Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

“One of my daydreams, which I feel to be selfish, is that of going to school.”

© Irma Coucill and the CMHF
1994 Inductee

Dr. Maude Abbott

March 18, 1869 (Saint Andreus East, Quebec)
September 2, 1940
BA - McGill University; MD - Bishop's University
Dr. Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbott was among the first Canadian women to receive a higher education. She completed her BA at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec and her MD at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec, where she received the Senior Prize for anatomy and the Chancellor’s Prize for best examinations in the final semester. She later pursued postgraduate training in Vienna, then returned to Montreal to practice medicine. In 1899, Abbott was appointed as the Curator of the McGill University Medical Museum, an institution which became a first-rate teaching tool for medical students and a resource base for practitioners.

Abbott focused her research on congenital heart defects and, with her expertise of pathological specimens, became a popular demonstrator among medical students at the university. In 1910, McGill University awarded Abbott with an honorary MDCM degree to recognize her contributions to medicine and to the medical museum at the university.  

Abbott’s skills in pathology eventually drew the interest of Sir William Osler, who asked her to write the chapter on congenital heart disease in his classic text, “Modern Medicine”. This contribution later culminated into Abbott’s 1936 publication, “Atlas of Congenital Heart Disease”. By the end of her career, Abbott was recognized as a world authority on heart defects.

In addition to her significant contributions to medicine, Abbott was also instrumental in the founding of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada and of the International Association of Medical Museums. Abbott was also the only woman to be included in Diego Rivera’s infamous 1940s mural that commemorated innovators in cardiology. Since her death in 1940, she has been revered as a pioneer in cardiology and for her role in laying the foundation for many more women to follow her in establishing successful careers in medicine, regardless of their gender. 



"An Inner Grace: The Life Story of Dr. Maude Abbott and the Advent of Heart Surgery" is available for download.