The Neurology Service at Massachusetts General Hospital began in 1872 under the direction of James Jackson Putnam, Lecturer on the Application of Electricity in Nervous Diseases.

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He held an outpatient clinic at Mass General, became an instructor in the medical school in 1885, and was eventually advanced to the Chair of Diseases of the Nervous System in 1893. His son-in-law E.W. Taylor became the first James Jackson Putnam Professor of Neurology.

James B. Ayer, whose scientific interest was in spinal fluid, succeeded Dr. Putnam in 1926. He organized a neuropathology laboratory under Charles Kubik in 1927 and an EEG service under Robert Schwab in 1936. Dr. Schwab also focused research on Parkinson’s disease and along with Dr. Alan England developed one of the first functional scales for Parkinson Disease research. Upon Dr. Ayer’s retirement in 1946, the Putnam Professorship went briefly to Dr. Kubik and then to Dr. Derek Denny-Brown of the Boston City Hospital. 

Dr. Raymond Adams became Bullard Professor of Neuropathology and then Chief of the Mass General Neurology Service in 1951. Under his leadership, the Department developed important research interests in cerebrovascular disease, movement disorders, mental retardation, muscle and peripheral nerve disease, alcoholic neurological disease, neuromedical oncology, neuroimmunology and dementia. Neuropathology was a key component of each program. During his 27 years as Chief of Neurology, Dr. Adams trained many individuals who themselves became chairs of departments throughout the United States and the world.

Dr. Joseph B. Martin succeeded Dr. Adams as the Chief of the Mass General Neurology Service in 1978, and became the first Julieanne Dorn Professor of Neurology in 1984. Under Dr. Martin, the research efforts of the Department were greatly increased. The Mass General East Charlestown Facility was created, the Huntington’s Diseases Center Without Walls was established, and the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center was begun. When Dr. Martin left to become Dean of the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine in 1990, the Mass General Neurology Service had 90 faculty members at the main Mass General campus, Charlestown, the Eunice Shriver Center for Mental Retardation Research, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and McLean Psychiatric Hospital. 

Dr. Anne B. Young arrived at Mass General to assume the Dorn Professorship and the position as Chief of the Mass General Neurology Service in August 1991. She inherited a large and vigorous Neurology Department with a strong tradition of excellence in basic research targeting clinical diseases. Dr. Young continued this tradition and strengthened the research, patient care and teaching capabilities of the Department. Under her leadership, the Department grew to more than 230 professional MD and PhD members with numerous subspecialty clinical programs for adults and children, as well as many well-established research laboratories.

In 1994, Mass General, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and several community hospitals and physician practices formed an integrated delivery system called Partners HealthCare System. Shortly after that “merger,” Drs. Young and Martin Samuels, Chair of the Brigham and Women’s Neurology Service, decided to integrate some components of the Mass General and Brigham and Women’s Hospital Neurology services as well. The two residency programs were combined and clinical and research programs in multiple sclerosis and movement disorders were merged. In addition, joint clinical and research activities around stroke, neuromuscular disorders and epilepsy were initiated.

That same year, Dr. Merit Cudkowicz, a faculty member dedicated to the study and treatment of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), together with stroke specialist Dr. Steven Greenberg, established the Neurology Clinical Research Institute (NCRI) at Mass General to coordinate and perform data management for trials in several neurological disorders and assist other clinical investigators in the Department with study trial design, funding applications and regulatory compliance.

In 2010, Dr. Cudkowicz, then Director of the Mass General ALS Multidisciplinary Clinic, was appointed the Dorn Professorship, and in 2012, the Chief of Neurology Service. Under her leadership, the Neurology Service has grown to be the largest hospital-based neuroscience research program in the country. Recognizing faculty as key to research success, Dr. Cudkowicz has made a significant number of strategic faculty research recruits during her tenure. Several of the Department’s now more than 300 faculty members serve on NIH councils and sit as leaders of major disease consortiums (e.g. ALS, HD, Parkinson’s, Adrenoleukodystrophy). Under Dr. Cudkowicz’s direction, the Department’s clinical operation has flourished as well. In 2018 alone, Neurology clinicians served our patients through more than 50,000 visits through inpatient admissions and office visits.