, Volume 53, Issue 6, pp 1923-1929
Date: 27 Jul 2014

Harvey Cushing, M.D., in His World

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Harvey Cushing, M.D. (1869–1939), is the acknowledged father of the discipline of neurosurgery who inspired others to join him in this new field. He was a prolific researcher in the area of human growth disturbances. And he was among the most literary of doctors having won the Pulitzer Prize for his two-volume biography of his mentor and teacher William Osler, M.D. A driven man, he both inspired and intimidated others. This essay explores Cushing’s character and background along with his relationship to Osler. It seeks to understand why and how he may be considered a great figure in spite and because of his demanding and often problematic character. It further seeks to place Cushing in the context of the transition of American society and American medicine in the latter decades of the nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth century. Portions of this essay were originally delivered as part of a Grand Rounds presentation for the Department of Neurosurgery at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Center.