Lives of the fellows

Roger Irving Lee

b.12 August 1881 d.28 October 1965
BA Harvard(1902) MD Harvard(1905) Hon LLD Harvard(1954) FACP(1928) *FRCP(1942)

Roger Lee, one of America’s most distinguished physicians in the first half of the twentieth century, was born in Peabody, Massachusetts, to William Thomas Lee, and his wife, née Mary Farnsworth. He was educated at the local High School and at Harvard University, and in 1908 joined the staff of the Massachusetts General Hospital. In World War I he served in France in command of a medical unit before becoming consultant to the 3rd Corps of the American Expeditionary Force. He returned to Boston in 1919 and was elected the first Henry K. Oliver professor of medicine to the University, where he was a founder member of the School of Public Health, a member of the Board of Directors, and for twenty-three years a fellow of the Governing Corporation.

Although he served as a distinguished diagnostician in internal medicine in five local hospitals and ran a large practice, he found time to write widely on the place of the doctor in public life, and to take an active interest in many learned societies. He was a member of the Public Health Council, the Association of American Physicians, the Society of Clinical Investigators, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Clinical and Climatological Society, and the United States Committee of the World Medical Association. Among the honours he received were the honorary doctorate of laws of Harvard, the Gold-Headed Cane award of the University of California School of Medicine, and the presidencies of the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians.

In his writings and his teachings Lee was forthright and decisive, devoted to the ideals of medicine, stimulating and critical, but never dogmatic. To him medicine was a life-long and enjoyable challenge, but he believed physicians should have ‘besides their profession, something perhaps indescribable, idealistic, spiritual rather than entirely mundane and materialistic’. To him that something was music; he was a trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

In 1919 he married Ella Lowell Lyman; they had three sons.

Richard R Trail

* He was elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical or General Science or Literature..."

[J.Amer.med.Ass., 1965, 194, 38 (p); New York Times, 30 Oct. 1965; R. I. Lee. The Happy life of a doctor. Boston, [1956].]

(Volume V, page 242)

<< Back to List