Dr. Samuel L. Tabb, 73, an area physician for nearly 40 years, died of cancer Sunday in his home in Silver Spring.

Dr. Tabb began his practice in family medicine in Washington in 1939. He moved his office to Silver Spring in 1951 and practiced there until retiring in 1969.

A short time later, he joined the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as a physician in the employes' clinic in Rockville. He worked there until retiring a second time in 1979.

Dr. Tabb was a member of the Maryland State Medical Society, a life member of the Montgomery County Medical Society and a fellow of the American Academy of Family Practitioners. He also was a member of the American Academy of General Practice.

Dr. Tabb was born in Baltimore and came to Washington at an early age. He was a graduate of the Old Central High School and George Washington University and its medical school. He interned at the old Emergency Hospital.

Between 1931 and 1939, he was a physician with the Veterans Administration in South Carolina, Illinois, and North Dakota. He also served in the Army medical corps before returning to Washington to open a private practice. a

Survivors include hise wife, Sarah, of Silver Spring; two sons, Dr. Marvin, also of Silver Spring, and Ronald, of Annapolis, a sister, Dorothy Lewis of Chicago, and three grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, or to the Montgomery County Cancer Society.