Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 533–548 | Cite as

The Cult of Doctors: Harvey Cushing and the Religious Culture of Modern Medicine

  • Gary Laderman


Harvey Cushing had an extraordinary life in medicine as an innovative brain surgeon and a pivotal figure in the biomedical revolutions taking place at the turn of the twentieth century. Expressions of sincere devotion from Cushing’s patients often rely on distinctly religious language to capture the meaning and impact of the doctor in their lives. If these devotional sentiments from former patients were the only traces of religious meaning associated with the life of Cushing, they could easily be discounted as an all-too-common, and some might say particularly confused, infusion of personal spirituality into the realm of medicine and health. But these expressions of adoration and veneration may be only the proverbial tip of a deep, wide, and largely unseen religious iceberg. Cushing’s extraordinary accomplishments did inspire both patients and the public in this era, but it is proposed that his life is embedded in a much larger and more significant religious movement driving the cultural success and power of biomedical science: the cult of doctors.


Harvey Cushing biomedicine cult of doctors religion death devotions popular culture 

Copyright information

© Blanton-Peale Institute 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Religion, American Religious History and CulturesEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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