Dr. Robert Battey Greenough is best known for his major contributions to the field of cancer research and as author of over 60 articles in the medical literature. He founded the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Committee on the Treatment of Malignant Diseases in 1922 and, while serving at at Massachusetts General Hospital, developed the first “tumor clinic,” which was extensively replicated in other facilities around the world.
Born in Cambridge, MA, Dr. Greenough was educated at Harvard University and graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1896. Internationally, he studied pathology in Goettingen and Vienna. Throughout most of his distinguished career he maintained some type of association with Massachusetts General Hospital, and he served as assistant professor in surgery at Harvard Medical School until his retirement in 1932.
Dr. Greenough served in World War I, beginning in 1915 as a surgeon and executive officer with the first “Harvard Unit” for three months. As a member of the Naval Reserve Corps, he was ordered to active duty in the US Navy in July 1917, to serve as chief of the surgical service of the Chelsea Naval Hospital. He ultimately rose to the rank of commander. When he returned home from military service he became an advocate for cancer education. Throughout his life, he was a proponent of adequate medical care for all.
The American College of Surgeons was among the many medical and surgical societies for which Dr. Greenough served in leadership capacities. He served on the ACS Board of Governors (1923-1925), the ACS Board of Regents (1924-1937), and served as ACS President (1934-1935). At the time of his death he was serving on the Board of Managers on the Memorial Hospital for the Treatment of Cancer and Allied Diseases in New York City, on the Medical Advisory Committee on Social Security, and as president of the Society for the Control of Cancer.
For more information on ACS presidents and members of the Boards of Regents, contact the ACS Archivist.
ACS Archives Highlights is a series showcasing the vibrant history of the American College of Surgeons, its members, and the history of surgery. For further information on our featured highlights, search the Archives Catalog or contact the ACS Archivist.