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Edward Peirson Richardson, Jr.

Born  1918
Died  1998

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American neuropathologist, born April 3, 1918; died November 30, 1998.

Biography of Edward Peirson Richardson, Jr.

Edward Peirson Richardson, Jr. was born to a family with rich medical traditions. Both his father and grandfather were chiefs of the surgical service at Massachusetts General Hospital, and his mother's family, the Shattucks, were also a prominent Boston-area medical family. He earned his bachelor's degree from Harvard College in 1939 and graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1943.Following a medical internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, Richardson served as a neuropsychiatrist with the U.S. Army until 1946, when he returned to Massachusetts General Hospital to study psychiatry and neurology under Stanley Cobb. He spent the years 1947-1949 pursuing neurology training at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, in London. Here he became acquainted with the neuropathologist Joseph Godwin Greenfield (1884-1958). He also trained in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital.

Back in the U.S.A. Richardson in 1949 joined the Massachusetts General Hospital neurology service and Harvard Medical School. He first worked with Charles S. Kubik, who had established the neuropathology laboratory at the hospital. In 1951, Richardson took over the direction of the neuropathology laboratory, which was subsequently named after Dr. Kubik.

In 1974 Richardson became professor of neuropathology at Harvard Medical School, and in 1984 the Bullard Professor of Neuropathology. He served as a visiting neuropathologist in many institutions around the world, including in 1955 with Julius Hallervorden (1882-1965) and Hugo Spatz (1888-1969) in Giessen; in 1962 with Theodore Rabinowicz (1919-1995) in Lausanne; in 1977 and 1987 with Byron Kakulas in Perth, Australia. He received the senior scientist award from the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation in 1982, and in 1982-1983 he was a von Humboldt-Senior Scientist with Jorge Cervós-Navarro in Berlin.

Richardson's important contributions encompass almost every category of neurological disease. He was known for his work on Huntington's and Alzheimer's diseases and was the original describer of several brain disorders, including progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy.

Richardson served on the editorial boards of many neurology, pathology and neuropathology journals, including Acta Neuropathologica (1963-1987). He was the President of the American Association of Neuropathologists for 1973-74. He was a consultant to the National Institutes of Health, and was elected a member of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1984, and received the award for meritorious services to neuropathology from the American Association of Neuropathologists in 1988.

Friends and colleagues describe him as a gentleman with a wide area of interests outside medicine, among them sailing. He maintained a lifelong interest in sailing and traditional watercraft, in particular coastal schooners, and many of his happiest moments were with his family aboard his schooner, Serenity. Other interests were history, music, clocks, trains, German literature, Boston architectural landmarks, and New England geography. He had a prodigious command of French and German and was able to translate fluently from scientific texts as if he were reading in his native tongue.

He was a trombonist for the Harvard Band while in college. Later in life he played in various orchestras and ensembles, and enjoyed learning difficult pieces. At age 76, he played the trombone in a production of Die Fledermaus. He was devoted to his family, and relished the summers that he spent with them each year on the coast of Maine.

Richardson served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and as director of the neuropathology service at Massachusetts General Hospital for 30 years.

He trained innumerable neuropathologists, neurologists, pathologists, neurosurgeons and neuroscientists in neuropathology.

Dr. Edward Peirson Richardson Jr., and his wife Margaret Eustis Richardson, had two daughters and a son. He died at his home of lymphoma.


  • E. P. Richardson, Jr., K. E. Åström, P. Kleihues:
    The development of neuropathology at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
    Brain Patholology, Bern, 1994, 4: 181-195.

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