Odds and quads

June 23, 2011

This is one of more than 400 glass jars containing human brains and tumours on display at the Cushing Center in the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library at Yale University. They were donated by Harvey Cushing (1869-1939), now regarded as the father of modern neurosurgery, and demonstrate how the field evolved from dangerous trial and error into a precise, scientific discipline.

Dr Cushing graduated from what was then Yale College in 1891, and went on to study medicine at Harvard University. He spent his professional life studying brain tumours and developing techniques to remove them, carefully documenting everything he did. His great breakthrough came in 1910, when he successfully removed a large tumour from Major General Leonard Wood, a friend of Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1933, Dr Cushing returned to Yale. His collection of brains was given to the university along with his records, an extensive library of early medical books, his highly skilled illustrations of surgical procedures and dramatic before-and-after photographs of his patients.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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