Mclean Hospital
historical photo of lab

History & Progress

For over 200 years, McLean Hospital has been at the forefront of patient care, research, training, and education.

  • McLean Hospital is named for John McLean, a merchant, who upon his death in 1823, named the hospital the beneficiary of $25,000, payable on his widow’s passing. Upon her death in 1834, the hospital received a gift totaling nearly $120,000, due to a residual legacy of more than $90,000.
  • The famous children’s nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” was written about Mary Sawyer, an attendant who joined the McLean staff in 1832. As a child growing up in Sterling, Massachusetts, Sawyer adopted a sickly lamb that had been abandoned by its mother. As it grew stronger, the lamb began to follow Mary everywhere, even to school. John Roulstone witnessed the lamb’s devotion to Mary and was inspired to write a three-verse poem. Sarah Josepha Hale decided to incorporate the poem into a children’s book and added the final three stanzas to the poem. She called the book “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
  • In 1872, McLean Superintendent Dr. John Tyler became the first Professor of Mental Disease at Harvard Medical School.
  • McLean opened the first psychiatric school of nursing in 1882.
  • In 1888, McLean Hospital was the first psychiatric hospital in the United States to establish basic and clinical laboratories to study the role of biological factors in mental illness.
  • McLean Hospital moved to Belmont in 1895, to a plot of land that was chosen by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
  • As late as 1944, McLean was a self-sustaining community, operating a farm, an upholstery shop and a blacksmith shop. Beyond fish and some meat and dairy products bought during two weekly tips to Quincy Market, all food was produced on the McLean grounds.