Dr. Joseph W. Peabody Jr., 57, a thoracic surgeon in the Washington area for nearly 30 years before retiring in September 1982, died of cancer Nov. 28 at his home in Bethesda.

In addition to maintaining a private practice, Dr. Peabody was a member of the staffs at Sibley Memorial and Holy Cross hospitals. He was a former chairman of the thoracic and cardiovascular section of the Washington Hospital Center and a former chief of thoracic surgery at Suburban Hospital.

He was a past president of the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Chest Physicians. He was a member of the Medical Arts Society, the Southeast Surgical Congress and the Montgomery County and D.C. medical societies.

Dr. Peabody was a native of Washington and graduate of Gonzaga College High School. He earned a bachelor's degree and his medical degree at Georgetown University. He interned at Bethesda Naval Hospital and served in the Navy from 1948 to 1950. He began his practice here in 1954.

Survivors include his wife, Mary, and a son, Joseph, both of Bethesda; six daughters, Sharon Peabody of Atlanta, Mary Jo Massey of Rehoboth Beach, and Bonnie, Laura and Sally Peabody, all of Bethesda; two sisters, Sally Wagner of Chatsworth, Calif., and Naomi Peabody of Bethesda, and eight grandchildren.