Exhibits @ Medical Historical Library
Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library

Harvey Cushing: A Journey Through His Life

At the Height of His Career, 1920-1932

 Cushing was at the height of his career as neurosurgeon, researcher, and clinical teacher in the 1920s. He was chief of surgery at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Moseley Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. Patients were sent to him from near and far, so that by 1931, he had completed 2000 tumor operations. It was at the Brigham that he trained the next generation of neurosurgeons and demonstrated his operations to visitors from around the world. In these years, with Percival Bailey and then Louise Eisenhardt, he carefully collected and studied his clinical data to name, classify, and improve the removal of tumors from all parts of the brain.

The Three Secretaries: Julia Shepley, Madeline Stanton, and Louise Eisenhardt

At the Peter Bent Brigham and in New Haven, Cushing relied heavily on three bright and loyal women whom he hired initially as secretaries.

Shepley became Cushing’s secretary in 1915, accompanied him to France in World War I, and worked on the Osler biography. Stanton, hired in 1920, came with Cushing to New Haven and after Cushing’s death in 1939, became Librarian of the Historical Library. Eisenhardt, hired in 1915, left temporarily to take a medical degree at Tufts, where she specialized in pathology. As keeper of Cushing’s tumor collection and case records, she accompanied Cushing to New Haven with the collection, where she became curator of the Brain Tumor Registry. She co-authored with Cushing a volume on the meningiomas. Afterwards, she became editor of Journal of Neurosurgery.


Cushing’s Biography of Osler, 1925

Grace Revere Osler, now Lady Osler, asked Cushing to write the official biography of his mentor William Osler, who had died in 1919. Cushing put himself into this huge labor of love and wrote two large volumes. The book won a Pulitzer Prize.

Harvey Cushing, The Life of Sir William Osler. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon press, 1925.

Cushing at the Bedside of a Child

 Cushing was beloved by his patients. He maintained a friendly correspondence with them long after they left the hospital.

Photo by T.W. Dixon

Cushing and Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, 1929

 Pavlov, the famed Russian physiologist, attended the 13th International Physiological Congress in Boston in August, 1929. He visited Cushing’s laboratory and inscribed a piece of meat with Cushing’s new electrosurgical knife. He also observed a Cushing operation.

Photo by Walter W. Boyd

Surgical Staff of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, 1930

 Cushing, founder of the specialty of neurosurgery, trained the next generation of neurosurgeons in his techniques. American and foreign physicians flocked to the Brigham to observe and to work with him. Though he was notoriously demanding of his residents and other assistants, they almost all felt a tremendous loyalty to him.

Front row : Richard U. Light, Donald E. Dial, Richard F. Farnsworth, Thomas I. Hoen, Louise Eisenhardt, William deG. Mahoney, John E. Scarff,
Middle row : Harlan F. Newton, Gilbert Horrax, John Homans, Gunnar Nystöm (Temporary Surgeon-in-Chief), Harvey Cushing, David Cheever, Francis C. Newton, John H. Powers.
Top row : Kenneth W. Thompson, two unidentified students, John H. Lawrence, Arthur T. Hertig, Bronson S. Ray, William T. Green, Eric Oldberg, George Armitage, William R. Henderson, Richard H. Meagher, Edward B. Castle.

Photo by Walter W. Boyd

Cushing Teaching

 Cushing is here demonstrating post-operative neurological dressings. Aftercare was extremely important to the success of his brain tumor operations.

Photo by Walter W. Boyd


Harvey Cushing, Dr. Ottfrid Förster, and Patient, 1930

Photo by Walter W. Boyd


Cushing Operating on the 2000 th Verified Brain Tumor, April 15, 1931

Louise Eisenhardt kept count of Cushing’s tumor cases. The event was both photographed and filmed.

Photo by Walter W. Boyd.


Cake celebraing Cushing's 2000th. Brain Tumor Operation

Medical Essayist

Like Oliver Wendell Holmes and William Osler, Cushing wrote literary essays reflecting on aspects of the medical profession or on medical history. Consecratio Medici and Other Papers, published by Little, Brown in 1929, was a well-received anthology of Cushing’s essays. The title essay, “Consecratio Medici,” adapted from a graduation address to Jefferson Medical College, urged graduates to consecrate or devote themselves to their profession. Another collection of essays, The Medical Career, was published after Cushing’s death.



Cushing, Klebs, and Fulton

Whenever Cushing traveled to Europe for international congresses, he was sure to stop at Arnold Klebs’s villa, Les Terraces, in Nyon, Switzerland, along Lake Geneva. Cushing met Klebs, an expert in tuberculosis and sanatoria, during his Hopkins years. Retiring early from medical work in America, Klebs returned to his native Switzerland to pursue book collecting and humanistic studies. John Fulton, who worked under Cushing at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in 1927-28, became his disciple and eventually his literary executor. This photographs shows Charles Sherrington, Harvey Cushing, William Henry Welch (former professor of pathology and dean of Johns Hopkins), Thomas Graham Brown (professor of physiology at the University of Wales in Cardiff and a mountaineer), and John F. Fulton at Les Terraces, September 1931.


Joseph Lister Medal, 1932

“Awarded to Harvey Cushing “For distinguished contributions to surgical science” by The Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Henry Jacob Bigelow Medal, 1933

 “Awarded to Harvey Cushing, 1933, for Contributions to the Advancement of Surgery” by The Boston Medical Society.


Cushing Medallion, 1932

 This medical was struck on the occasion of Cushing’s retirement from Harvard and his twentieth anniversary as Moseley Professor of Surgery. It was engraved by Adrian Broduer and manufactured by the Medallic Art Co., N.Y.






Monograph on 2000 Tumor Cases

Harvey Cushing, Intracranial tumours: Notes upon a Series of Two Thousand Verified Cases with Surgical-Mortality Percentages Pertaining Thereto. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C Thomas, 1932.

Cushing Travel Diary, 1932


Axenstrasse Photograph, 1929

 This well-known image of Cushing was taken by Arnold Klebs. Cushing gave signed copies of this photo to a number of his associates, in this case, to Richard U. Light.


Photographs of a Case from the Brain Tumor Registry

Cushing had lantern slide photographs taken of his patients before and after surgery and then at later intervals. These slides, part of the Cushing Tumor Registry, are owned by the Yale Department of Neurosurgery and have been digitized. Shown are the set of images pertaining to one of Cushing's cases.

Cushing as Historian:
Studying the Cattani Engravings of the Ercole Lelli Ecorchés, 1932

Cushing was given the three lifesize écorchés (skinless figures showing the muscles) by Vittorio Putti, Italian physician and historian of medicine. They were brought first to Arnold C. Klebs’ villa at Nyon, where this photograph was taken, and annotated on the back by Klebs. The engravings were created by Antonio Cattani, ca. 1780, from the celebrated écorchés carved in linden wood by Ercole Lelli in 1734 for the Anatomical Theatre in the Archiginnasio in Bologna. These were prize possessions in Cushing’s collection. Cushing discussed the engravings before the History of Science Society, the Charaka Club, and the Beaumont Medical Club, and published on them in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine in 1937.

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