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Historical Highlights

A timeline for Boston Children’s Hospital in its first 150 years

Since 1869, when some Harvard Medical School graduates opened a 20-bed facility in the South End, what is now Boston Children’s Hospital has had myriad milestones.

Dr. Thomas Morgan Rotch opened a lab to remove bacteria from milk in 1891.
Dr. Thomas Morgan Rotch opened a lab to remove bacteria from milk in 1891. Boston Children’s Hospital

Since 1869, when Dr. Francis Henry Brown and fellow Harvard Medical School graduates opened a facility for children in the South End, what is now Boston Children’s Hospital has had myriad milestones. Here are some highlights.

1891 Dr. Thomas Morgan Rotch opens a lab to remove bacteria from milk, improving patient safety before pasteurization is widespread.

1914 The hospital moves to its current Longwood Avenue location, buying 3 acres for $120,000.

Boston Children’s Hospital shown circa 1914.
Boston Children’s Hospital shown circa 1914. Boston Children’s Hospital

1933 Dr. James Gamble’s research forms the basis for fluid replacement therapy, saving the lives of countless babies who would have died from dehydration.

1935 Betty Lank, a nurse anesthetist who made multiple advances in pediatric anesthesia, is the first to use the gas cyclopropane as an anesthetic on an infant.

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1938 The first successful surgery to close a congenital heart defect is performed by Dr. Robert Gross.

> Related: For more on Boston Children’s 150th anniversary, click here.

1939 Dr. William E. Ladd develops a procedure to create a new esophagus for newborns born with a gap in theirs, which previously had been fatal.

1947 Dr. Sidney Farber successfully treats leukemia with what will come to be called chemotherapy.

1949 John Enders, Thomas Weller, and Dr. Frederick Robbins successfully culture the polio virus, leading to the development of the polio vaccine. They receive a Nobel Prize in 1954.

John Enders in 1964.
John Enders in 1964. Boston Children’s Hospital

1966 To better prepare children to be patients, the hospital reaches out to Cambridge residents H.A. and Margret Rey, leading to Curious George Goes to the Hospital.

1971 Dr. Judah Folkman theorizes that cancerous tumors grow by attracting new blood supplies, which will revolutionize the field of oncology.

Dr. John E. Hall fits a patient with a Boston Brace.
Dr. John E. Hall fits a patient with a Boston Brace.Boston Children’s Hospital

1972 The Boston Brace, which corrects scoliosis without the discomfort of the metal rod and neck ring then in wide use, is invented by Dr. John E. Hall and Bill Miller.

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2001 A 19-week-old fetus undergoes the world’s first successful in utero heart procedure to repair hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a life-threatening defect.

2007 Dr. Norman Spack and Dr. David Diamond establish the first US clinic for transgender youth.

2011 “Bubble boy disease” is treated successfully for the first time in the United States, as Drs. Luigi Notarangelo, Sung-Yun Pai, and David Williams apply gene therapy to alter an infant’s bone marrow.