2, 1940) was a Canadian physician, among Canada's earliest female medical graduates, and a world-famous expert on congenital heart disease.[1] She was one of the first women to obtain a BA from McGill University.[2]


In 1869, Abbot was born in St. Andrews East, Quebec as Maude Elizabeth Seymour Babin. Both of her parents were absent during infancy,[3] as her mother had died and her father had abandoned her.[2] With her sister Alice,[4] she was legally adopted and raised by her maternal grandmother, Mrs. William Abbott, who was then 62.[5] She was a cousin of John Abbott, Canada's third Prime Minister.[6]

In 1885, she graduated from a private Montreal seminary[5] high school.[7]

Abbott was admitted to McGill University's Faculty of Arts, with a scholarship,[7] receiving her B.A in 1890. In 1894, she received her M.D., C.M. from Bishop's University with honours, and the only woman in her class. She received the Chancellor’s Prize, and Senior Anatomy Prize for having the best final examination.[8] Later that year, she opened her own practice in Montreal, worked with the Royal Victoria hospital, and was nominated and elected as the Montreal Medico-Chirurgical Society's first female member.[5] Some time afterwards, she did her post-graduate medical studies in Vienna.[6][9]

In 1897, she opened an independent clinic dedicated to treating women and children. There she did much first-hand research in pathology.[4]

In 1898, she was appointed Assistant Curator at the McGill Pathological Museum, becoming curator 1901.[10]

In 1905,[5] she was invited to write the chapter on 'Congenital Heart Disease' for Dr. Osler's System of Modern Medicine.[7] He declared it "the best thing he had ever read on the subject."[11] The article would place her as the world authority in the field of congenital heart disease.[5]

In 1906, she co-founded the International Association of Medical Museums, with Dr. William Osler.[2] She became its international secretary in 1907. She would edit the institutions articles for thirty-one years (1907-1938).[11]

In 1910, Abbott was awarded an honorary medical degree from McGill and was made a Lecturer in Patholog; this was eight years prior to the university admitted female students to the Faculty of Medicine.[7] After a much conflict with Dr. Horst Oërtel, she left McGill to take up a position at the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1923.[12] In 1925, Abbott returned to McGill becoming an Assistant Professor.[13]

In 1924, She was a founder the Federation of Medical Women of Canada, a Canadian organization committed to the professional, social and personal advancement of women physicians.[14]

In 1936, she wrote the 'Atlas of Congenital Cardiac Disease'.[2] The world contained a new classification system, and described records of over a thousand cases of clinical and postmortem records.[5] During the same year, she retired from her professorial position.

On 2 September 1940, Abbott died due a brain hemorrhage, in Montreal.[7]


Many of Abbott's colleagues considered her eccentric, but due to her activity and generosity was given the nickname 'The Beneficent Tornado'.[11]

Much of Abbott's work concerned the nature of heart disease, especially in newborn babies.[7] This would cause her to be recognized as a world authority on heart defects.[9]


  • Chancellor’s Prize, 1894.
  • Senior Anatomy Prize, 1894.
  • Lord Stanley Gold Medal, 1890.[7]
  • McGill class valedictorian, 1890.[5]


In 1943, Diego Rivera painted her in his mural for the National Institute of Cardiology of Mexico City. She was the only Canadian, and the only woman depicted in the work.[5]

In 1958, the International Academy of Pathology established the 'Maude Abbott Lecture'.[5]

In 1993, she was named a "Historic Person" by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and a plaque was erected outside the McIntyre Medical Sciences Building at McGill University in Montreal.

In 1994, she was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.[15] In 2000, a bronze plaque was erected in her honour on the McIntyre Medical Building. In the same year, Canada Post issued a forty-six cent postage stamp entitled The Heart of the Matter in her honour.[8]


Abbott was a prolific writer, composing over upwards, and potentially over 140 papers and books.[16] She also gave countless lectures. Her body of work includes:

  • The Atlas of Congenital Cardiac Disease (Originally published in New York by the American Heart Association in 1936. A reprint was published by McGill-Queen's University Press in 2006 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the International Academy of Pathology." (ISBN 9780773531284)
  • Pigmentation-cirrhosis in a case of Haemochromatosis
  • An Historical Sketch of the Medical Faculty of McGill University
  • On the Classification of Museum Specimens-American Medicine
  • The Museum in Medical Teaching
  • Congenital Cardiac Disease, Chapter IX in Osler's Modern Medicine[17]
  • The Determination of Basal Metabolism by Indirect Calorimetry
  • Florence Nightingale as seen in her portraits
  • McGill's Heroic Past
  • On the differentiation of two forms of congenital dextrocardia[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dr. Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbott". The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 23, 2005. 
  2. ^ a b c d
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i
  6. ^ a b "Dr. Maude Abbott". Laurentian Heritage Magazine. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g
  8. ^ a b "The queen of Canadian cardiology". Doctor's Review. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbott at The Canadian Encyclopedia
  11. ^ a b c
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Maude Abbott". Canadian Science and Technology Museum. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  14. ^ "Maude Abbott". McGill. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  15. ^ "Maude Abbott". MAUDE Unit. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  16. ^ Laurtenian Heritage WebMagazine cites it as over 100, while Library and Archives Canada suggests over 140.
  17. ^ Abbott, Maude (1908), "Chapter IX: Congenital cardiac disease", in Osler, William, Modern Medicine: Its Theory and Practice, IV: Diseases of the circulatory system; diseases of the blood; diseases of the spleen, thymus, and lymph-glands, Philadelphia and New York: Lea & Febiger 
  18. ^ M. E. Abbott and J. C. Meakins (1915). "On the differentiation of two forms of congenital dextrocardia". Bulletin of the International Association of Medical Museums (5): 134–138. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Elizabeth Abbott, All Heart: Notes on the Life of Dr. Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbott MD, Pioneer Worman Doctor and Cardiologist (1997)
  • Margaret Gillett, We Walked Very Warily: A History of Women at McGill (1981).

External links[edit]