History of the Quigley Society

Written by Carl Akins, Quigley Society Historian

The Thomas B. Quigley Society for the Advancement of Sports Medicine was founded in 1988 by a group of former Harvard football players who had become orthopedic surgeons. The purpose of the Society is to honor the memory of Dr. Quigley and his contributions to Sports Medicine and Harvard football. Thomas Bartlett Quigley (Bart) was born in North Platte, Nebraska on May 24, 1908. His paternal grandparents had emigrated from Ireland and their son Daniel became a general practitioner with an interest in surgery. Daniel Quigley was a doctor for the Northern Pacific Railroad, developed an interest in radium, visited Madame Curie in France with his then five year old son and established a radium hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. Daniel Quigley was a founder of the American College of Surgeons and the American Radium Society.

Bart Quigley graduated from Omaha Central High School, where he was a gifted student and champion swimmer. At age 16 he entered Harvard College, where he swam competitively, sang in the Freshman glee club, acted in the Pi Eta Club productions and was graduated in 1929. He then went to Harvard Medical School, graduating in 1933. After a year of training in pathology in New York City, he returned to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Harvard Medical School where he completed training in general surgery and was a member of the staff and faculty until his retirement in 1974. In 1939 he became Assistant Surgeon to Dr. Augustus T. Thorndike at the Harvard Athletic Association. Dr. Quigley was called to active military duty in 1942 and served as the Chief of the Orthopedic Section of the 5th(Harvard) General Hospital from 1942-1944 and the Chief of the Surgical Service of the 22nd General Hospital from 1944-1945. Both of these assignments were in Great Britain, where he collaborated with Dr. Marshall R. Urist. From that experience he wrote five professional papers and one monograph “Plaster of Paris Technique in the Treatment of Fractures and Other Injuries” published in 1945.

In 1945 Dr. Quigley returned to Harvard and to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. His professional career was centered on the care of athletes at Harvard. He produced 172 professional papers and spoke at many conferences. He was a diplomate of the American Board of Surgery and gave lectures to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. In 1959, as a member of the editorial board of the American Journal of Surgery, he edited a special issue on sports injuries. He was on the AMA Committee on the Medical Aspects of Sports and, as its Chair (1962-1965), was instrumental in the publication of “The Bill of Rights for the College Athlete”, which emphasized good coaching, officiating, equipment and facilities and good medical care, including a preseason history and physical examination, a physician present at all contests and medical control of the health aspects of athletics. Throughout this time, Dr. Quigley was the team physician for Harvard athletics, most importantly football, for home games he wore a crimson cap and ran onto the field whenever a player was injured. In 1938 Dr. Quigley married Ruth Pearson; they had three children. Jane Alexander is an actress and the former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Tom is a retired pilot for TWA and Pam lives near Dublin with her Irish husband. Dr. Quigley had a cerebral thrombosis in 1979, confining him to a wheelchair. He died in 1982.

One of Dr. Quigley’s most quoted sayings reflects his superb use of the language and his interest in sports medicine; “Whenever young men gather regularly on green autumn fields, or winter ice, or polished wooden floors to dispute the physical possession and position of various leather and rubber objects according to certain rules, sooner or later somebody is going to get hurt.” Thomas B. Quigley is one of the fathers of sports medicine and is the man for whom this Society is named.

Carlton M. Akins, MD
January 2008