Dr. Harvey Cushing was one of America’s first neurosurgeons, a pioneer. He collected hundreds of diseased brains, stored in jars, as part of his research. And that important collection, which demonstrates the rise of neurosurgery, is now ensconced at Yale University.
But that important scientific collection was almost lost, according to a story in the Science Times section of The New York Times Tuesday. The article about Cushing, who died in 1939, and his brain collection is headlined “Dr. Cushing’s Brains.”
Cushing is credited with being the first surgeon, performing brain operations in the late 19th Century, who “would do more harm than good,” according to The Times.
The story is a bit gruesome. It points out that back in the day, brain surgery was often performed with just the local anesthetic Novocain being administered to patients. So Cushing could conduct conversations with them as he operated.
This multi-talented physician even won a Pulitzer Prize for a book he wrote about his mentor, Dr. William Osler.
Cushing’s collection of brains was being kept in “dusty storage bins,” according to The Times, at Yale until a recent $1.4 million restoration. Some 500 of the 650 jars have been restored, and the collection is now on display at the Cushing Center at Yale, “a room that was designed soley for then,” according to The Times.