Make An Appointment Today!

617-573-3202

or Use Our Simple Online Form to Give Us Feedback

We welcome your comments and feedback. Please include contact information if you'd like a response.

Did you find this page helpful?





If you would like a response, please include your contact information.

History of Mass. Eye and Ear

In 1824, two young eye surgeons named John Jeffries and Edward Reynolds established a charitable eye clinic in Boston. Soon they began to treat ear diseases as well, and by the end of the nineteenth century, their small clinic had evolved into the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, a nationally recognized specialty institution.

In 1900, Dr. Frederick Verhoeff, Mass. Eye and Ear's first full-time researcher/pathologist, established the first eye pathology laboratory in the United States and successfully established an endowed research department at Mass. Eye and Ear.

Another milestone in the Mass. Eye and Ear’s early history was the establishment of the first isolation accommodations for infectious patients in the pre-antibiotic era.

Throughout its 180-plus year history, Mass. Eye and Ear has led clinical advances and research. Its emphasis on the pursuit of knowledge has resulted in many groundbreaking medical and patient-care discoveries. Mass. Eye and Ear has discovered new drugs, perfected new techniques, identified disease-causing genes and much more.

Timeline of Mass. Eye and Ear Historic Milestones:

  • 1824: Boston Eye Infirmary opened “to alleviate suffering of less fortunate brethren” and to become a teaching center.
  • 1827: Incorporated as the Massachusetts Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary.
  • 1866: First direct association with Harvard Medical School (HMS); clinical instruction given to Harvard students in Ophthalmology every Thursday morning.
  • 1876: Annie Sullivan was Helen Keller's devoted teacher and companion who later became known to the world as "The Miracle Worker." Nearly blind herself, Annie regained her vision only after treatment by Dr. Henry Bradford at the Mass. Eye and Ear. Annie brought Helen to Dr. Bradford for treatment 20 years later.
  • 1888: Clarence John Blake, M.D., named HMS Professor of Otology, head of the Department of Otology, and one of the rotating Chiefs of Otology at Mass. Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary. He made lecture rooms and the clinic available for teaching HMS students and nursing students. Dr. Blake worked with Alexander Graham Bell on hearing research that led to Bell’s invention of the telephone; devised middle ear speculum and snare for removing aural polyps.
  • 1900: Harvard’s ophthalmic and otolarygologic instruction was at the Mass. Eye and Ear, where it remains today.
  • 1903-1939: The Mosher Course, famed HMS postgraduate course in head and neck anatomy, established and taught by Harris P. Mosher, M.D.
  • 1923-1974: Varaztad H. Kazanjian, M.D., D.M.D., served as a member of the Mass. Eye and Ear staff, its first chief of the Plastic Surgery Service, and Harvard’s first Professor of Plastic Surgery. He was known as “The Miracle man of the Western Front” for his treatment of soldiers in WWI.
  • 1925: “Charitable” dropped from the hospital’s name; now known as the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
  • 1928: Howe Laboratory of Ophthalmology initiated at Mass. Eye and Ear as a joint Mass. Eye and Ear/HMS venture. The Howe Library was opened at the hospital as a joint responsibility of Mass. Eye and Ear and Harvard.
  • 1958: Eaton-Peabody Laboratory of Auditory Physiology was established. The lab is currently the largest hearing research facility in the world.
  • 1969: Construction begins on the new Mass. Eye and Ear tower, completed in 1973.
  • 1973: Construction begins on second tower. Completed in 1976.
  • 1974: The Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations formally opens. The laboratory was conceived as a multi-disciplined research effort and represents a commitment of Mass. Eye and Ear and Harvard towards understanding the disease mechanisms involved in retinitis pigmentosa and the more than 30 related diseases that affect the retina.
  • 1982: Mass. Eye and Ear audiologists develop technology to screen for and diagnose hearing loss in newborn babies. This technology is now used to screen the hearing of babies around the world.
  • 1986: Discovery of the first hereditary cancer gene.
  • 1993: Development of a surgical method to restore speech, swallowing and normal breathing in patients with paralyzed vocal chords.
  • Discovery of VEGF, a molecule implicated in diabetic retinopathy and AMD, the most common forms of blindness.
  • Pioneered the use of photodynamic therapy for neovascular macular degeneration, which was FDA approved in 2000.
  • 2003: Discovery of stem cells in the inner ear that were converted into mature hair cells, which may someday lead to ways of restoring lost hearing.
  • 2003: Joan W. Miller, M.D., named Chief of Ophthalmology, Mass. Eye and Ear, and Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology, HMS. She is the first woman to hold this position at HMS and Mass. Eye and Ear.
  • 2013: Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Longwood, a new outpatient surgical center at 800 Huntington Avenue in the Longwood/Mission Hill area of Boston, opened to patients. The site provides easy access to Mass. Eye and Ear’s world-class physicians and surgeons, and outpatient services for those who are cared for by medical professionals in the Longwood Medical Area and other locations. The 90,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art center houses four operating rooms and the most advanced clinical spaces for ophthalmology (eye care), plus physician offices.
  • 2014: D. Bradley Welling, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.S., named as the next Chief of Otolaryngology for the Massachusetts Eye and Ear /Massachusetts General Hospital departments, Chairman of Otology and Laryngology for Harvard Medical School (HMS).